Sunday, November 22, 2009

Newman Fisks it Here

I've only been able to get as far, so far, as the Newman/Kingsley correspondence, and while reading it I was thinking of what someone mentioned down below in the comments: how like a blog exchange this is. Kingsley's ill-considered, intemperate rant is exactly the sort of thing one might read online (minus the elevated language and complex grammatical structure), and Newman demolishes him in the comments box. But what caused me to laugh out loud, and made several other mothers waiting outside dance class glance at me oddly, was Newman's fine fisk of Kingsley's "apology", in which Newman gives a side-by-side comparison of what Kingsley says, and what the British reading public will take him to mean. I suddenly imagined a Fr. Z-style fisking, with the emphases in black and the comments in red.

Mr. Kingsley's Letter Unjust, but too probable, popular rendering of it

Mr. Kingsley's Letter
I. Sir,-In your last number I made certain allegations against the teaching of the Rev. Dr. Newman, which were founded on a Sermon of his, entitled " Wisdom and Innocence," preached by him as Vicar of St. Mary's, and published in 1844.
2. Dr. Newman has, by letter, expressed in the strongest terms his denial of the meaning which I have put upon his words.

3. No man knows the use of words better than Dr. Newman; no man, therefore, has a better right to define what he does, or does not, mean by them.
4. It only remains, therefore, for me to express my hearty regret at having so








2. I have set before Dr. Newman, as he challenged me to do, extracts from his writings, and he has affixed to them what he conceives to be their legitimate sense, to the denial of that in which I understood them.
3. He has done this with the skill of a great master of verbal fence, who knows, as well as any man living, how to insinuate a doctrine without committing himself to it.
4. However, while I heartily regret that I have so seriously mistaken the sense



On the more serious side, I was reflecting that many people wail that public discourse has become more debased over the years, yet Kingsley's shrill Know-Nothing-ism rather proves that the haters will always be with us. His expanded set of accusations, What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean? don't serve to vindicate him. As I was reading his quotations from Newman's sermon, I found myself nodding in agreement with Newman's interpretations.

On Kingsley's accusation of Catholics all being loose with the truth, and the throwing around of the term "Jesuitical" -- I remembered something that a professor of mine had spoken of when we were reading MacBeth. He had some interpretation of the porter's speech that proved that Shakespeare was a closet Catholic which was based around the porter's references to equivocation:
Knock, knock! Who's there, in th’ other devil's name?
Faith, here's an equivocator that could swear in both the
scales against either scale, who committed treason enough
for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O,(10)
come in, equivocator.
This was supposed to be a reference to those Catholics who were ambiguous or "equivocal" about their Catholicism when questioned so as to keep undercover during the horrible persecutions of the sixteenth century (the standard execution for a priest was being drawn and quartered, after God knows what other tortures). The Jesuits were especially noted for encouraging this kind of nicety with language, and heck, they still retain that "equivocator" image to this day.

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