A WILD BEAST CAUGHT BY DR. WISEMAN: THE RHETORICAL PROBLEM OF CARDINAL WISEMAN IN CARDINAL NEWMAN’S AUTOBIOGRAPHIES
IN his critically renowned autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864), John Henry Newman openly abandons the fiction that autobiography is a private act, a solitary expression of the soul. The Apologia is a flamboyantly intertextual autobiography; it is written in response to hos tile contemporary accounts of Newman’s life and work (many of which it directly cites), and attempts to refute these accounts by means of ample quotations from Newman’s letters and published writings. This dynamic is most transparent in the case of the broad church Anglican clergyman Charles Kingsley, whose attack on Newman triggered the work’s composition. While the influence of Kingsley’s pamphlet What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean? on the shape of the autobiography Newman wrote to answer it is well known, the influence of other contemporary narratives of Newman’s life on the Apologia has been a subject of comparative critical neglect. I contend that juxtaposing the Apologia with Newman’s primary other autobiographical work, The Journal: 1859-79, reveals that key elements of Newman’s autobiographical rhetoric are directed against Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman’s accounts of his life and work.
The central thesis of the Apologia, like that of Newman’s autobiographical novel Loss and Gain, is that “it is impossible to stop the growth of the mind”1; the independence of Newman’s thought – particularly his pre-conversion freedom from Catholic influence – is repeatedly presented as evidence of the authenticity of his mental development. To create this independence textually, Newman must construct a narrative that carefully erases the influence of the popular author, speaker, and ecclesiastic Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman on his life and thought. This task is rhetorically difficult, for Wiseman, both the highest ranking English Catholic ecclesiastic and a bestselling author,2 had already published works trumpeting his influence on Newman to Victorian readers. By simultaneously narrating and erasing Wiseman’s influence on his life, Newman recovers his intellectual independence and literary authority; the critical neglect of Wiseman’s theological and literary relation to Newman evidences the success of the Apologia’s narrative rhetoric.
On the face of it, Catholic influence, the larger accusation for which Wiseman’s writings serve as the key supporting example, hardly seems a grave charge to bring against a convert to Catholicism. The idea that Catholics influenced Newman’s conversion may seem benign, intellectually irrelevant, or even fitting, given Newman’s own defense in his Oxford University Sermons of personal influence as a means of spreading faith. However, from the initial pamphlet exchange with Kingsley onward, Newman himself clearly considers it to be one of the most serious charges against him. Before the Apologia even begins, Newman categorizes the rumor that his ideas were “inspired by Roman theologians” as an important charge he must refute; in Chapter One, he emphasizes that while visiting Italy in 1833, he and Hurrell Froude “kept clear of Catholics” as a rule; in Chapter Three, he asserts that his “opinions in religion were not gained, as the world said, from Roman sources,” explains that during the Tractarian movement he refused to “meet familiarly any leading persons of the Roman Communion,” and says that the “interference” of “Catholics” was “more likely” to “throw” him “back” towards Anglicanism than to lead him to the Catholic church; and in Chapter Four, he maintains that from 1843 to 1845, even while contemplating conversion himself, he “abstained] altogether from intercourse with Catholics” (True Mode 358, Apologia 38, 82, 104, 105, 167). Throughout the Apologia, Newman stakes his intellectual authenticity on the claim that he has reached his intellectual positions through “honest external means,” which is to say, through non-Catholic literary and intellectual sources (36). In short, as Newman wrote elsewhere of himself and his fellow Tractarians, “Catholics did not make us Catholics; Oxford made us Catholics” (qtd. in Altholz 3-4).
Newman’s uncharacteristically loud and repeated emphasis on this point may strike the reader as excessive and disproportionate. However, here, as is often the case, the intertextual context of the Apologia, the nineteen-year-old public debate over the nature and meaning of Newman’s conversion, best clarifies the work’s rhetorical concerns. The Catholic influence on Newman’s conversion was used as a key piece of evidence to support two of the most damaging caricatures of Newman: the image of the Oxford Movement Newman (1833-1845) as a Catholic spy undermining the Anglican church while awaiting his superiors’ orders to convert, and the image of the Catholic Newman (1845-1864) as an intellectual slave to the papacy no longer capable of producing original thought.
Even before his conversion, Newman had been accused of being a spy in the service of the Church of Rome. 1830s and 1840s pamphleteers like Edward Thompson referenced, hinted at, and sometimes explicitly made, the charge that Anglican Newman and the other Tract writers were “Papists in disguise” whose works possessed “the very spirit of Popery” (Thompson 14; “Remarks” 197, cf. 178). As G.S. Faber openly asserted, “As for the Tractarians, they are mere Papists under a different name, dishonestly holding English preferment, when they can get it, with Romish doctrines” (9). Newman, who had read G.S. Faber’s pamphlet among many others, was terribly concerned with this charge against him, and observed as he was planning the Apologia that “the whole strength of Kingsley’s attack “as directed rhetorically to the popular mind, lies in the antecedent prejudice that I was a Papist while I was an Anglican” (qtd. in Ker 542, emphasis Newman’s; cf. Newman Mr. Kingsley’s Method 342).
Most of Newman’s contemporaries cite little direct evidence for this key charge, beyond perceived similarities between the Anglican Newman’s thought and Roman Catholic theology. As Newman writes in The True Mode of Meeting Mr. Kingsley, it was simply “taken for granted” that the Tractarians were “inspired by Roman theologians” and were therefore insincere in their Anglicanism (358). Given the general lack of evidence proffered for this charge, it is particularly significant that when Edward Thompson does produce concrete evidence to support it, he cites the writings of Nicholas Wiseman. Wiseman had met Newman and Hurrell Froude in Rome in 1833, just prior to the start of the Oxford Movement, and had shortly thereafter begun a series of publications with the intent of persuading those of like mind to Newman and Froude to convert to Catholicism (Wiseman Letter Respectfully 1, Gwynn 39). In his 1841 pamphlet A Triumph of Christianity, Edward Thompson alleges that the “encouragement and approbation” that “Dr. Wiseman’s publications” give Newman’s works prove that Newman is “actually doing the work of the Roman Catholic priests” while in the Anglican Church, whether he consciously intends to do so or not (20).
A second key charge that Newman faced as he wrote the Apologia and for which Catholic, and specifically Wiseman’s, influence was cited as evidence in contemporary documents – was that, as a Catholic, Newman had lost his intellectual independence. The post-conversion Newman was accused of being an intellectual slave to the Roman Catholic Church, devoid of thoughts of his own, the puppet of his ecclesiastical superiors. This charge was issued by anti-Catholic writers as an attack on Newman, but employed evidential support from Ultramontane Catholic sources that described such a loss of intellectual independence as a necessary (and desirable) part of Newman’s clerical duty.
Elizabeth Harris, in her Tractarian convert novel From Oxford to Rome (1847), which Newman carefully read and in response to which he wrote Loss and Gain, most graphically depicts the costs of this charge to Newman’s intellectual and literary authority (Newman Loss and Gain 117 ff., 262; Dorman 174). Harris envisions the Anglican Newman as the “Undoubted Intellectual Chief of a large movement, even, like Christ, “the Shepherd” of his “sheep” (189). However, she asserts, now that Newman has given his “submission” to Rome, “The Shepherd is smitten and the sheep are scattered” for Newman no longer rules over even himself, but has instead become “one of Rome’s most remarked conquests” (Harris 189, 240). Harris is quite explicit about what it means to be conquered by Rome: Roman Catholicism compels an “unreasoning submission” that “annihilates voluntary agency” and reduces the individual to “an automaton”; its vowed religious are “machine[s]” that have “no mind,” its priests have lost their selves and are not “the same men” as before (210, 223, 273, 274, 206-7, emphasis Harris’s).
The Ultramontane Catholic theology to which Nicholas Wiseman adhered in the later part of his career4 promoted submission to ecclesiastical authority in such extreme terms that it seemed to justify the charges of anti-Catholic writers like Harris. As Newman himself later wrote in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (1874), the “wild words and overbearing deeds” of the Ultramontanes seemed to verify the Protestant accusation that converts to Catholicism lose their “freedom of thought and action” (176-77, 342). Nicholas Wiseman’s writings provided the Victorian public with a seemingly authoritative narrative of a Newman who, under Catholic influence, has lost his intellectual independence. As such, Wiseman’s writings constitute a rhetorical problem for Newman with which the Apologia must intertextually engage.
To show why Ultramontanism necessarily constructs a Newman who (as in the works of Wiseman) is intellectually subservient to his superiors,5 I must first briefly explain the logic of the Ultramontane position. In doing so, I will draw primarily from the works of Wiseman, as it is with his public portrayal of Newman that I am primarily concerned. Ultramontanism derived its logical weight from its effective use of the methodology of the conventional Catholic theology of the period, which was based around the premise that theology is a deductive science. The logic behind this methodology is as follows: If religious truth really is truth rather than personal opinion or local custom, it must be “objective” and “universal” in nature; ever since the ancient Greeks, deductive reasoning, with its reliance on non-contradiction and intellectual consistency, has in the West been commonly considered to be the most certain way to arrive at objective, universal truths; and, since God has revealed a basic set of truths in the Bible and Church Tradition, the primary objection to deductive reasoning – the difficulty of establishing valid initial premises – has been obviated for the believer (Wiseman “On Religious Unity” 312-13).6 By careful deductive reasoning, the limited truths of revelation can be extended to cover all of creation. As Wiseman writes, “faith was given to the world to supersede the uncertain guidance of human speculation, and to substitute unvarying principles for vague conjectures” (“On the Character” 287).
Since correct belief in universals should with a logical inevitability proceed to correct belief in particulars, the theologians employing the deductive method tended to think that any diversity of opinion among Catholics was a misfortune and that “uniformity of sentiment” was a sign of truth (Wiseman “On Religious Unity” 309-10). Wiseman explicitly asserts that those who consider theological “uniformity of sentiment” to be undesirable or unnecessary – and, thus, individual speculation to be permissible – must be deemed to have “but a very mean regard for truth, and [to have] rated their science [theology] exceedingly low” (“On Religious Unity” 309-10).7 As Josef Altholz notes, “the very idea of difference among Catholics . . . was abhorrent” to Wiseman (39). In fact, Wiseman so values uniformity of religious belief that he even considers it self-discrediting for theologians to change their minds, and thereby disagree with themselves. He suggests that if the “leading men” of a “science” such as theology change their minds about their beliefs, this development calls into question the objective validity of the beliefs of both the individuals and their discipline, and may cause each to “fall into disrepute” (Wiseman “On Religious Unity” 310). In 1841, before he had come to adhere to Ultramontanism as a movement, Wiseman had already applied this principle to the ever self-revising Newman, asking in an open letter to Newman that was read by its addressee, “Why not suspect your judgments, if you find that they vary?” (Wiseman Letter Respectfully 30, Earnest and Tracey 104).
In ecclesiastical politics, Catholic theologians adhering to the deductive method tended to support an Ultramontane allegiance to papal authority, as both a means of access to universal truth (since papal infallibility, if not yet officially defined, was considered a truth of both scripture and tradition, and thus an a priori of theological reasoning) and a means of securing uniformity amongst Catholics (cf. Wiseman Fabiola 111-12, 13436). Jeffrey von Arx summarizes the Ultramontane logic on this point: “Because there is only one God there is only one church and only one truth within that Church, which is enunciated by the Church’s single head” (von Arx 9, cf. Wiseman “Conclusion of a Course” 403-7).
At the heart of the Ultramontane philosophy is the submission of the dubious individual to the more reliable collective – personal impressions to an all-encompassing logic, particular individuals to the universal hierarchy of the Church. The Catholic convert voluntarily surrenders his generally misguided private judgment to the guidance of a divinely inspired hierarchy, a surrender rendered ultimately to the Pope as head of this hierarchy and proximately to the bishop as its local representative. While the connotation differs from Protestant claims that Catholic converts lose the capacity for independent thought, the denotation is essentially the same. Significantly, if we apply this logic to Newman’s own case, the particular bishop by whom Newman was confirmed at Oxford in 1845 was Nicholas Wiseman, who, after 1850 was also his ecclesiastical superior as titular head of the Catholic Church in England (cf. Apologia 52, 182).
In the autobiographical prefaces and notes to his collected essays (1853), Wiseman presents us with a portrait of just such a Newman as Ultramontane logic might deduce (and Victorian anti-Catholicism had alleged), a Newman who converts to Catholicism because of his future ecclesiastical superior Nicholas Wiseman’s influence, and who has been intellectually ruled by Wiseman thereafter. While I cannot prove that Newman himself read Wiseman’s Essays on Various Subjects, he did recommend the work to one of his correspondents and, as I will shortly discuss, his Journal 1859-79 describes Wiseman’s claims to authority over himself in terms that resonate strongly with Wiseman’s own (Newman “To Catherine Bathurst” 388).8
Though they have been ignored by critics, Wiseman’s accounts of the thought and life of Newman are in many ways as damaging to Newman’s authority as Kingsley’s. In his autobiographical prefaces, Wiseman recounts in his grandiloquent and rather self-serving way, that back in the 1830s he, alone among English Catholics, had correctly read the “new signs in the religious firmament” that comprised the Oxford movement (Preface 1: viii). From 1833 on, he had given the Tractarians “the uppermost place” in his thoughts and devoted much of his time to “to influencing], if possible” the “direction” of their movement (Preface 2: vi-vii, Preface 1: viii). Wiseman judges, with considerable satisfaction, that these endeavors proved to be entirely successful; most notably, his writing had possessed “a material influence” on the conversion of the “Superior of the Oratory” of St. Philip de Neri, which is to say, Newman (Wiseman Preface 2: ix). Wiseman cites as particular evidence of this claim his own essay “The Catholic and Anglican Churches,” the only work of Wiseman’s that Newman himself granted to have had any effect on his conversion.
As “The Catholic and Anglican Churches” does constitute Wiseman’s best claim to have influenced Newman, I must briefly summarize the argument of this 1839 essay (itself reprinted in Essays on Various Subjects) before proceeding to Wiseman’s 1853 narrative of its composition and later influence. In this essay, for rhetorical purposes Wiseman discards the deductive method common among Catholic theologians at the time, and takes on Newman at his own game, historical theology. He pledges to accept “the standard by which the [Tractarian] divines . . . desire to be measured” and “strictly to adhere to the method” of “examinin[ing] it [the Anglican Church] by the light of antiquity, and judg[ing] it entirely by the rules laid down and determined, by the fathers of the primitive Church” (Wiseman “Catholic and Anglican” 208). Wiseman’s essay is a series of historical analogies between the fourth century schismatic group the Donatists and the Anglican church, with the aim of showing that neither can properly claim to be Catholic and Apostolic.
The writings of St. Augustine serve as the logical linchpin of the essay. Wiseman relies particularly on Augustine’s “golden sentence” that explains how, in reference to the Donatist controversy, one can distinguish the true Catholic Church from false claimants to the title (“Catholic and Anglican” 224). Augustine writes, ‘”Quapropter SECURUS judicat orbis terrarum, bonos non esse qui se dividunt ab orbe terrarum, in quacumque parte orbis terrarum,'” which Wiseman translates as, “Wherefore, the entire world judges WITH SECURITY, that they are not good, who separate themselves from the entire world, in whatever part of the entire world” (“Catholic and Anglican” 224, emphasis Wiseman’s). Wiseman is explicit about the meaning of this “general rule” for “all future possible divisions” – “only that can be the true Church, which is dispersed over the whole earth”; the “very circumstance” of a church being national or regional in character evidences schism – and asserts that it “should be an axiom in theology” (“Catholic and Anglican” 217, 224-25).
In his autobiographical prefaces, Wiseman depicts the composition of this essay as a pitched military battle between Newman and himself, in which Newman is defeated with his own weapons on his own turf.
The entire system [the Via Media] was built with great apparent consistency, such as to deceive its very architect [Newman], who believed it to be planned and raised upon orthodox and primitive models. There could be little hope of undeceiving them [the Tractarians], except by pursuing them on to their own ground, and finding there the instruments of assault. Reasoning had to be met by reasoning; a mistaken, by a truer, reading of antiquity. (Wiseman Preface 2: viii)
Wiseman politely but exultantly reflects that “it would be ungrateful not to express what consolation has been derived from the information, after many years of unconsciousness, that they [his essays] had exercised a material influence on minds so infinitely superior, in every way, to their writer’s” and have aided their conversions to Catholicism (Preface 2: ix, cf. Preface 1: xii-xiii). Among the group of thinkers he influenced, Wiseman is pleased to count “most especially the honored and venerated Superior of the Oratory [of St. Philip de Neri]” and author of “the wonderful lectures on Anglican difficulties,” John Henry Newman (Preface 2: ix).
Wiseman further asserts in the prefaces and notes to his essays that his influence over Newman does not end with his intellectual defeat of Newman and Newman’s subsequent conversion; he claims also to have set the direction of the rest of Newman’s religious life. In a long footnote on his 1833 meeting with Newman in Rome, Wiseman relates that as a young man he had promised St. Philip de Neri
to introduce his beautiful Institute into England. But little could I foresee, when I received that most welcome visit, I was in company with its future founder . . . . [M]y early promise was not forgotten: and I record it, in gratitude and not for glory, that without violence or forwardness, my feelings respecting the modern ‘Apostle of Rome,’ led possibly to the first suggestion of what was soon spontaneously adopted, the introduction of the Oratory into England. (“Froude’s Remains” 93-94).
This unity of mind between bishop and priest has, Wiseman insists, continued unabated ever since. Wiseman indignantly denies the reports of “Protestant writers and Protestant speakers” that “unkindnesses, or jealousies, or doubtfulness, had arisen between some converts and myself” as “a simple untruth” (Preface 2: x). In sum, Wiseman’s writings, which were widely read, depict Newman as, under the Ultramontane thesis, he should have been: a man who finds the truth when he abandons his own false beliefs and accepts the teachings of a Catholic bishop, and then spends the rest of his life propagating the truth that he has found. Wiseman’s writings thus both justify the charge of Catholic influence on Newman’s conversion – upon which, as I have shown, the images of Newman-as-spy and Newman-as-intellectual slave depended – and themselves narrate a Newman who, following his intellectual defeat at Wiseman’s hands, is now without individual initiative. The implications of Wiseman’s work for Newman’s literary authority are both clear and disastrous. In his Journal 1859-79, Newman explicitly examines this problem, analyzing the threat that Wiseman poses for his literary authority; in the Apologia itself, Newman attempts to rectify this problem by renarrating his relations with Wiseman.
Newman’s anxieties about Wiseman’s influence are discussed most openly in his Autobiographical Writings, particularly in the work known as The Journal, 1859-79, which Newman wrote and preserved for possible publication in anticipation of a posthumous attack on his reputation by the Ultramontanes (Tristam 24-25, 143-44, cf. Newman Journal 273-74). Newman wrote that if this situation should arise, a friendly biographer should defend him by publishing this “journal” – which is not so much a conventional journal as a series of retrospective autobiographical vignettes, written at erratic intervals – together with other autobiographical pieces and letters relevant to his Catholic life. Since Newman feared losing to biographers his authority to interpret his own life, the hypothetical biographer’s role was to be restricted to writing the transitions needed to link Newman’s words together; The Journal is thus more of a second autobiography than a diary.
The Journal 1859-79 is quite plain about the interpretive claim Wiseman possesses over Newman, and is quite bleak about its effect on Newman’s authority. The bulk of the discussion of Wiseman was written in January 1863, when Wiseman was still alive and at the height of his popularity, and when Newman was in the depths that preceded the Apologia. Here, Newman depicts his conversion to Catholicism as a process of objectification, in which he ceases to be a thinking subject, and becomes instead an object in thrall to the Catholic gaze in general and to Wiseman’s interpretations in particular. Newman recollects that when he converted, he also granted a principle repeatedly articulated by Wiseman, and applied by him to the Anglican Newman: theologians who have changed their opinions about important matters have shown themselves unreliable, and are therefore not to be readily believed (cf. Apologia 160). Consequently, with Wiseman’s assistance and encouragement, Newman renounced his own right to teach after his conversion. He writes: “When I became a Catholic . . . . I determined, that it did not become one, who had taken a prominent part against the Church, to be taking a prominent part against Anglicanism, but that my place was retirement. . . . ‘I broke my staff’; and the Cardinal [Wiseman] did not hinder it. Rather he co-operated” (Journal 258).9 Fittingly, in the logic of The Journal, once Newman, with Wiseman’s assistance, has broken his staff, he becomes entirely objectified, quite explicitly held in Wiseman’s thrall. Of the year following his conversion, Newman laments, “I was the gaze of so many eyes at Oscott [an English Catholic seminary], as if some wild incomprehensible beast, caught by the hunter, and a spectacle for Dr. Wiseman to exhibit to strangers, as himself being the hunter who captured it!” (Journal 255).
Trapped in Wiseman’s theological cage, Newman sees himself as devoid of literary and religious authority, and holds himself to be no longer sufficiently free to write a work of real power. Putting the matter directly in literary terms, Newman mournfully exclaims, “O my God, I seem to have wasted these years that I have been a Catholic. What I wrote as a Protestant has had far greater power, force, meaning, success, than my Catholic works – and this troubles me a great deal” (Journal 253). Newman also places the blame for this situation in part on Wiseman himself. Wiseman in his public writings had depicted Newman as his obedient ecclesiastical subordinate, but he had also privately complained to influential Catholics about Newman’s arrogance and independence (cf. Chadwick 136). In the Journal, Newman asserts that his failure to meet the terms (intellectual submission and convert production) that many Catholics, especially “the Cardinal [Wiseman],” have placed on him cause him to be treated in most Catholic quarters with “opposition and distrust,” and this “opposition and distrust,” Newman laments, “have (to all appearance) succeeded in destroying my influence and usefulness” (Journal 256-57).
Newman recognizes that there is no obvious way for him to defend his literary authority from the threat posed by Wiseman. Wiseman had publicized his influence on Newman’s conversion and later life – even to the point of exaggeration – providing crucial substantiation for the stock images of Newman as spy and Newman as intellectual slave. Moreover, as Wiseman did play a small role in his conversion and is his ecclesiastical superior, Newman is in no position to deny this influence. To this massive problem for Newman’s authority, The Journal envisions only one solution – the death of Wiseman.
The next section of The Journal is dated February 22, 1865 – as Newman himself significantly observes, a week after Wiseman’s death and a day before his burial – and it depicts Newman’s authority as suddenly restored (261, 262). Newman writes that his “position of mind” is very “different from what it was” when he last wrote in the manuscript (in 1863), and it differs primarily in that his sense of the futility of his writing and life has disappeared (Journal 260). Instead of despairing of the potential of his writing to influence anyone, Newman is now, if anything, tempted “to value the praise of men” he has been receiving too highly (Journal 261). He designates three causes as having brought about this dramatic change:
First, I have got hardened against the opposition made to me, and have not the soreness at my ill treatment on the part of certain influential Catholics which I had then. . . . Next, the two chief persons, whom I felt to be unjust to me, are gone – the Cardinal [Wiseman] & [the Ultramontane devotional writer, poet, and fellow Oratian Frederick] Faber . . . . Thirdly, in the last year a most wonderful deliverance has been wrought in my favour, by the controversy, of which the upshot was my Apologia. (260)
Newman’s first two causes are clearly connected; with Wiseman dead, no one has an inherent interpretive claim over Newman, and Newman’s interpretation of Catholicism is as good as any in England. This being the case, Newman can now harden himself to the Catholic opposition he faces from Ultramontanes like Manning; it need not destroy his authority. With Wiseman dead, Newman is in no worse position in the Catholic Church than he was in the Anglican Church; he is again a loved and feared party leader at war with other party leaders. As Newman observes, in addition to having “regained . . . the favour of Protestants,” he seems to have suddenly earned “the approbation” of a “good part” of the English [Catholic] clerical body” (Journal 260). Though he still faces significant opposition from soon-to-be Cardinal Manning and the Ultramontane theologian W.G. Ward, Newman’s “feeling of despondency & irritation seems to have gone” (Journal 261). After Wiseman’s burial, nothing like Newman’s 1863 sense of black despair about his authorship and authority occurs in The Journal.
Since the first two causes of Newman’s resumption of authority in The Journal – his indifference to the Catholic opposition and the death of Wiseman – are linked, it is reasonable to consider the possibility that the third cause, the Apologia, is also connected to the others. Although readers and critics since Ward and Manning themselves have seen the Apologia as in part an attack on the Ultramontanes, this element of the work has not been greatly explored because it has been thought to exist only in Chapter V – the philosophical treatise “The Position of My Mind Since 1845” – and therefore to possess little bearing on the work’s narrative elements, save perhaps on the thematic stress on Englishness (cf., for example, Kelly 26, Holmes 23). The Apologia was written while Wiseman was slowly dying, and one of its hidden goals, I argue, is the erasure of Wiseman – the elimination of his influence, and his literary burial. The Apologia tells the same story as The Journal, but more successfully and in a more classically Harold Bloom, anxiety-of-influence fashion, by omission rather than narration.
Wiseman’s role in the narrative of the Apologia is notable more by the contortions necessary to secure his absence than by his presence. Though the Apologia provides a clear portrayal of Wiseman, he appears in the text only a handful of times. Accounts of Newman’s 1833 meeting with Wiseman in Rome had already been published in Hurrell Froude’s Remains and in several of Wiseman’s works, so the Apologia is obligated to address the event to retain narrative credibility. Newman mentions that he and Froude made an exception to their general rule against talking to Catholics to meet twice with “Monsignore (now Cardinal) Wiseman at the Collegio Inglese” and once to “hea[r] him preach” (Apologia 38-39). Newman, however, portrays himself as at this time feeling great “isolation” from the people and religion of Italy, and as thinking “solely” of England (Apologia 39). In a similar vein, the only detail he relates from these meetings is his refusal of Wiseman’s suggestion that he and Froude visit Rome again and see more of Wiseman. Newman tells Wiseman that ‘”We [Newman and Froude] have a work to do in England,'” and that such a visit would only delay their mission (Apologia 40). When Wiseman next appears in the Apologia, he has returned to England, and has started giving controversial lectures explaining why Tractarians should convert to Catholicism (Apologia 61). These lectures influence Newman only in that the need to combat them comprises one of the most “important” “reason[s]” that he is inspired to devise his influential theory of the Via Media, in which the Anglican Church’s doctrinal moderation is contrasted with the Roman Church’s doctrinal excesses and Protestantism’s doctrinal deficiencies, with the aim of revealing Anglicanism as the true heir of the Conciliar Church (Apologia 61). Wiseman’s third and final personal appearance in the Apologia occurs when shortly before his conversion Newman writes Wiseman to defend himself from the explicit charge “of coldness in [his] conduct towards” Wiseman, and from the possible implicit charge of wishing, in a spirit of “controversial rivalry,” to “ge[t] the better” of Wiseman (Apologia 144). The Apologia’s, portrayal of Wiseman as a character is terse, but clear and consistent. Wiseman constantly attempts to influence Newman, but Newman rebuffs his advances, declines his influence, and is affected by him only as providing the material occasion of his own Via Media.10
Newman accentuates the key aspects of this portrait of Wiseman by foiling him with other Catholic priests who are both less obtrusive and more successful in attempting to convert Newman. Most prominently, Wiseman is implicitly foiled in both results and methods with “Dr. [Charles] Russell of Maynooth [Seminary]” who is designated as having “more to do with [Newman’s] conversion than any one else” (Newman Apologia 153). In contrast to Wiseman’s penchant for theological debate, Russell achieved this end because he simply sent Newman “one or two books,” wrote him “several” “gentle, mild, unobtrusive, uncontroversial letters,” and in general “let [him] alone” (Apologia 153). In relating the event of his conversion, Newman declines to narrate his confirmation at the hands of the local bishop, Nicholas Wiseman (Newman Apologia 52, cf. Ker 317). Newman emphasizes, instead, his reception into the Catholic Church – which invariably includes first confession and first communion – at the hands of the Passionist priest, Fr. Dominic Barberi. In contrast to Wiseman, allegedly the model for Browning’s Bishop Blougram,” “Father Dominic . . . . is a simple, holy man” who “has had little to do with conversions”; in fact, Father Dominic had never spoken to Newman for more than “a few minutes” prior to his conversion and had no advance knowledge of Newman’s “intention” to convert (Apologia 181).
In sum, the Wiseman of the Apologia may be able, by virtue of his office, to move Newman about physically – from Oxford to Oscott, Oscott to Rome, Rome to Birmingham (182) – but has no intellectual or spiritual effect on him at all. In the Apologia, only those who do not attempt to influence Newman can play a role in his development, and Wiseman’s attempts at influence only render him ridiculous. My reading of the Apologia’s, portrayal of Wiseman as a critique has been, so far as I am aware, anticipated by only one critic: Wiseman himself. Terminally ill and worried about his standing with posterity, Wiseman drafted the beginnings of an essay intended to defend himself against the Apologia, but the essay was never completed, was soon lost, and was not discovered and published for well over one hundred years (Schieffen 332-33, 378).12
The sticking point, of course, for the Apologia’s confident portrayal of a touchy, nagging Wiseman spurned by a self-contained Newman is Wiseman’s “Catholic and Anglican Churches” essay (August 1839), which was publicly known to have influenced Newman’s conversion. Newman discusses this essay in a passage whose rhetorical complexity and importance to the Apologia’s model of authority merit a thorough explication. Newman attempts to erase Wiseman’s influence primarily by the bizarre and rhetorically effective move of treating Augustine rather than Wiseman as the author of the essay in question. When Newman initially reads the “article … on the ‘Anglican Claim,'” “Dr. Wiseman” is identified as the author, and the essay serves only as an example of Wiseman’s poor reasoning skills (Apologia 98). As Newman recalls, “I read it [“The Catholic and Anglican Churches”] and did not see much in it,” because “the case [of the Donatist schism] was not parallel to that of the Anglican Church” (Apologia 98, emphasis mine).13
However, when Newman turns to discussing how “The Catholic and Anglican Churches” influenced him, the article’s authorship suddenly switches from Wiseman to St. Augustine and its content correspondingly metamorphoses from invalid to invaluable. The passage is worth quoting at some length. Newman recollects that the “friend” who had given him the article,
a Protestant still, pointed out to me the palmary words of St. Augustine, which were contained in one of the extracts made in the [Dublin] Review, and which had escaped my observation. securus judicat orbis terrarum.’ He repeated these words again and again, and, when he was gone, they kept ringing in my ears. ‘Securus judicat orbis terrarum;’ they were words which went beyond the occasion of the Donatists: they applied to that of the Monophysites. They gave a cogency to the Article, which had escaped me at first. They decided ecclesiastical questions on a simpler rule than that of Antiquity; nay, St. Augustine was one of the prime oracles of Antiquity; here then was Antiquity deciding against itself… the deliberate judgement, in which the whole Church at length rests and acquiesces, is an infallible prescription and a final sentence against such portions of it as protest and secede. Who can account for the impressions which are made on him? For a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before . … By those great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theory of the Via Media was absolutely pulverized. (Apologia 98-99, emphasis mine)
In this passage, the longish article Wiseman had written disappears, and is replaced by a single sentence written by St. Augustine. Newman repeatedly refers to “the words of Saint Augustine,” never again mentions Wiseman, and is careful to maintain the severance of Augustine’s words from Wiseman’s essay. When Newman reads “The Catholic and Anglican Churches,” he misses the quotation from Augustine; consequently, he encounters the saint’s dictum primarily through the voice of his “still Protestant friend” rather than through Wiseman’s text. Even the application of Augustine’s “palmary sentence” to the rest of “ecclesiastical history” is attributed by Newman to the saint himself, although, as I have shown, Wiseman had explicitly dubbed the statement a “general rule” for “all future possible divisions” and had said that it “should be an axiom in theology” (“Catholic and Anglican” 217, 224-25). As written by Augustine, the article has a real “cogency,” and its words have an oracular power that ultimately determines Newman’s destiny. Since the article, as Newman describes it, is now written by a key Church Father who holds no brief in the Anglican-Catholic debate, its influence over Newman, while remarkable, in no way contradicts Newman’s model of literary authority.
However, if the Via Media falls not under the words of the revered “Ancient Father,” Saint Augustine, but under the words of the Victorian Cardinal, Nicholas Wiseman, Newman’s authority comes crashing down alongside it. One of Newman’s concluding metaphors for the effect Augustine’s words had on him is that he “had seen the shadow of a hand upon the wall” (Apologia 99). This metaphorical hand directly proclaims the death of Newman’s Via Media and foretells his conversion to Catholicism; this metaphorical hand indirectly leaves him a theologian without a theological system and renders “the reins” of his authority over his followers “broken in [his] hands” (Apologia 99, 101, 106). In the implied allusion to the book of Daniel, the hand is God’s; in the direct context, the hand is Augustine’s. In either case, Newman’s authority is temporarily disturbed and momentarily thrown, but the principles on which it is erected are not undermined.
If, however, this hand were Wiseman’s, the Ultramontanes’ model of ecclesiastical authority would be vindicated at Newman’s expense. The Apologia’?, narrative would essentially be that of The Journal, 1859-79, where Wiseman has broken Newman’s staff (here, “reins”), and his influence can be escaped only by his death. By the strange but deftly handled tactic of absenting Wiseman from the more persuasive parts of his own essay, Newman avoids this tremendous threat. The success of Newman’s rhetoric in his discussion of the “Catholic and Anglican Churches” essay is evidenced by the general tendency of literary critics to interpret the passage as if it were a narrative of Newman reading the work of Augustine rather than a narrative of Newman reading the work of a contemporary who references Augustine. In this famous passage, Newman frees himself from Wiseman’s influence by “misreading” his ecclesiastical precursor’s work in a manner so flamboyant and rhetorically effective that it is best interpreted in a Bloomian register.14
The Apologia, in the end, portrays Newman’s conversion not as an ecclesiastical and literary submission to Wiseman, but as the consequence of his own organic intellectual development. Newman resolves “at the end of 1844” to write “an Essay on Doctrinal Development; and then, if, at the end of it, my convictions in favour of the Roman Church were not weaker, to take the necessary steps for admission into her fold” (Apologia 177). Newman begins this work in early 1845, and by October he has “so cleared away” his “difficulties” that he has “resolved to be received” into the Catholic Church (Apologia 181). Newman’s conversion, then, rather than representing a loss of his ability to think originally (as was thought by Protestants and Ultramontane Catholics alike), comes as a consequence of his most original intellectual production. Lord Acton, though he often distrusted Newman and hated Wiseman, best observed the ways in which The Development of Doctrine implicitly defends Newman’s literary authority against Wiseman’s ecclesiastical authority. Acton realizes that “the idea of development” was ‘”a revolution’; it gave him [Newman] the air of a person who to satisfy himself demanded a theory specially thought out to suit himself. . . . Wiseman said of him, he was of an impossible arrogance – and development was the reason for the hard mot” (Chadwick 136). When Newman comments at the beginning of Chapter V, “I was not conscious . . . on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind” (184), he proclaims the victory of the Apologia’s, entire narrative, and his rhetorical victory over Wiseman.
1) This famous quotation is the opening sentence of chapter six in Loss and Gain.
2) In 1864, Wiseman was sufficiently popular and venerated to be a real rival to Newman. The Times had dubbed Wiseman “one of the men of the day; [for] he has attained a high position; [and] he is a man of varied and wide powers – a literary man, a linguist, a man of the world, an ecclesiastical leader, an orator” (qtd. in Murphy i). Wiseman’s 1855 novel Fabiola – an immediate success that had several editions in its first year, was quickly translated into ten European languages, and served as the model for “un genre nouveau, le roman historique religieux” – had a popular success among both Catholics and Protestants beyond that of any of Newman’s works (Durand “Les Heroes” 18, “Les Martyrs” 83-84; Litvack 166).
3) As the Apologia indicates, Newman had read George Stanley Faber’s Letters on Tractarian Secessions to Popery (1846), and was well aware of the exact nature of the charges made against him (147-48).
4) While his Ultramontanism was muted somewhat in expression by his diplomatic character and flowery prose style, by the mid-1850s Wiseman had become a leading English Ultramontane (Kelly 27). For the last ten years of his career (1855-65), he used his ecclesiastical office to raise other English Ultramontanes (most importantly, Henry Edward Manning and William George Ward) to positions of influence (Manning as his assistant and designated successor and Ward as professor of theology and editor of the Dublin Review) (Kelly 27-28, Altholz 89). For Wiseman’s explicit endorsement and loose definition of Ultramontanism, see his Recollections of the Last Four Popes, pg. 24.
5) The obvious exception to this assertion is the work of Cardinal Manning. Manning operates under the same postulates as Wiseman, but applies them less generously to Newman. Since, for Manning, all Catholics must submit to the same hierarchy and possess exactly the same beliefs in all particulars, Newman is not really a Catholic, but, rather, is a relativist, or at best a Protestant in Catholic guise (cf. Manning 38-39, 136, 146-47, where these charges are made against those who hold Newman’s positions and distinctive ideas – such as the economy – without ever naming Newman directly).
6) Cf. Wiseman’s insistence that classical Greek and Roman thought, for all its brilliance, never arrived at the fullness of religious truth because of the near-impossibility of determining what methods to use in such an inquiry and what postulates to assume (“On The Character of Faith” 285-86).
7) Wiseman’s opinion was a common one among Ultramontanes. see, for example, John Ciani’s summary of the thought of Cardinal Mazzella who held that because God is one, unity is perfection: “Truth, as an attribute of the One God, is one, and error ‘mulitplex”‘(109).
8) On June 23, 1853, Newman recommended in a letter that Catherine Anne Bathurst read “the Cardinal’s article in the Dublin in 1841 on the Donatists, which, I suppose, is reprinted in his ‘Essays.'” (388). The comment shows Newman to have been aware of and interested in the work’s publication, but is ambiguous as to whether Newman had – or would – read it himself.
9) Newman is even more explicit about the logical grounds for his lack of a right to teach in the “Advertisement” to Sermons Preached on Various Occasions. He writes of himself that “it seemed to him incongruous that one, who had so freely taught and published error in a Protestant communion, should put himself forward as a dogmatic teacher in the Catholic Church” (Newman “Advertisement” v).
10) In direct contrast to my argument, Frank Turner claims in John Henry Newman: The Challenge to Evangelical Religion that Newman retrospectively endeavored “to highlight the influence of Wiseman’s Dublin Review essay” on his conversion (336). Other than the Apologia itself, Turner’s primary textual evidence for this claim is “Newman’s initial public mention of the essay in Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans” (336). However, Newman’s brief discussion of Wiseman’s essay in his Anglican Difficulties follows the same basic pattern that I have observed in the Apologia. Newman relates in the body of the text that “a paper [he] fell in with upon the schism of the Donatists” weakened his faith in the Anglican position; Wiseman’s authorship of the essay is mentioned only in a footnote (373). Since Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans was originally delivered as a series of lectures, not only is Wiseman’s status minimized here – in the text’s original oral version Wiseman would not have been mentioned by name at all.
11) See Fothergill 222-23, in which a letter of Robert Browning’s is quoted to this effect.
12) The text of Wiseman’s essay fragment, entitled “Some remarks upon a passage in Dr. Newman’s Apologia,” is as follows:
There is a short paragraph in this invaluable work, which appears to me worthy of some elucidation. It occurs at p. 368, and runs as follows. “Soon” (after Dr. Newman’s leaving Littlemore, 1846) “Dr. Wiseman in whose Vicariate Oxford lay called me to Oscott, and I went there with others; afterwards he sent me to Rome, and finally placed me in Birmingham.”
It is possible that some readers may see in these few lines, even now, a record of three arbitrary sets of episcopal authority, almost simultaneous, or without long intervals, and wholly unconnected with the writer’s desires or voluntary concurrence. But it may not be till all the parties interested in this abridged statement have passed away, and no one remains to explain it, that it may be seized on as an evidence of the summary way in which the Church deprives even men of Dr. Newman’s genius of any liberty. (qtd. in full in Schieffen 332-33)
Wiseman here worries that the Apologia portrays him as an “arbitrary” tyrant, a reasonable concern, as Newman had long considered Wiseman to be such, and it is precisely Wiseman’s efforts to control Newman that the Apologia attempts to critique and refute.
13) To relate briefly Newman’s reasons for this judgment, the Donatist controversy involved a local North African quarrel about which bishop had the right to a given see, while the Anglican secession, instead, involved a unified series of sees in a contained geographical area operating outside of the jurisdiction of the rest of the Church (Apologia 98).
14) All subsequent references to Wiseman’s article further evidence the pattern I have sketched. Most notably, these references to the article fail to mention its author; we learn that “the Article in the Dublin Review” had affected many at Oxford and that “the important article in the Dublin” had disturbed those close to Newman, but the author’s identity is carefully omitted, and, in any case, we are reminded that Newman considered the article to be guilty of “great speciousness” in “argument” (Apologia 107).
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Chene Heady (Ph.D. The Ohio State University) is an Assistant Professor of English at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. His 2004 dissertation discusses the autobiographies of Victorian and Edwardian sages. His research interests include Victorian and Edwardian literature, autobiography, and G.K. Chesterton.
Copyright Renascence Summer 2007
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