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I LEFT the yew tree's shadow, thrown
At length I raised my eyes.
I trod the way I went before,
Cornhill Magazine. JOHN HENRY NEWMAN.- A LETTER.
BY JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE, M.A. MY DEAR
under the signature of “Delta," which My present letter will be given to were reprinted in the “ Lyra Apostolica. " a single figure. When I entered at They were unlike any other religious Oxford John Henry Newman was be- poetry which was then extant. It was ginning to be famous. The responsible hard to say why they were so fascinatauthorities were watching him withing. They had none of the musical anxiety ; clever men were looking with grace of the “ Christian Year." They interest and curiosity on the apparition were not harmonious ; the metre halted, among them of one of those persons of the rhymes were irregular, yet there was indisputable genius who was likely to something in them which seized the atmake a mark upon his time. His ap- tention, and would not let it go. Keble's pearance was striking. He was above verses flowed in soft cadence over the the middle height, slight and spare. His mind, delightful, as sweet sounds are head was large, his face remarkably like delightful, but are forgotten as the vibrathat of Julius Cæsar. The forehead, tions die away. Newman's had pierced the shape of the ears and nose were into the heart and mind, and there realmost the same. The lines of the mained. The literary critics of the day mouth were very peculiar, and I should were puzzled. They saw that he was say exactly the same. I have often not an ordinary man ; what sort of an thought of the resemblance, and believed extraordinary man he was they could not that it extended to the temperament. In tell. “ The eye of Melpomene has been both there was an original force of char- cast upon him, said the omniscient (I acter which refused to be moulded by think) Athen&um;* " but the glance circumstances, which was to make its was not fixed or steady." The eye of own way, and become a power in the Melpomene had extremely little to do in world ; a clearness of intellectual per- the matter. Here were thoughts like no ception; a disdain for conventionalities, other man's thoughts, and emotions like a temper imperious and wilful, but along no other man's emotions. Here was a with it a most attaching gentleness, man who really believed his creed, and sweetness, singleness of heart and pur- let it follow him into all his observations pose. Both were formed by nature to upon outward things. He had been command others, both had the faculty travelling in Greece ; he had carried of attracting to themselves the passion- with him his recollections of Thucydiate devotion of their friends and follow- des, and while his companions were ers, and in both cases, too, perhaps the sketching olive gardens and old castles devotion was rather due to the personal and picturesque harbors at Corfu, Newascendency of the leader than to the man was recalling the scenes which those cause which he represented. It was harbors had witnessed thousands of Cæsar, not the principle of the empire, years ago in the civil wars which the which overthrew Pompey and the consti- Greek historian has made immortal. tution. Credo in Newmannum was There was nothing in this that was uncommon phrase at Oxford, and is still usual.
Any one with a well-stored unconsciously the faith of nine tenths of memory is affected by historical scenery. the English converts to Rome.
But Newman was oppressed with the When I first saw him he had written sense that the men who had fallen in his book upon the Arians. An acci- that desperate strife were still alive, as dental application had set him upon it, much as he and his friends were alive. at a time, I believe, when he had half
Their spirits live in awful singleness," resolved to give himself to science and mathematics, and had so determined him into a theological career. He had * Perhaps it was not the Athenaum. I published a volurne or two of parochial quote from memory. I remember the passage
from the amusement which it gave me ; but it A few short poems of his had
was between forty and fifty years ago, and I also appeared in the British Magazine have never seen it since.
“So long Thy power hath blest us, sure it will
Still lead us on, “Each in its self-formed sphere of light or O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till gloom.'
The night is gone, We should all, perhaps, have acknowl
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost edged this in words. It is happy for us
awhile. that we do not all realize what the words
It has been said that men of letters mean. The minds of most of us would
are either much less or much greater break under the strain. Other conventional beliefs, too, were
than their writings. Cleverness and the
skilful use of other people's thoughts quickened into startling realities. We had been hearing much in those days produce works which take us in till we about the benevolence of the Supreme Chanted. A man of genius, on the other
see the authors, and then we are disenBeing, and our corresponding obligation hand, is a spring in which there is always to charity and philanthropy. If the re
more behind than flows from it. The ceived creed was true, benevolence was by no means the only characteristic of painting or the poem is but a part of him that Being. What God loved we might inadequately realized, and his nature love ; but there were things which God expresses itself, with equal or fuller comdid not love ; accordingly we found pleteness, in his life, his conversation, Newman saying to us :
and personal presence. This was emi
nently true of Newman. 'Greatly as his Christian, wouldst thou learn to love ? poetry had struck me, he was himself all First learn thee how to hate."
that the poetry was, and something far “ Hatred of sin and zeal and fear
beyond. I had then never seen so imLead up the Holy Hill;
pressive a person. I met him now and Track them, till charity appear
then in private ; I attended his church A self-denial still."
and heard him preach Sunday after SunIt was not austerity that made him speak day; he is supposed to have been insidso. No one was more essentially ten- ious, to have led his disciples on to conder-hearted; but he took the usually clusions to which he designed to bring accepted Christian account of man and
them, while his purpose was carefully his destiny to be literally true, and the veiled. He was, on the contrary, the terrible character of it weighed upon
most transparent of men. He told us him.
what he believed to be true. He did
not know where it would carry him. No "Sunt lacrymæ rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.
one who has ever risen to any great He could be gentle enough in other height in this world refuses to move till moods. "Lead, kindly Light," is the he knows where he is going. He is immost popular hymn in the language. pelled in each step which he takes by a All of us, Catholic, Protestant, or such force within himself. He satisfies himas can see their way to no positive creed
self only that the step is a right one, and at all, can here meet on common ground
he leaves the rest to Providence. Newand join in a common prayer. Familiar
man's mind was world-wide. He was as the lines are, they may here be written interested in everything which was going down once more :
on in science, in politics, in literature. " Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling Nothing was too large for him, nothing
too trivial, if it threw light upon the gloom Lead Thou me on.
central question, what man really was, The night is dark, and I am far from home, and what was his destiny.
He was Lead Thou me on.
careless about his personal prospects. Keep Thou my feet ; I do not ask to see He had no ambition to make a career, Far distant scenes one step enough for me.
or to rise to rank and power. Still less "I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou had pleasure any seductions for him. Shouldst lead me on.
His natural temperament was bright and I loved to choose and see my path ; but now light ; his senses, even the commonest,
Lead Thou me on.
were exceptionally delicate. I was told Pride ruled my wilí. Remember not past that, though he rarely drank wine, he years.
was trusted to choose the vintages for
the college cellar. He could admire en- which was not a certainty was a mockthusiastically any greatness of action and ery and a horror; and unshaken and character, however remote the sphere of unshakable as his own convictions were, it from his own. Gurwood's “Dis- Newman evidently was early at a loss patches of the Duke of Wellington" for the intellectual grounds on which the came out just then. Newman had been claims of Christianity to abstract belief reading the book, and a friend asked could be based. The Protestant was him what he thought of it. “ Think?" satisfied with the Bible, the original text he said, “ it makes one burn to have of which, and perhaps the English been a soldier.” But his own subject translation, he regarded as inspired. was the absorbing interest with him. But the inspiration itself was an assumpWhere Christianity is a real belief, where tion, and had to be proved ; and Newthere are distinct convictions that a man, though he believed the inspiration, man's own self and the millions of hu- seems to have recognized earlier than man beings who are playing on the most of his contemporaries that the earth's surface are the objects of a super- Bible was not a single book, but a natural dispensation, and are on the road national literature, produced at intervals to heaven or hell, the most powerful during many hundred years, and under mind may well be startled at the aspect endless varieties of circumstances. Protof things. If Christianity was true, , estant and Catholic alike appealed to since Christianity was true (for Newman it; and they could not both be right. at no time doubted the reality of the rev. Yet if the differences between them were elation), then modern England, modern essential there must be some authority Europe, with its march of intellect and capable of deciding between them. The its useful knowledge and its material Anglican Church had a special theology progress, was advancing with a light of its own, professing to be based on the heart into ominous conditions. Keble Bible. Yet to suppose that each indihad looked into no lines of thought but vidual left to himself would gather out his own
Newman had read omnivo- of the Bible, if able and conscientious, rously ; he had studied modern thought exactly these opinions, and no others, and modern life in all its forms, and was absurd and contrary to experience. with all its many.colored passions. He There were the creeds ; but on what knew, of course, that many men of authority did the creeds rest? On the learning and ability believed that Chris- four councils ? or on other councils, tianity was not a revelation at all, but and, if other, on which? Was it on the had been thrown out, like other creeds, in Church, and, if so, on what Church ? the growth of the human mind. He knew The Church of the Fathers ? or the that doubts of this kind were the inev- Church still present and alive and speakitable results of free discussion and free ing? If for living men, among whom toleration of differences of opinion ; and new questions were perpetually rising, a he was too candid to attribute such Church which was also living could not doubts, as others did, to wickedness of be dispensed with, then what was that heart. He could not, being what he Church, and to what conclusions would was, acquiesce in the established religion such an admission lead us? as he would acquiesce in the law of the With us undergraduates Newman, of land, because it was there, and because course, did not enter on such important the country had accepted it, and because questions, although they were in the good general reasons could be given for 'air, and we talked about them among assuming it to be right. The soundest ourselves. He, when we met him, arguments, even the arguments of Bishop spoke to us about subjects of the day, Butler himself, went no farther than to of literature, of public persons and inciestablish a probability. But religion dents, of everything which was generally with Newman was a personal thing be interesting. He seemed always to be tween himself and his Maker, and it was better informed on common topics of not possible to feel love and devotion to conversation than any one else who was a Being whose existence was merely present. He was never condescending probable ; as Carlyle says of himself with us, never didactic or authoritative; when in a similar condition, a religion but what he said carried conviction along with it. When we were wrong he knew their position in this world ; their awful why we were wrong, and excused our responsibilities; the mystery of their mistakes to ourselves while he set us nature, strangely mixed of good and right. Perhaps his supreme merit as a evil, of strength and weakness. A tone, talker was that he never tried to be witty not of fear, but of infinite pity, runs or to say striking things. Ironical he through them all, and along with it a could be, but not ill-natured.
resolution to look facts in the face ; not malicious anecdote was ever heard from to fly to evasive generalities about inihim. Prosy he could not be. He was nite mercy and benevolence, but to exlightness itself-the lightness of elastic amine what revelation really has added strength-and he was interesting because to our knowledge, either of what we are he never talked for talking's sake, but or of what lies before us. We were met because he had something real to say. on all sides with difficulties ; for experi
Thus it was that we, who had never ence did not confirm, it rather contraseen such another man, and to whom he dicted, what revelation appeared disappeared, perhaps, at special advantage 'tinctly to assert. I recollect a sermon in contrast with the norinal college don, from him—I think in the year 1839-1 came to regard Newman with the affec. have never read it since ; I may not now tion of pupils (though pupils, strictly remember the exact words, but the imspeaking, he had none) for an idolized pression left is ineffaceable. It was on master. The simplest word which the trials of faith, of which he gave dropped from him was treasured as if it different illustrations. He supposed, had been an intellectual diamond. For first, two children to be educated tohundreds of young men Credo in New- gether, of similar temperament and unmannum was the genuine symbol of faith. der similar conditions, one of whom was
Personal admiration, of course, in- baptized and the other unbaptized. He clined us to look to him as a guide in represented them as growing up equally matters of religion. No one who heard amiable, equally upright, equally reverhis sermons in those days can ever for- ent and God-fearing, with no outward get them. They were seldom directly evidence that one was in a different theological. We had theology enough spiritual condition from the other ; yet and to spare from the select preachers we were required to believe not only before the university. Newman, taking that their condition was totally different, some Scripture character for a text, but that one was a child of God, and his spoke to us about ourselves, our temp-, companion was not. tations, our experiences. His illustra- Again, he drew a sketch of the avertions were inexhaustible. He seemed to age men and women who made up be addressing the most secret conscious- society, whom we ourselves encountered ness of each of us—as the eyes of a por- in daily life, or were connected with, or trait appear to look at every person in a read about in newspapers. They were room. He never exaggerated ; he was neither special saints nor special sinners. never unreal. A sermon from him was Religious men had faults, and often a poem, formed on a distinct idea, fasci- serious ones. Men careless of religion nating by its subtlety, welcome-how were often amiable in private life, good welcome !- from its sincerity, interesting husbands, good fathers, steady friends, from its originality, even to those who in public honorable, brave, and patriwere careless of religion, and to others otic. Even in the worst and wickedest, who wished to be religious, but had in a witch of Endor, there was a human found religion dry and wearisome, it heart and human tenderness. None was like the springing of a fountain out seemed good enough for heaven, none of the rock.
so bad as to deserve to be consigned to The hearts of men vibrate in answer the company of evil spirits, and to reto one another like the strings of musi- main in pain and misery forever. Yet cal instruments. These sermons were, all these people were, in fact, divided I suppose, the records of Newman's
one from the other by an invisible line own mental experience. They appear of separation.
They appear of separation. If they were to die on to me to be the outcome of continued the spot as they actually were, some meditation upon his fellow-creatures and would be saved, the rest would be lost