John Henry Newman

Diana Powell

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
John Henry Newman


John Henry (Cardinal) Newman (b. 1801–d. 1890) was an extremely influential and controversial Victorian author, religious leader, and theologian. Newman’s original ideas on history helped form his spiritual beliefs, while his powerful presence inspired both devoted loyalty and ardent criticism. Newman began life as an Anglican; he was later converted to Evangelicalism, back to Anglicanism, and finally to Roman Catholicism. As the leader of the High-Anglican Tractarian (or Oxford) movement and the founder of their mouthpiece Tracts for the Times, Newman was a powerful polemical voice. His influence was strengthened by his sermons at St. Mary’s, Oxford, and his approach to education as a means of discipleship. When Newman wrote Tract 90 and resigned his fellowship at Oxford, many of his loyal admirers followed him to his parish at Littlemore, causing a crisis within the Church and among the Tractarians, since several also “went over” to Rome. As a Roman Catholic, Newman was distrusted by Pope Pius IX and feuded with Cardinal Manning, the archbishop of Westminster. Although commissioned with starting the first Catholic University in Ireland (which proved unsuccessful), by 1864, when the clergyman and writer Charles Kingsley criticized Newman in his review of J. A. Froude’s History of England, Newman was a forgotten public figure living a quiet existence at the Birmingham Oratory. Kingsley’s attack prompted Newman to write the Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864), which reestablished his fame and made him sympathetic to the English populace, which, twenty years earlier, had treated him with suspicion. Newman’s wrote his most significant work of Catholic theology, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent in 1870. Controversy continued to follow Newman, as he defended English Catholics against Gladstone’s charges of disloyalty and weathered the same charge of disloyalty from some Catholics for his hesitation over papal infallibility. Newman’s relationship with Father Ambrose St. John fuelled a posthumous debate over his sexuality. Newman remains an influential figure, with his seemingly imminent canonization (the pope beatified Newman on 19 September 2010 in Birmingham, England; beatification is the penultimate step in canonization) increasing the interest in Newman scholarship.

Article.  8258 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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