Here is the task he set himself, and the task which he has performed. There is in these pages an absolute revealing of the hidden life in its acting, and its processes, which at times is almost startling, which is everywhere of the deepest interest. For the life thus revealed is well worthy of the pen by which it is portrayed. Of all those who, in these later years, have quitted the Church of England for the Roman communion —esteemed, honoured, and beloved, as were many of them—no one, save Dr. Newman, appears to us to possess the rare gift of undoubted genius.
That life, moreover, which anywhere and at any time must have marked its own character on his fellows, was cast precisely at the time and place most favourable for stamping upon others the impress of itself. The plate was ready to receive and to retain every line of the image which was thrown so vividly upon it. The history, therefore, of this life in its shifting scenes of thought, feeling, and purpose, becomes in fact the history of a school, a party, and a sect. From its effect on us, who, from without, judge of it with critical calmness, we can form some idea of what must be its power on those who were within the charmed ring; who were actually under the wand of the enchanter, for whom there was music in that voice, fascination in that eye, and habitual command in that spare but lustrous countenance; and who can trace again in this retrospect the colours and shadows which in those years which fixed their destiny, passed, though in less distinct hues, into their own lives, and made them what they are.
Again, in another aspect, the “Apologia” will have a special interest for most of our readers. Almost every page of it will throw some light upon the great controversy which has been maintained for these three hundred years, and which now spreads itself throughout the world, between the Anglican Church and her oldest and greatest antagonist, the Papal See....
The first names to which it introduces us indicate the widely-differing influences under which was formed that party within our Church which has acted so powerfully and in such various directions upon its life and teaching. They are those of Mr.—afterwards Archbishop—Whately and Dr. Hawkins, afterwards and still the Provost of Oriel College. To intercourse with both of whom Dr. Newman attributes great results in the formation of his own character: the first emphatically opening his mind and teaching him to use his reason, whilst in religious opinion he taught him the existence of a church, and fixed in him Anti-Erastian views of Church polity; the second being a man of most exact mind, who through a course of severe snubbing taught him to weigh his words and be cautious in his statements.