ON CARDINAL NEWMAN
[From The Quarterly Review, October, 1864]
Apologia pro Vita sua. By JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, D.D.
Few books have been published of late years which combine more distinct elements of interest than the “Apologia” of Dr. Newman. As an autobiography, in the highest sense of that word, as the portraiture, that is, and record of what the man was, irrespective of those common accidents of humanity which too often load the biographer’s pages, it is eminently dramatic. To produce such a portrait was the end which the writer proposed to himself, and which he has achieved with a rare fidelity and completeness. Hardly do the “Confessions of St. Augustine” more vividly reproduce the old African Bishop before successive generations in all the greatness and struggles of his life than do these pages the very inner being of this remarkable man—“the living intelligence,” as he describes it, “by which I write, and argue, and act” (p. 47). No wonder that when he first fully recognised what he had to do, he
shrank from both the task and the exposure which it would entail. I must, I said, give the true key to my whole life; I must show what I am, that it may be seen what I am not, and that the phantom may be extinguished which gibbers instead of me. I wish to be known as a living man, and not as a scarecrow which is dressed up in my clothes.... I will draw out, as far as may be, the history of my mind; I will state the point at which I began, in what external suggestion or accident each opinion had its rise, how far and how they were developed from within, how they grew, were modified, were combined, were in collision with each other, and were changed. Again, how I conducted myself towards them; and how, and how far, and for how long a time, I thought I could hold them consistently with the ecclesiastical engagements which I had made, and with the position which I filled.... It is not at all pleasant for me to be egotistical nor to be criticised for being so. It is not pleasant to reveal to high and low, young and old, what has gone on within me from my early years. It is not pleasant to be giving to every shallow or flippant disputant the advantage over me of knowing my most private thoughts, I might even say the intercourse between myself and my Maker. —pp. 47-51.