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.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Observations, random

Did it strike anyone else that Newman completely omits to do what no modern spiritual autobiography would dream of leaving out, i.e., providing a justification for his belief in God? These days, no-one leaves this step out. Do they?

How different the modern mind from the Victorian, even though those fellows often seem very modern in the sense of being scientific and materialist.

I also find the first chapters hard going. So much special knowledge required! I'd heard of Pusey et al, but have no intimate knowledge of what they were about.

Lastly, when I read the Thirty-Nine Articles (a long time ago) they struck me as completely Protestant in nature. It surprises me that Newman can see them as interpretable in any other sense. In any case this has interesting parallels to debates about how the American Constitution should be interpreted!

According to wiki, Newman's original conversion to Christianity from a nominally practising family was to a Calvinist persuasion. I'd very much like to know what dissuaded him from this position, since I am myself of a Calvinist bent.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On first opening Newman

My copy of Apologia arrived today, and so, excited to have a package, I jumped right in, although I haven't gotten far. I scored a Norton Critical Edition for $1 plus s/h, and the foreward already got me thinking about a couple of things:

First, although I knew Apologia was originally published as a response to Kingsley's polemical pamphlet, I hadn't ever really thought about the reality of pamphlets, nor that they were written in 7 different parts plus an appendix over a period of about 8 weeks.  It struck me that these pamphlets must in some regards have been a prototype of blogging: relatively brief and unpolished, reactive, cheaply and quickly dispersed through word of mouth.

Second: Like some bloggers, Newman apparently felt his original tone was a little too strident. This Norton edition contains both the 1886 "definitive" edition, in which Newman edited out Kingsley's name, deleted some of his refutations, and softened his tone, and the 1864 original Parts 1 and 2, so the reader can compare N's more immediate reaction with his reconsidered argument.

As a part of my work/study program as an undergrad, I worked for a while for a professor who was a Newman scholar.  My job was to transfer her notes on index cards to a Microsoft Word table. (Someone probably eventually had to transfer that table to something more advanced like excel...)  The cards contained mostly one or two words and annotations where these words appeared in various texts.  So you'd think I'd be more familiar with Newman, but mostly I just know the names of his books, a little bit of an Idea of a University, and some of the vocabulary words he uses.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Incomplete Timeline of Spiritual Events in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England and Environs

It's no exaggeration to say that England was in the throes of a religious crisis in the 1850s. Here's a brief timeline, just to suggest the social context for Apologia:

1830-33: Geologist Sir Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology shows that the earth is much older than previously thought.

1833: Newman, Keble, and Pusey begin publishing "Tracts for the Times," a series of pamphlets advocating the return of ritualism and sacramentalism to the Anglican church.

1835: German theologian David Friedrich Strauss publishes Das Leben Jesu, a revisionist work about "the historical Jesus," which scandalizes Europe, and is translated as Life of Jesus in 1846 by avowed atheist George Eliot.

1840s: Under the direction of Pusey and Newman (not yet a Catholic), Anglican religious communities make their first appearance in Britain since the sixteenth century.

1845: Newman's conversion.

1850: Pope Pius IX restores the Catholic hierarchy, which had been dismantled in the reign of Elizabeth, to Great Britain, an act popularly decried as "Papal Aggression." In response, the newly-created Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman of Westminster is burned in effigy, and hostile crowds stone Catholic churches and hold "No Popery" demonstrations. Parliament passes the Ecclesiastical Titles act, which imposes a fine on any non-Anglican bishop who took a territorial title.

1854: Pope Pius IX promulgates the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

1858: Apparitions at Lourdes.

1859: Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species.

1864: Kingsley's polemic against Newman appears in Macmillan's Magazine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Working on it

Ashamed to admit that I'm only about thirty pages into "What, Then, Does Dr Newman Mean?" Kingsly is putting it to Dr Newman for promoting such absurd acts of Popery as promoting the miraculous doings of St Walburga. Kingsly seems very angry by this point in the exchange, and I can't figure out exactly what's causing his rancor, as I thought Dr. Newman's side of the exchange very gentlemanly. I'm curious, Pentimento, about your observations on Victorian manners.

Looking forward to Newman's response.