Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 378 pages of information about Occasional Papers.

XXIX

CARDINAL NEWMAN[33]

  [33]
  Guardian, 21st May 1879.

It is not wonderful that people should be impressed by the vicissitudes and surprises and dramatic completeness of Cardinal Newman’s career.  It is not wonderful that he should be impressed by this himself.  That he who left us in despair and indignation in 1845 should have passed through a course of things which has made him, Roman Catholic as he is, a man of whom Englishmen are so proud in 1879, is even more extraordinary than that the former Fellow of Oriel should now be surrounded with the pomp and state of a Cardinal.  There is only one other career in our time which, with the greatest possible contrasts in other points, suggests in its strangeness and antecedent improbabilities something of a parallel.  It is the train of events which has made “Disraeli the Younger” the most powerful Minister whom England has seen in recent years.  But Lord Beaconsfield has aimed at what he has attained to, and has fought his way to it through the chances and struggles of a stirring public life.  Cardinal Newman’s life has been from first to last the life of the student and recluse.  He has lived in the shade.  He has sought nothing for himself.  He has shrunk from the thought of advancement.  The steps to the high places of the world have not offered themselves to him, and he has been content to be let alone.  Early in his course his rare gifts of mind, his force of character, his power over hearts and sympathies, made him for a while a prominent person.  Then came a series of events which seemed to throw him out of harmony with the great mass of his countrymen.  He appeared to be, if not forgotten, yet not thought of, except by a small number of friends—­old friends who had known him too well and too closely ever to forget, and new friends gathered round him by the later circumstances of his life and work.  People spoke of him as a man who had made a great mistake and failed; who had thrown up influence and usefulness here, and had not found it there; too subtle, too imaginative for England, too independent for Rome.  He seemed to have so sunk out of interest and account that off-hand critics, in the easy gaiety of their heart, might take liberties with his name.

Then came the first surprise.  The Apologia was read with the keenest interest by those who most differed from the writer’s practical conclusions; twenty years had elapsed since he had taken the unpopular step which seemed to condemn him to obscurity; and now he emerged from it, challenging not in vain the sympathy of his countrymen.  They awoke, it may be said—­at least the younger generation of them—­to what he really was; the old jars and bitternesses had passed out of remembrance; they only felt that they had one among them who could write—­for few of them ever heard his wonderful voice—­in a way which made English hearts

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