John Henry Newman.

Apologia pro vita sua : being a reply to a pamphlet entitled What, then, does Dr. Newman mean? online

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A History of his Religious Opinions.



"Commit thy way to the Lord and trust in Him, and He will do it.
And He will bring forth thy justice as the light, and thy
judgment as the noon-day."









The following History of my Religious Opinions, now that it is detached
from the context in which it originally stood, requires some preliminary
explanation; and that, not only in order to introduce it generally to
the reader, but specially to make him understand, how I came to write a
whole book about myself, and about my most private thoughts and
feelings. Did I consult indeed my own impulses, I should do my best
simply to wipe out of my Volume, and consign to oblivion, every trace of
the circumstances to which it is to be ascribed; but its original title
of "Apologia" is too exactly borne out by its matter and structure, and
these again are too suggestive of correlative circumstances, and those
circumstances are of too grave a character, to allow of my indulging so
natural a wish. And therefore, though in this new Edition I have managed
to omit nearly a hundred pages of my original Volume, which I could
safely consider to be of merely ephemeral importance, I am even for that
very reason obliged, by way of making up for their absence, to prefix to
my Narrative some account of the provocation out of which it arose.

It is now more than twenty years that a vague impression to my
disadvantage has rested on the popular mind, as if my conduct towards
the Anglican Church, while I was a member of it, was inconsistent with
Christian simplicity and uprightness. An impression of this kind was
almost unavoidable under the circumstances of the case, when a man, who
had written strongly against a cause, and had collected a party round
him by virtue of such writings, gradually faltered in his opposition to
it, unsaid his words, threw his own friends into perplexity and their
proceedings into confusion, and ended by passing over to the side of
those whom he had so vigorously denounced. Sensitive then as I have ever
been of the imputations which have been so freely cast upon me, I have
never felt much impatience under them, as considering them to be a
portion of the penalty which I naturally and justly incurred by my
change of religion, even though they were to continue as long as I
lived. I left their removal to a future day, when personal feelings
would have died out, and documents would see the light, which were as
yet buried in closets or scattered through the country.

This was my state of mind, as it had been for many years, when, in the
beginning of 1864, I unexpectedly found myself publicly put upon my
defence, and furnished with an opportunity of pleading my cause before
the world, and, as it so happened, with a fair prospect of an impartial
hearing. Taken indeed by surprise, as I was, I had much reason to be
anxious how I should be able to acquit myself in so serious a matter;
however, I had long had a tacit understanding with myself, that, in the
improbable event of a challenge being formally made to me, by a person
of name, it would be my duty to meet it. That opportunity had now
occurred; it never might occur again; not to avail myself of it at once
would be virtually to give up my cause; accordingly, I took advantage of
it, and, as it has turned out, the circumstance that no time was allowed
me for any studied statements has compensated, in the equitable judgment
of the public, for such imperfections in composition as my want of
leisure involved.

* * * * *

It was in the number for January 1864, of a magazine of wide
circulation, and in an Article upon Queen Elizabeth, that a popular
writer took occasion formally to accuse me by name of thinking so
lightly of the virtue of Veracity, as in set terms to have countenanced
and defended that neglect of it which he at the same time imputed to the
Catholic Priesthood. His words were these: -

"Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman
clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the
whole ought not to be; that cunning is the weapon which heaven
has given to the Saints wherewith to withstand the brute male
force of the wicked world which marries and is given in
marriage. Whether his notion be doctrinally correct or not, it
is at least historically so."

These assertions, going far beyond the popular prejudice entertained
against me, had no foundation whatever in fact. I never had said, I
never had dreamed of saying, that truth for its own sake need not, and
on the whole ought not to be, a virtue with the Roman Clergy; or that
cunning is the weapon which heaven has given to the Saints wherewith to
withstand the wicked world. To what work of mine then could the writer
be referring? In a correspondence which ensued upon the subject between
him and myself, he rested his charge against me on a Sermon of mine,
preached, before I was a Catholic, in the pulpit of my Church at Oxford;
and he gave me to understand, that, after having done as much as this,
he was not bound, over and above such a general reference to my Sermon,
to specify the passages of it, in which the doctrine, which he imputed
to me, was contained. On my part I considered this not enough; and I
demanded of him to bring out his proof of his accusation in form and in
detail, or to confess he was unable to do so. But he persevered in his
refusal to cite any distinct passages from any writing of mine; and,
though he consented to withdraw his charge, he would not do so on the
issue of its truth or falsehood, but simply on the ground that I assured
him that I had had no intention of incurring it. This did not satisfy my
sense of justice. Formally to charge me with committing a fault is one
thing; to allow that I did not intend to commit it, is another; it is no
satisfaction to me, if a man accuses me of _this_ offence, for him to
profess that he does not accuse me _of that_; but he thought
differently. Not being able then to gain redress in the quarter, where I
had a right to ask it, I appealed to the public. I published the
correspondence in the shape of a Pamphlet, with some remarks of my own
at the end, on the course which that correspondence had taken.

This Pamphlet, which appeared in the first weeks of February, received a
reply from my accuser towards the end of March, in another Pamphlet of
48 pages, entitled, "What then does Dr. Newman mean?" in which he
professed to do that which I had called upon him to do; that is, he
brought together a number of extracts from various works of mine,
Catholic and Anglican, with the object of showing that, if I was to be
acquitted of the crime of teaching and practising deceit and dishonesty,
according to his first supposition, it was at the price of my being
considered no longer responsible for my actions; for, as he expressed
it, "I had a human reason once, no doubt, but I had gambled it away,"
and I had "worked my mind into that morbid state, in which nonsense was
the only food for which it hungered;" and that it could not be called "a
hasty or farfetched or unfounded mistake, when he concluded that I did
not care for truth for its own sake, or teach my disciples to regard it
as a virtue;" and, though "too many prefer the charge of insincerity to
that of insipience, Dr. Newman seemed not to be of that number."

He ended his Pamphlet by returning to his original imputation against
me, which he had professed to abandon. Alluding by anticipation to my
probable answer to what he was then publishing, he professed his
heartfelt embarrassment how he was to believe any thing I might say in
my exculpation, in the plain and literal sense of the words. "I am
henceforth," he said, "in doubt and fear, as much as an honest man can
be, concerning every word Dr. Newman may write. How can I tell, that I
shall not be the dupe of some cunning equivocation, of one of the three
kinds laid down as permissible by the blessed St. Alfonso da Liguori and
his pupils, even when confirmed with an oath, because 'then we do not
deceive our neighbour, but allow him to deceive himself?' ... How can I
tell, that I may not in this Pamphlet have made an accusation, of the
truth of which Dr. Newman is perfectly conscious; but that, as I, a
heretic Protestant, have no business to make it, he has a full right to
deny it?"

Even if I could have found it consistent with my duty to my own
reputation to leave such an elaborate impeachment of my moral nature
unanswered, my duty to my Brethren in the Catholic Priesthood, would
have forbidden such a course. _They_ were involved in the charges which
this writer, all along, from the original passage in the Magazine, to
the very last paragraph of the Pamphlet, had so confidently, so
pertinaciously made. In exculpating myself, it was plain I should be
pursuing no mere personal quarrel; - I was offering my humble service to
a sacred cause. I was making my protest in behalf of a large body of men
of high character, of honest and religious minds, and of sensitive
honour, - who had their place and their rights in this world, though they
were ministers of the world unseen, and who were insulted by my Accuser,
as the above extracts from him sufficiently show, not only in my person,
but directly and pointedly in their own. Accordingly, I at once set
about writing the _Apologia pro vitâ suâ_, of which the present Volume
is a New Edition; and it was a great reward to me to find, as the
controversy proceeded, such large numbers of my clerical brethren
supporting me by their sympathy in the course which I was pursuing, and,
as occasion offered, bestowing on me the formal and public expression of
their approbation. These testimonials in my behalf, so important and so
grateful to me, are, together with the Letter, sent to me with the same
purpose, from my Bishop, contained in the last pages of this Volume.

* * * * *

This Edition differs from the first form of the Apologia as
follows: - The original work consisted of seven Parts, which were
published in series on consecutive Thursdays, between April 21 and June
2. An Appendix, in answer to specific allegations urged against me in
the Pamphlet of Accusation, appeared on June 16. Of these Parts 1 and 2,
as being for the most part directly controversial, are omitted in this
Edition, excepting certain passages in them, which are subjoined to this
Preface, as being necessary for the due explanation of the subsequent
five Parts. These, (being 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, of the Apologia,) are here
numbered as Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 respectively. Of the Appendix, about
half has been omitted, for the same reason as has led to the omission of
Parts 1 and 2. The rest of it is thrown into the shape of Notes of a
discursive character, with two new ones on Liberalism and the Lives of
the English Saints of 1843-4, and another, new in part, on
Ecclesiastical Miracles. In the body of the work, the only addition of
consequence is the letter which is found at p. 228, a copy of which has
recently come into my possession.

I should add that, since writing the Apologia last year, I have seen for
the first time Mr. Oakeley's "Notes on the Tractarian Movement." This
work remarkably corroborates the substance of my Narrative, while the
kind terms in which he speaks of me personally, call for my sincere

_May 2, 1865._

I make these extracts from the first edition of my Apologia, Part 1, pp.
3, 20-25, and Part 2, pp. 29-31 and pp. 41-51, in order to set before
the reader the drift I had in writing my Volume: -

I cannot be sorry to have forced my Accuser to bring out in
fulness his charges against me. It is far better that he should
discharge his thoughts upon me in my lifetime, than after I am
dead. Under the circumstances I am happy in having the
opportunity of reading the worst that can be said of me by a
writer who has taken pains with his work and is well satisfied
with it. I account it a gain to be surveyed from without by one
who hates the principles which are nearest to my heart, has no
personal knowledge of me to set right his misconceptions of my
doctrine, and who has some motive or other to be as severe with
me as he can possibly be....

But I really feel sad for what I am obliged now to say. I am in
warfare with him, but I wish him no ill; - it is very difficult
to get up resentment towards persons whom one has never seen. It
is easy enough to be irritated with friends or foes _vis-à-vis_;
but, though I am writing with all my heart against what he has
said of me, I am not conscious of personal unkindness towards
himself. I think it necessary to write as I am writing, for my
own sake, and for the sake of the Catholic Priesthood; but I
wish to impute nothing worse to him than that he has been
furiously carried away by his feelings. Yet what shall I say of
the upshot of all his talk of my economies and equivocations and
the like? What is the precise _work_ which it is directed to
effect? I am at war with him; but there is such a thing as
legitimate warfare: war has its laws; there are things which may
fairly be done, and things which may not be done. I say it with
shame and with stern sorrow; - he has attempted a great
transgression; he has attempted (as I may call it) to _poison
the wells_. I will quote him and explain what I mean.... He
says, -

"I am henceforth in doubt and fear, as much as any honest man
can be, _concerning every word_ Dr. Newman may write. _How can I
tell that I shall not be the dupe of some cunning equivocation_,
of one of the three kinds laid down as permissible by the
blessed Alfonso da Liguori and his pupils, even when confirmed
by an oath, because 'then we do not deceive our neighbour, but
allow him to deceive himself?' ... It is admissible, therefore,
to use words and sentences which have a double signification,
and leave the hapless hearer to take which of them he may
choose. _What proof have I, then, that by 'mean it? I never said
it!' Dr. Newman does not signify_, I did not say it, but I did
mean it?" - Pp. 44, 45.

Now these insinuations and questions shall be answered in their
proper places; here I will but say that I scorn and detest
lying, and quibbling, and double-tongued practice, and slyness,
and cunning, and smoothness, and cant, and pretence, quite as
much as any Protestants hate them; and I pray to be kept from
the snare of them. But all this is just now by the bye; my
present subject is my Accuser; what I insist upon here is this
unmanly attempt of his, in his concluding pages, to cut the
ground from under my feet; - to poison by anticipation the public
mind against me, John Henry Newman, and to infuse into the
imaginations of my readers, suspicion and mistrust of everything
that I may say in reply to him. This I call _poisoning the

"I am henceforth in _doubt and fear_," he says, "as much as any
_honest_ man can be, _concerning every word_ Dr. Newman may
write. _How can I tell that I shall not be the dupe of some
cunning equivocation?_" ...

Well, I can only say, that, if his taunt is to take effect, I am
but wasting my time in saying a word in answer to his calumnies;
and this is precisely what he knows and intends to be its fruit.
I can hardly get myself to protest against a method of
controversy so base and cruel, lest in doing so, I should be
violating my self-respect and self-possession; but most base and
most cruel it is. We all know how our imagination runs away with
us, how suddenly and at what a pace; - the saying, "Cæsar's wife
should not be suspected," is an instance of what I mean. The
habitual prejudice, the humour of the moment, is the
turning-point which leads us to read a defence in a good sense
or a bad. We interpret it by our antecedent impressions.

The very same sentiments, according as our jealousy is or is not
awake, or our aversion stimulated, are tokens of truth or of
dissimulation and pretence. There is a story of a sane person
being by mistake shut up in the wards of a Lunatic Asylum, and
that, when he pleaded his cause to some strangers visiting the
establishment, the only remark he elicited in answer was, "How
naturally he talks! you would think he was in his senses."
Controversies should be decided by the reason; is it legitimate
warfare to appeal to the misgivings of the public mind and to
its dislikings? Any how, if my accuser is able thus to practise
upon my readers, the more I succeed, the less will be my
success. If I am natural, he will tell them "Ars est celare
artem;" if I am convincing, he will suggest that I am an able
logician; if I show warmth, I am acting the indignant innocent;
if I am calm, I am thereby detected as a smooth hypocrite; if I
clear up difficulties, I am too plausible and perfect to be
true. The more triumphant are my statements, the more certain
will be my defeat.

So will it be if my Accuser succeeds in his man[oe]uvre; but I
do not for an instant believe that he will. Whatever judgment my
readers may eventually form of me from these pages, I am
confident that they will believe me in what I shall say in the
course of them. I have no misgiving at all, that they will be
ungenerous or harsh towards a man who has been so long before
the eyes of the world; who has so many to speak of him from
personal knowledge; whose natural impulse it has ever been to
speak out; who has ever spoken too much rather than too little;
who would have saved himself many a scrape, if he had been wise
enough to hold his tongue; who has ever been fair to the
doctrines and arguments of his opponents; who has never slurred
over facts and reasonings which told against himself; who has
never given his name or authority to proofs which he thought
unsound, or to testimony which he did not think at least
plausible; who has never shrunk from confessing a fault when he
felt that he had committed one; who has ever consulted for
others more than for himself; who has given up much that he
loved and prized and could have retained, but that he loved
honesty better than name, and Truth better than dear friends....

* * * * *

What then shall be the special imputation, against which I shall
throw myself in these pages, out of the thousand and one which
my Accuser directs upon me? I mean to confine myself to one, for
there is only one about which I much care, - the charge of
Untruthfulness. He may cast upon me as many other imputations as
he pleases, and they may stick on me, as long as they can, in
the course of nature. They will fall to the ground in their

And indeed I think the same of the charge of Untruthfulness, and
select it from the rest, not because it is more formidable but
because it is more serious. Like the rest, it may disfigure me
for a time, but it will not stain: Archbishop Whately used to
say, "Throw dirt enough, and some will stick;" well, will stick,
but not, will stain. I think he used to mean "stain," and I do
not agree with him. Some dirt sticks longer than other dirt; but
no dirt is immortal. According to the old saying, Prævalebit
Veritas. There are virtues indeed, which the world is not fitted
to judge of or to uphold, such as faith, hope, and charity: but
it can judge about Truthfulness; it can judge about the natural
virtues, and Truthfulness is one of them. Natural virtues may
also become supernatural; Truthfulness is such; but that does
not withdraw it from the jurisdiction of mankind at large. It
may be more difficult in this or that particular case for men to
take cognizance of it, as it may be difficult for the Court of
Queen's Bench at Westminster to try a case fairly which took
place in Hindostan: but that is a question of capacity, not of
right. Mankind has the right to judge of Truthfulness in a
Catholic, as in the case of a Protestant, of an Italian, or of a
Chinese. I have never doubted, that in my hour, in God's hour,
my avenger will appear, and the world will acquit me of
untruthfulness, even though it be not while I live.

Still more confident am I of such eventual acquittal, seeing
that my judges are my own countrymen. I consider, indeed,
Englishmen the most suspicious and touchy of mankind; I think
them unreasonable, and unjust in their seasons of excitement;
but I had rather be an Englishman, (as in fact I am,) than
belong to any other race under heaven. They are as generous, as
they are hasty and burly; and their repentance for their
injustice is greater than their sin.

For twenty years and more I have borne an imputation, of which I
am at least as sensitive, who am the object of it, as they can
be, who are only the judges. I have not set myself to remove it,
first, because I never have had an opening to speak, and, next,
because I never saw in them the disposition to hear. I have
wished to appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober. When shall I
pronounce him to be himself again? If I may judge from the tone
of the public press, which represents the public voice, I have
great reason to take heart at this time. I have been treated by
contemporary critics in this controversy with great fairness and
gentleness, and I am grateful to them for it. However, the
decision of the time and mode of my defence has been taken out
of my hands; and I am thankful that it has been so. I am bound
now as a duty to myself, to the Catholic cause, to the Catholic
Priesthood, to give account of myself without any delay, when I
am so rudely and circumstantially charged with Untruthfulness. I
accept the challenge; I shall do my best to meet it, and I shall
be content when I have done so.

* * * * *

It is not my present accuser alone who entertains, and has
entertained, so dishonourable an opinion of me and of my
writings. It is the impression of large classes of men; the
impression twenty years ago and the impression now. There has
been a general feeling that I was for years where I had no right
to be; that I was a "Romanist" in Protestant livery and service;
that I was doing the work of a hostile Church in the bosom of
the English Establishment, and knew it, or ought to have known
it. There was no need of arguing about particular passages in my
writings, when the fact was so patent, as men thought it to be.

First it was certain, and I could not myself deny it, that I
scouted the name "Protestant." It was certain again, that many
of the doctrines which I professed were popularly and generally
known as badges of the Roman Church, as distinguished from the
faith of the Reformation. Next, how could I have come by them?
Evidently, I had certain friends and advisers who did not
appear; there was some underground communication between
Stonyhurst or Oscott and my rooms at Oriel. Beyond a doubt, I
was advocating certain doctrines, not by accident, but on an
understanding with ecclesiastics of the old religion. Then men
went further, and said that I had actually been received into
that religion, and withal had leave given me to profess myself a
Protestant still. Others went even further, and gave it out to
the world, as a matter of fact, of which they themselves had the
proof in their hands, that I was actually a Jesuit. And when the
opinions which I advocated spread, and younger men went further
than I, the feeling against me waxed stronger and took a wider

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua : being a reply to a pamphlet entitled What, then, does Dr. Newman mean? → online text (page 1 of 32)