Lytton Strachey.

Eminent Victorians: Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Arnold, General Gordon online

. (page 2 of 25)
Online LibraryLytton StracheyEminent Victorians: Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Arnold, General Gordon → online text (page 2 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


old.) "I did not read the Psalms and Second Lesson after
breakfast, which I had neglected to do before, though I
had plenty of time on my hands. "Would have liked- to be
thought adventurous for a scramble I had at the Devil's
Bridge. Looked with greediness to see if there was a goose
on the table for dinner; and though what I ate was of the
plainest sort, and I took no variety, yet even this was
partly the effect of accident, and I certainly rather ex-
ceeded in quantity, as I was muzzy and sleepy after din-
ner." "I allowed myself to be disgusted with 's pom-
posity," he writes a little later; "also smiled at an allusion
in the Lessons to abstemiousness in eating. I hope not from
pride or vanity, but mistrust; it certainly was uninten-
tional." And again, "As to my meals, I can say that I was
always careful to see that no one else would take a thing
before I served myself; and I believe as to the kind of my
food, a bit of cold endings of a dab at breakfast, and a
jcrap of mackerel at dinner, are the only things that di-
verged from the strict rule of simplicity." "I am obliged
to confess," he notes, "that in my intercourse with the



CARDINAL MANNING IJ

Supreme Being, I am become more and more sluggish."
And then he exclaims: "Thine eye trieth my inward parts,
and knoweth my thoughts . . . O that my ways were made
so direct that I might keep Thy statutes. I will walk in Thy
Commandments when Thou hast set my heart at liberty."
Such were the preoccupations o£ this young man. Per-
haps they would have been different if he had had a little
less of what Newman describes as his "high severe idea of
the intrinsic excellence of Virginity"; but it is useless to
speculate. Naturally enough the fierce and burning zeal of
Keble had a profound effect upon his mind. The two be-
came intimate friends, and Froude, eagerly seizing'upon
the doctrines of the elder man, saw to it that they had as
full a measure of controversial notoriety as an Oxford
common room could afford. He plunged the metaphysical
mysteries of the Holy Catholic Church into the atmos-
phere of party politics. Surprised Doctors of Divinity
found themselves suddenly faced with strange questions
which had never entered their heads before. Was the
Church of England, or was it not, a part of the Church
Catholic? If it was, were not the Reformers of the Six-
teenth Century renegades? Was not the participation of
the Body and Blood of Christ essential to the maintenance
of Christian life and hope in each individual? Were
Timothy and Titus bishops? Or were they not? If they
were, did it not follow that the power of administering
the Holy Eucharist was the attribute of a sacred order
founded by Christ Himself? Did not the Fathers refer to
the tradition of the Church as to something independent
of the written word, and sufficient to refute heresy, even
alone? Was it not therefore God's unwritten word? And
did it not demand the same reverence from us as the
Scriptures, and for exactly the same reason — becaitse it



l6 EMINENT VICTORIANS

was His word? The Doctors of Divinity were aghast at
such questions, which seemed to lead they hardly knew
whither; and they found it difficult to think of very^
apposite answers. But Hurrell Froude supplied the answers
himself readily enough. All Oxford, all England, should
know the truth. The time was out of joint, and he was only
too delighted to have been born to set it right.

But, after all, something more was needed than even
the excitement of Froude combined with the conviction
of Keble to ruffle seriously the vast calm waters of Chris-
tian thought; and it so happened that that thing was not
wanting: it was the genius of John Flenry Newman. If
Newman had never lived, or if his father when the gig
came round on the fatal morning, still undecided between
the two Universities, had chanced to turn the horse's head
in the direction of Cambridge, who can doubt that the
Oxford Movement would have flickered out its little flame
unobserved in the Common Room of Oriel? And how
different, too, would have been the fate of Newman
himself! Fie was a child of the Romantic Revival, a crea-
ture of emotion and of memory, a dreamer whose secret
spirit dwelt apart in delectable mountains, an artist whose
subtle senses caught, like a shower in the sunshine, the
impalpable rainbow of the immaterial world. In other
times, under other skies, his days would have been more
fortunate. He might have helped to weave the garland
of Meleager, or to mix the lapis lazuli of Fra Angelico, or
to chase the delicate truth in the shade of an Athenian
palcestra, or his hands might have fashioned those ethereal
faces that smile in the niches of Chartres. Even in his own
age he might, at Cambridge, whose cloisters have ever
been consecrated to poetry and common sense, have fol-
lowed quietly in Gray's footsteps and brought into flower



CARDINAL MANNING \J

those seeds of inspiration which now He embedded amid
the faded devotion of the Lyra Apostolica. At Oxford, he
was doomed. He could not withstand the last enchant-
ment of the Middle Age. It was in vain that he plunged
into the pages of Gibbon or communed for long hours
with Beethoven over his beloved violin. The air was thick
with clerical sanctity, heavy with the odours of tradition
and the soft warmth of spiritual authority; his friend-
ship with Hurrell Froude did the rest. All that was weak-
est in him hurried him onward, and all that was strongest
in him too. His curious and vaulting imagination began
to construct vast philosophical fabrics out of the writings
of ancient monks, and to dally with visions of angelic visi-
tations and the efficacy of the oil of St. Walburga; his
emotional nature became absorbed in the partisan passions
of a University clique; and his subtle intellect concerned
itself more and more exclusively with the dialectical split-
ting of dogmatical hairs. His future course was marked
out for him all too clearly; and yet by a singular chance
the true nature of the man was to emerge triumphant in
the end. If Newman had died at the age of sixty, to-day
he would have been already forgotten, save by a few
ecclesiastical historians; but he lived to write his Apologia.
and to reach immortality, neither as a thinker nor as a
theologian, but as an artist who has embalmed the
poignant history of an intensely human spirit in the magi-
cal spices of words.

When Froude succeeded in impregnating Newman
■with the ideas of Keble, the Oxford Movement began.
The original and remarkable characteristic of these three
men was that they took the Christian Religion au pied
de la lettre. This had not been done in England for cen-
turies. When they declared every Sunday that they be-



l8 EMINENT VICTORIANS

lieved in the Holy Catholic Church, they meant it. When
they repeated the Athanasian Creed, they meant it. Even
when they subscribed to the Thirty-nine Articles, they
meant it — or at least they thought they did. Now such
a state of mind was dangerous — more dangerous, indeed,
than they at first realised. They had started with the inno-
cent assumption that the Christian Religion was con-
tained in the doctrines of the Church of England ; but the
more they examined into this matter, the more difficult
and dubious it became. The Church of England borel
everywhere upon it the signs of human imperfection; it
was the outcome of revolution and of compromise, of the
exigencies of politicians and the caprices of princes, of the
prejudices of theologians and the necessities of the State.
How had it happened that this piece of patchwork had
become the receptacle for the august and injfinite mys-
teries of the Christian Faith? This was the problem with
which Newman and his friends found themselves con-
fronted. Other men might, and apparently did, see noth-
ing very strange in such a situation; but other men saw
in Christianity itself scarcely more than a convenient and
respectable appendage to existence, by which a sound sys-
tem of morals was inculcated, and through which one
might hope to attain to everlasting bliss. To Newman
and Keble it was otherwise. They saw a transcendent mani-
festation of Divine power, flowing down elaborate and
immense through the ages; a consecrated priesthood,
stretching back, through the mystic symbol of the laying
on of hands, to the very Godhead; a whole universe of
spiritual beings brought into communion with the Eternal
by means of wafers; a great mass of metaphysical doc-
trines, at once incomprehensible and of incalculable
import, laid down with infinite certitude; they saw the



CARDINAL MANNING I9

supernatural everywhere and at all times, a living force,
floating invisible in angels, inspiring saints, and investing
with miraculous properties the commonest material
things. No wonder that they found such a spectacle hard
to bring into line with the institution which had been
evolved from the divorce of Henry VIII., the intrigues of
Elizabethan parliaments, and the Revolution of 1688.
They did, no doubt, soon satisfy themselves that they had
succeeded in this apparently hopeless task; but the con-
clusions which they came to in order to do so were
decidedly startling.

The Church of England, they declared, was indeed the
one true Church, but she had been under an eclipse since
the Reformation — in fact, since she had begun to exist.
She had, it is true, escaped the corruptions of Rome; but
she had become enslaved by the secular power, and de-
graded by the false doctrines of Protestantism. The Chris-
tian Religion was still preserved intact by the English
priesthood, but it was preserved, as it were, unconsciously
— a priceless deposit, handed down blindly from genera-
tion to generation, and subsisting less by the will of man
than through the ordinance of God as expressed in the
mysterious virtue of the Sacraments. Christianity, in
short, had become entangled in a series of unfortunate cir-
cumstances from which it was the plain duty of Newman
and his friends to rescue it forthwith. What was curious
was that this task had been reserved, in so marked a man-
ner, for them. Some of the divines of the seventeenth cen-
tury had, perhaps, been vouchsafed glimpses of the truth;
but they were glimpses and nothing more. No, the waters
of the true Faith had dived underground at the Reforma-
tion, and they were waiting for the wand of Newman to
strike the rock before they should burst forth once more



20 EMINENT VICTORIANS

into the light of day. The whole matter, no doubt, was
Providential — what other explanation could there be?

The first step, it was clear, was to purge the Church
of her shams and her errors. The Reformers must be ex-
posed; the yoke of the secular power must be thrown off;
dogma must be reinstated in its old pre-eminence; and
Christians must be reminded of what they had apparently
forgotten — the presence of the supernatural in daily life.
"It would be a gain to this country," Keble observed,
"were it vastly more superstitious, more bigoted, more
gloomy, more fierce in its religion, than at present it shows
itself to be." "The only good I know of Cranmer," said
Hurrell Froude, "was that he burnt well." Newman
preached, and soon the new views began to spread. Among
the earliest of the converts was Dr. Pusey, a man of wealth
and learning, a professor, a canon of Christ Church, who
had, it was rumoured, been to Germany. Then the Tracts
for the Times were started under Newman's editorship,
and the Movement was launched upon the world.

The Tracts were written "with the hope of rousing
members of our Church to comprehend her alarming posi-
tion ... as a man might give notice of a fire or inundation,
to startle all who heard him." They may be said to have
succeeded in their object, for the sensation which they
caused among clergymen throughout the country was
extreme. They dealt with a great variety of questions, but
the underlying intention of all of them was to attack the
accepted doctrines and practices of the Church of Eng-
land. Dr. Pusey wrote learnedly on Baptismal Regenera-
tion; he also wrote on Fasting. His treatment of the latter
subject met with considerable disapproval, which sur-
prised the Doctor. "I was not prepared," he said, "for



CARDINAL MANNING 21

people questioning, even in the abstract, the duty of
fasting; I thought serious-minded persons at least sup-
posed they practised fasting in some way or other. I as-
sumed the duty to be acknowledged and thought it only
undervalued." We live and learn, even though we have
been to Germany.

Other tracts discussed the Holy Catholic Church, the
Clergy, and the Liturgy. One treated of the question
"whether a clergyman of the Church of England be now
bound to have morning and evening prayers daily in his
parish church?" Another pointed out the "Indications of
a superintending Providence in the preservation of the
Prayer-book and in the changes which it has undergone."
Another consisted of a collection of "Advent Sermons on
Antichrist." Keble wrote a long and elaborate tract "On
the Mysticism attributed to the Early Fathers of the
Church," in which he expressed his opinions upon a large
number of curious matters.

According to men's usual way of talking [he wrote] it would
be called an accidental circumstance that there were five loaves,
not more nor less, in the store of Our Lord and His disciples
wherewith to provide the miraculous feast. But the ancient
interpreters treat it as designed and providential, in this surely
not erring: and their conjecture is that it represents the sacrifice
of the whole world of sense, and especially of the Old Dispensa-
tion, which, being outward and visible, might be called the dis-
pensation of the senses, to the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, to be a pledge and means of communion with Him ac-
cording to the terms of the new or evangelical law. This idea
they arrive at by considering the number five, the number of
the senses, as the mystical opponent of the visible and sensible
universe: id alaOi]ra., as distinguished from la vorjia. Origen
lays down the »rule in express terms. "The number five," he says,
"frequently, nay almost always, is taken for the five senses."



22 EMINENT VICTORIANS

In another passage, Keble deals with an even more recon-
dite question. He quotes the teaching of St. Barnabas that
"Abraham, who first gave men circumcision, did thereby
perform a spiritual and typical action, looking forward
to the Son." St. Barnabas's argument is as follows: Abra-
ham circumcised of his house men to the number of 318.
"Why 318? Observe first the 18, then the 300. Of the two
letters which stand for 18, 10 is represented by I, 8 by H.
"Thou hast here," says St. Barnabas, "the word of Jesus."
As for the 300, "the Cross is represented by Tau, and the
letter Tau represents that number." Unfortunately, how-
ever, St. Barnabas's premise was of doubtful validity, as
the Rev. Mr. Maitland pointed out, in a pamphlet im-
pugning the conclusions of the Tract.

The simple fact is [he wrote] that when Abraham pursued
Chedorlaomer "he armed his trained servants, born in his otcn
house, three hundred and eighteen." When, more than thirteen
(according to the common chronology, fifteen) years after, he
circumcised "all the men of his house, born in the house, and
bought xuith money of the stranger," and, in fact, every male
who was as much as eight days old, we are not told what the
number amounted to. Shall we suppose (just for the sake of
the interpretation) that Abraham's family had so dwindled in
the interval as that now all the males of his household, trained
men, slaves, and children, equalled only and exactly the number
of his warriors 15 years before?

The question seems difficult to answer, but Keble had, as
a matter of fact, forestalled the argument in the following
passage, which had apparently escaped the notice of the
Rev. Mr. Maitland.

Now whether the facts were really so or not (if it were, it
was surely by special providence), that Abraham's household
at the time of the circumcision was exactly the same number



CARDINAL MANNING 23

as before; still the argument of St. Barnabas will stand. As
thus: circumcision had from the beginning a reference to our
Saviour, as in other respects, so in this; that the mystical
number, which is the cypher of Jesus crucified, was the number
of the first circumcised household in the strength of which
Abraham prevailed against the powers of the world. So St.
Clement of Alexandria, as cited by Fell.

And Keble supports his contention through ten pages of
close print, with references to Aristeas, St. Augustin, St.
Jerome, and Dr. "Whitby.

Writings of this kind could not fail of their effect. Pious
youths in Oxford were carried away by them, and began to
flock round the standard of Newman. Newman himself
became a party chief, encouraging, organising, persuad-
ing. His long black figure, swiftly passing through the
streets, was pointed at with awe; his sermons were
crowded; his words repeated from mouth to mouth.
"Credo in Newmannum" became a common catchword.
Jokes were made about the Church of England, and
practices, unknown for centuries, began to be revived.
Young men fasted and did penance, recited the hours of
the Roman Breviary, and confessed their sins to Dr.
Pusey. Nor was the movement confined to Oxford; it
spread in widening circles through the parishes of Eng-
land; the dormant devotion of the country was suddenly
aroused. The new strange notion of taking Christianity
literally was delightful to earnest minds; but it was also
alarming. Really to mean every word you said, when you
repeated the Athanasian Creed! How wonderful! And
what enticing and mysterious vistas burst upon the view!
But then, those vistas, where were they leading to? Sup-
posing — oh heavens! — supposing after all they were to
lead to !



Ill

In due course the Tracts made their appearance at the
remote Rectory in Sussex. Manning was some years
younger than Newman, and the two men had only met
occasionally at the University; but now, through common
friends, a closer relationship began to grow up between
them. It was only to be expected that Newman should be
anxious to enroll the rising young Rector among his fol-
lowers; and on Manning's side there were many causes
which impelled him to accept the overtures from Oxford.

He was a man of a serious and vigorous temperament,-
to whom it was inevitable that the bold, high principles of
the Movement should strongly appeal. There was also an
element in his mind — that element which had terrified
him in his childhood with Apocalyptic visions, and urged
him in his youth to Bible readings after breakfast — which
now brought him under the spell of the Oxford theories
of sacramental mysticism. And besides, the Movement of-
fered another attraction; it imputed an extraordinary, a
transcendent merit to the profession which Manning him-
self pursued. The cleric was not as his lay brethren; he was
a creature apart, chosen by Divine will and sanctified by
Divine mysteries. It was a relief to find, when one had
supposed that one was nothing but a clergyman, that one
might, after all, be something else — one might be a priest.

Accordingly, Manning shook off his early Evangelical
convictions, started an active correspondence with New-
man, and was soon working for the new cause. He col-
lected quotations, and began to translate the works of

2 +



CARDINAL MANNING 25

Optatus for Dr. Pusey. He wrote an article on Justin for
the British Critic, Newman's magazine. He published a
sermon on Faith, with notes and appendices, which was
condemned by an Evangelical bishop, and fiercely attacked
by no less a person than the celebrated Mr. Bowdler. "The
sermon," said Mr. Bowdler, in a book which he devoted to
the subject, "was bad enough, but the appendix was
abominable." At the same time he was busy asserting the
independence of the Church of England, opposing secular
education, and bringing out pamphlets against the Eccle-
siastical Commission, which had been appointed by Parlia-
ment to report on Church Property. Then we find him in
the role of a spiritual director of souls. Ladies met him by
stealth in his church, and made their confessions. Over one
case — that of a lady, who found herself drifting towards
Rome — he consulted Newman. Newman advised him to
"enlarge upon the doctrine of I Cor. vii."; —

also I think you must press on her the prospect of benefiting
the poor Church, through which she has her baptism, by stop-
ping in it. Does she not care for the souls of all around her,
steeped and stifled in Protestantism? How will she best care for
them: by indulging her own feelings in the communion of
Rome, or in denying herself, and staying in sackcloth and ashes
to do them good.''

Whether these arguments were successful does not appear.
For several years after his wife's death Manning was
occupied with these new activities, while his relations with
Newman developed into what was apparently a warm
friendship. "And now vive valeqiie, my dear Manning,"
we find Newman writing in a letter dated "in f esto S. Car.
1838," "as wishes and prays yours affectionately John H.
Newman." But, as time went on, the situation became
more complicated. Tractarianism began to arouse the hos-



26 EMINENT VICTORIANS

tility, not only of the Evangelical, but of the moderate
churchmen, who could not help perceiving, in the ever
deepening "Catholicism" of the Oxford party, the dread
approaches of Rome. The Record newspaper — an influen-
tial Evangelical journal — took up the matter, and sniffed
Popery in every direction; it spoke of certain clergymen
as "tainted"; and after that, Manning seemed to pass those
clergymen by. The fact that Manning found it wise to
conduct his confessional ministrations in secret was in
itself highly significant. It was necessary to be careful,
I nd Manning was very careful indeed. The neighbouring
Archdeacon, Mr. Hare, was a low churchman; Manning
made friends with him, as warmly, it seemed, as he had
made friends with Newman. He corresponded with him,
asked his advice about the books he should read, and dis-
cussed questions of Theology — "As to Gal. vi. 15, we can-
not differ. . . . With a man who reads and reasons I can
have no controversy; and you do both." Archdeacon Hare
was pleased, but soon a rumour reached him, which was,
to say the least of it, upsetting. Manning had been re-
moving the high pews from a church in Brighton, and put-
ting in open benches in their place. Everyone knew what
that meant; everyone knew that a high pew was one of the
bulwarks of Protestantism, and that an open bench had
upon it the taint of Rome. But Manning hastened to ex-
plain.

My dear friend [he wrote] I did not exchange pews for open
benches, but got the pews (the same in number) moved from
the nave of the church to the walls of the side aisles, so that
the whole church has a regular arrangement of open benches,
which (irregularly) existed before ... I am not to-day quite
well, so farewell, with much regard — Yours ever, H. E. M.

Vrchdeacon Hare was reassured.



CARDINAL MANNING 27

It was important that he should be, for the Archdeacon
of Chichester was growing very old, and Hare's influence
might be exceedingly useful when a vacancy occurred.
So, indeed, it fell out. A new bishop. Dr. Shuttleworth,
was appointed to the See, and the old Archdeacon took the
opportunity of retiring. Manning was obviously marked
out as his successor, but the new bishop happened to be a
low churchman, an aggressive low churchman, who went
so far as to parody the Tractarian fashion of using Saints'
days for the dating of letters by writing "The Palace,
washing day," at the beginning of his. And — what was
equally serious — his views were shared by Mrs. Shuttle-
worth, who had already decided that the pushing young
Rector was "tainted." But at the critical moment Arch-
deacon Hare came to the rescue; he persuaded the Bishop
that Manning was safe; and the appointment was accord-
ingly made — behind Mrs. Shuttleworth's back. She was
furious, but it was too late; Manning was an Archdeacon.
All the lady could do, to indicate her disapprobation, was
to put a copy of Mr. Bowdler's book in a conspicuous posi-
tion on the drawing-room table, when he came to pay his
respects at the Palace.

Among the letters of congratulation which Manning
received was one from Mr. Gladstone, with whom he had
remained on terms of close friendship since their days to-
gether at Oxford.



Online LibraryLytton StracheyEminent Victorians: Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Arnold, General Gordon → online text (page 2 of 25)