CARDINAL NEWMAN’S NATURALNESS
Guardian, 20th August 1890.
Every one feels what is meant when we speak of a person’s ways being “natural,” in contrast to being artificial, or overstrained, or studied, or affected. But it is easier to feel what is meant than to explain and define it. We sometimes speak as if it were a mere quality of manner; as if it belonged to the outside show of things, and denoted the atmosphere, clear and transparent, through which they are viewed. It corresponds to what is lucid in talk and style, and what ethically is straightforward and unpretentious. But it is something much more than a mere surface quality. When it is real and part of the whole character, and not put on from time to time for effect, it reaches a long way down to what is deepest and most significant in a man’s moral nature. It is connected with the sense of truth, with honest self-judgment, with habits of self-discipline, with the repression of vanity, pride, egotism. It has no doubt to do with good taste and good manners, but it has as much to do with good morals—with the resolute habit of veracity with oneself—with the obstinate preference for reality over show, however tempting—with the wholesome power of being able to think little about oneself.
It is common to speak of the naturalness and ease of Cardinal Newman’s style in writing. It is, of course, the first thing that attracts notice when we open one of his books; and there are people who think it bald and thin and dry. They look out for longer words, and grander phrases, and more involved constructions, and neater epigrams. They expect a great theme to be treated with more pomp and majesty, and they are disappointed. But the majority of English readers seem to be agreed in recognising the beauty and transparent flow of his language, which matches the best French writing in rendering with sureness and without effort the thought of the writer. But what is more interesting than even the formation of such a style—a work, we may be sure,