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Definition: Newman, John Henry from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English Roman Catholic theologian. While still an Anglican, he wrote a series of Tracts for the Times, which gave their name to the Tractarian Movement (subsequently called the Oxford Movement) for the revival of Catholicism. He became a Catholic in 1845 and was made a cardinal in 1879. In 1864 his autobiography, Apologia pro vita sua, was published.

Newman, born in London, was ordained in the Church of England in 1824, and in 1827 became vicar of St Mary's, Oxford. There he was influenced by the historian R H Froude and the Anglican priest Keble, and in 1833 published the first of the Tracts for the Times. They culminated in Tract 90 (1841) which found the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican church compatible with Roman Catholicism. He was rector of Dublin University 1854–58 and published his lectures on education as The Idea of a University (1873). His poem The Dream of Gerontius appeared in 1866, the words of which were used in Edward Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, and The Grammar of Assent, an analysis of the nature of belief, in 1870. He wrote the hymn ‘Lead, kindly light’ (1833).


Newman, John Henry


Newman, John Henry

Selected Poetry of John Henry Newman (Cardinal; 1801–1890)

Summary Article: Newman, John Henry
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1801–90, English churchman, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, one of the founders of the Oxford movement, b. London.

Early Life and Works

He studied at Trinity College, Oxford, and held a fellowship at Oriel College, where he became tutor (1826) after his ordination (1824) in the Church of England. He was made vicar of St. Mary's, Oxford, in 1827 and was (1831–32) select preacher to the university. In 1832 he resigned his tutorship after a dispute over his religious duties and went on a Mediterranean tour. While on this trip he wrote “Lead, Kindly Light” and other hymns. After John Keble preached the celebrated sermon “National Apostasy” in the summer of 1833, Newman threw himself into the ensuing discussion and in September began the Tracts for the Times. These, joined with his sermons given at St. Mary's, provided guidance and inspiration to the Oxford movement.

About 1840, Newman began to lose faith in his position, and an article by Nicholas Wiseman led him to reconsider the Roman Catholic claims. In 1841 his Anglican career came to a crisis; in that year Newman published Tract 90, demonstrating that the Thirty-nine Articles, the formulary of faith of the Church of England, were consistent with Catholicism. It created a great outcry from Anglicans everywhere and a ban on the Tracts for the Times from the bishop of Oxford. Newman now went into retirement at Littlemore (a chapelry attached to St. Mary's), where he remained for more than a year, living with a group of men in a sort of monastic seclusion. He gave up his living in Sept., 1843, and in 1845 was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

The chief literary products of Newman's retirement consisted of the Essay on Miracles and the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. In 1846 he went to Rome, where he received ordination and a doctorate of divinity. He entered the Oratorians (see Oratory, Congregation of the) and came back to England (1847) filled with the idea of extending the church in England by means of the Oratory. After living at various places he settled at Edgbaston (on the outskirts of Birmingham); there, in the Oratory he founded, he remained the rest of his life.

Newman's life was marked by several unpleasant public events, the first of these being a libel suit against him by an Italian ex-friar named Achilli. Newman lost the suit, but was later exonerated, and a great fund was publicly raised to defray the expense and the fine he had incurred. In 1854 the bishops of Ireland tried to found a Catholic university in Dublin and made Newman its head; he found himself in difficulties at once, and the ill-planned project was abandoned.

Later Life and Works

Newman's theories appearing in his Idea of a University Defined (1873) were chiefly developed about this time. He believed that education should be moral training rather than instruction and proposed in token support of his position the founding of a Roman Catholic hall at Oxford to provide Catholics with the advantages of Catholicism and university training together. This (1858) was opposed by Henry Manning and the English hierarchy, much to Newman's disappointment. Newman's reputation in England was greatly enhanced soon after this by one of the most celebrated incidents of his career, the controversy with Charles Kingsley. This began in 1864 when Kingsley remarked in a review that the Catholic clergy was not interested in the truth for its own sake. After several exchanges Newman published the Apologia pro vita sua (1864), a masterpiece of religious autobiography, undoubtedly its author's greatest work.

A few years later an ambitious work of another kind appeared, the Grammar of Assent (1870), designed to set forth a sort of logic of religious belief. At this time Newman was involved in an annoying incident that gained more notice than its importance warranted; Newman, who opposed the enunciation at the time of the infallibility dogma, was quoted as denouncing those (including Cardinal Manning) who advocated its definition. He was misunderstood in England, and his enemies (Catholic and non-Catholic) spread rumors in Rome that he opposed the dogma itself; Newman soon lost favor with the papacy.

It was not until after the death of Pius IX that he regained papal support when Pius's successor, Leo XIII, created him cardinal (1879) at the general demand of English Catholicism. About the same time (1878) Trinity College, Oxford, gave him an honorary fellowship. Cardinal Newman spent his declining years at Edgbaston, loved and admired by his countrymen. Newman's misunderstanding with Manning nevertheless lasted over 30 years. The two cardinals were temperamentally poles apart; Newman had no interest in social reform and Manning no taste for theological controversy.

Style and Influence

Newman ranks as one of the masters of English prose; his style is simple, lucid, clear, and convincing. His poems, however, never gained a great reputation, except for The Dream of Gerontius (1866), which was later set to music by Sir Edward Elgar; his religious novels, Loss and Gain (1848) and Callista (1856), are no longer read. For the collected editions of his works, Newman wrote refutations of his own Anglican writings, especially those dealing with Anglicanism as a via media. Newman's immediate influence was greatest c.1840, and many Anglicans entered the Roman Catholic Church at his inspiration. His essays retain their vitality and popularity. Newman was beatified in 2010.

  • For selections from Newman's writings, see Tillotson, G. , ed., Prose and Poetry (1957);.
  • Tristram, H. , ed., Autobiographical Writings (1957) and Catholic Sermons (1957);.
  • Collins, J. , ed., Philosophical Readings (1961).
  • The definitive biography is that of W. P. Ward (1927).
  • See also biographies by M. Trevor (2 vol., 1962-63), T. L. Sheridan (1967), O. Chadwick (1983, repr. 2010), and J. Cornwell (2010);.
  • studies by J. H. Walgrave (tr. 1960), C. F. Harrold (1945, repr. 1966), and H. L. Weatherby (1973).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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