John Henry Newman.

The idea of a university defined and illustrated : I. In nine discourses delivered to the Catholics of Dublin; II. In occasional lectures and essays addressed to the members of the Catholic university online

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Hospes eram, et collegistis Me.



















B. M. V.
NOV. 21, 1852.


THE view taken of a University in these Discourses
is the following: That it is a place of teaching
universal knowledge. This implies that its object is, on
the one hand/ l intej]ectualj'not moral ; and, on the other,
that it is the dmtisipn -aira extension of knowledge rather
than the advancement. If its object were scientific and
philosophical discovery, I do not see why a University
should have students ; if religious training, I do not see
how it can be the seat of literature and science.

Such is a University in its essence, and independently
of its relation to the Church. But, practically speaking,
it cannot fulfil its object duly, such as I have described
it, without the Church's assistance ; or, to use the theo-
logical term, the Church is necessary for its integrity.
Not that its main characters are changed by this incor-
poration : it still has the office of intellectual education;
but the Church steadies it in the performance of that

Such are the main principles of the Discourses which
follow; though it would be unreasonable for me to ex-
pect that I have treated so large and important a field
of thought with the fulness and precision necessary to
secure me from incidental misconceptions of my meaning
on the part of the reader. It is true, there is nothing

x Preface,

novel or singular in the argument which I have been
pursuing, but this does not protect me from such mis-
conceptions ; for the very circumstance that the views I
have been delineating are not original with me may lead
to false notions as to my relations in opinion towards
those from whom I happened in the first instance to
learn them, and may cause me to be interpreted by the
objects or sentiments of schools to which I should be
simply opposed.

For instance, some persons may be tempted to com-
plain, that I have servilely followed the English idea of
a University, to the disparagement of that Knowledge
which I profess to be so strenuously upholding; and
they may anticipate that an academical system, formed
upon my model, will result in nothing better or higher
than in the production of that antiquated variety of
human nature and remnant of feudalism, as they consider
it, called " a gentleman." * Now, I have anticipated this
charge in various parts of my discussion ; if, however,
any Catholic is found to prefer it (and to Catholics of
course this Volume is primarily addressed), I would have
him first of all ask himself the previous question, what
he conceives to be the reason contemplated by the Holy
See in recommending just now to the Irish Hierarchy
the establishment of a Catholic University? Has the
Supreme Pontiff recommended it for the sake of the
Sciences, which are to be the matter, and not rather of the
Students, who are to be the subjects, of its teaching?
Has he any obligation or duty at all towards secular
knowledge as such? Would it become his Apostolical
Ministry, and his descent from the Fisherman, to have a
zeal for the Baconian or other philosophy of man for its

* Vid. Huber's English Universities, London, 1843, vol. u., part i., pp.
321, etc.

Preface. xi

own sake ? Is the Vicar of Christ bound by office or by
vow to be the preacher of the theory of gravitation, or
a martyr for electro-magnetism ? Would he be acquit-
ting himself of the dispensation committed to him if he
were smitten with an abstract love of these matters, how-
ever true, or beautiful, or ingenious, or useful? Or rather,
does he not contemplate such achievements of the intel-
lect, as far as he contemplates them, solely and simply
in their relation to the interests of Revealed Truth ?
Surely, what he does he does for the sake of Religion ;
if he looks with satisfaction on strong temporal govern-
ments, which promise perpetuity, it is for the sake of
Religion ; and if he encourages and patronizes art and
science, it is for the sake of Religion. He rejoices in
the widest and most philosophical systems of intellectual
education, from an intimate conviction that Truth is his
real ally, as it is his profession ; and that Knowledge
and Reason are sure ministers to Faith.

This being undeniable, it is plain that, when he sug-
gests to the Irish Hierarchy the establishment of a Uni-
versity, his first and chief and direct object is, not science,
art, professional skill, literature, the discovery of know-
ledge, but some benefit or other, to accrue, by means of
literature and science, to his own children ; not indeed
their formation on any narrow or fantastic type, as, for
instance, that of an "English Gentleman" may be called,
but their exercise and growth in certain habits, moral or
intellectual. Nothing short of this can be his aim, if, as
becomes the Successor of the Apostles, he is to be able
to say with St. Paul, "Non judicavi me scire aliquid inter
vos, nisi Jesum Christum, et hunc crucifixum." Just as
a commander wishes to have tall and well-formed and
vigorous soldiers, not from any abstract devotion to the
military standard of height or age, but for the purposes

xii Preface.

of war, and no one thinks it any thing but natural and
praiseworthy in him to be contemplating, not abstract
qualities, but his own living and breathing men ; so, in
like manner, when the Church founds a University, she
is not cherishing talent, genius, or knowledge, for their
own sake, but for the sake of her children, with a view to
their spiritual welfare and their religious influence and
usefulness, with the object of training them to fill their
respective posts in life better, and of making them more
intelligent, capable, active members of society.

Nor can it justly be said that in thus acting she sacri-
fices Science, and, under a pretence of fulfilling the duties
of her mission, perverts a University to ends not its own,
as soon as it is taken into account that there are other
institutions far more suited to act as instruments of
stimulating philosophical inquiry, and extending the
boundaries of our knowledge, than a University. Such,
for instance, are the literary and scientific "Academies,"
which are so celebrated in Italy and France, and which
have frequently been connected with Universities, as
committees, or, as it were, congregations or delegacies
subordinate to them. Thus the present Royal Society
originated in Charles the Second's time, in Oxford; such
just now are the Ashmolean and Architectural Societies
in the same seat of learning, which have risen in our own
time. Such, too, is the British Association, a migratory
body, which at least at times is found in the halls of the
Protestant Universities of the United Kingdom, and the
faults of which lie, not in its exclusive devotion to science,
but in graver matters which it is irrelevant here to enter
upon, Such again is the Antiquarian Society, the Royal
Academy for the Fine Arts, and others which might be
mentioned. This, then, is the sort of institution, which
primarily contemplates Science itself, and not students :

Preface. xiii

and, in thus speaking, I am saying nothing of my own,
being supported by no less an authority than Cardinal
Gerdil. " Ce n'est pas," he says, " qu'il y ait aucune
veritable opposition entre 1'esprit des Academies et celui
des Universite"s ; ce sont seulement des vues differe'ntes.
Les Universite's sont e"tablies pour enseigner les sciences
aux tfhtes qui veulent s'y former; les Academies se
proposent de nouvelles recherches a faire dans la carriere
des sciences. Les Universit^s d'ltalie ont fourni des
sujets qui ont fait honneur aux Academies ; et celles-ci
ont donn6 aux Universit^s des Professeurs, qui ont rempli
les chaires avec la plus grande distinction."*

The nature of the case and the history of philosophy
combine to recommend to us this division of intellec-
tual labour between Academies and Universities.
discover and to teach are distinct functions ; they are
also distinct gifts, and are not commonly found united in
the same person. He, too, who spends his day in dispens-
ing his existing knowledge to all comers is unlikely to
have either leisure or energy to acquire new. The com-
mon sense of mankind has associated the search after
truth with seclusion and quiet. The greatest thinkers
have been too intent on their subject to admit of interrup-
tion ; they have been men of absent minds and idosyn-
cratic habits, and have, more or less, shunned the lecture
room and the public school. Pythagoras, the light of
Magna Graecia, lived for a time in a cave. Thales, the
light of Ionia, lived unmarried and in private, and refused
the invitations of princes. Plato withdrew from Athens
to the groves of Academus. Aristotle gave twenty years
to a studious discipleship under him. Friar Bacon lived
in his tower upon the Isis. Newton indulged in an intense
teverity of meditation which almost shook his reason.

* Opcre, t. iii., p. 353.

xiv Preface.

The great discoveries in chemistry and electricity were
not made in Universities. Observatories are more fre-
quently out of Universities than in them, and even when
within their bounds need have no moral connexion with
them. Person had no classes ; Elmsley lived good part
of his life in the country. I do not say that there are
not great examples the other way, perhaps Socrates,
certainly Lord Bacon ; still I think it must be allowed on
the whole that, while teaching involves external engage-
ments, the natural home for experiment and speculation
is retirement.

Returning, then, to the consideration of the question,
from which I may seem' to have digressed, thus much I
think I have made good, that, whether or no a Catholic
University should put before it, as its great object, to
make its students "gent 1 '"men," still to make them some-
thing or other is its great object, and not simply to pro-
tect the interests and advance the dominion of Science.
If, then, this may be taken for granted, as I think it may,
the only point which remains to be settled is, whether I
have formed a probable conception of the sort of benefit
which the Holy See has intended to confer on Catholics
who speak the English tongue by recommending to the
Irish Hierarchy the establishment of a University ; and
this I now proceed to consider.

Here, then, it is natural to ask those who are interested
in the question, whether any better interpretation of the
recommendation of the Holy See can be given than that
which I have suggested in this Volume. Certainly it
does not seem to me rash to pronounce that, whereas
Protestants have great advantages of education in the
Schools, Colleges, and Universities of the United King-
dom, our ecclesiastical rulers have it in purpose that
Catholics should enjoy the like advantages, whatever they

Preface. xv

are, to the full. I conceive they view it as prejudicial to
the interests of Religion that there should be any culti-
vation of mind bestowed upon Protestants which is not
given to their own youth also. As they wish their schools
for the poorer and middle classes to be at least on a par
with those of Protestants, they contemplate the same ob-
ject also as regards that higher education which is given to
comparatively the few. Protestant youths, who can spare
the time, continue their studies till the age of twenty-one
or twenty-two ; thus they employ a time of life all-im-
portant and especially favourable to mental culture. I
conceive that our Prelates are impressed with the fact
and its consequences, that a youth who ends his educa-
tion at seventeen is no match (cceteris paribus) for one
who ends it at twenty-two.

All classes indeed of the community are impressed
with a fact so obvious as this. The consequence is, that
Catholics who aspire to be on a level with Protestants in
discipline anJ, refinement of intellect have recourse to
Protestant Universities to obtain what they cannot find
at home. Assuming (as the Rescripts from Propaganda
allow me to do) that Protestant education is inexpedient
for our youth, we see here an additional reason why
those advantages, whatever they are, which Protestant
communities dispense through the medium of Protest-
antism should be accessible to Catholics in a Catholic

What are these advantages ? I repeat, they are in one
word the culture of the intellect. Robbed, oppressed,
and thrust aside, Catholics in these islands have not been
in a condition for centuries to attempt the sort of educa-
tion which is necessary for the man of the world, the
statesman, the landholder, or the opulent gentleman.
Their legitimate stations, duties, employments, have been

xvi Preface.

taken from them, and the qualifications withal, social
and intellectual, which are necessary both for reversing
the forfeiture and for availing themselves of the reversal.
The time is come when this moral disability must be
removed. Our desideratum is, not the manners and habits
of gentlemen ; these can be, and are, acquired in various
other ways, by good society, by foreign travel, by the
innate grace and dignity of the Catholic mind ; but the
force, the steadiness, the comprehensiveness and the
versatility of intellect, the command over our own powers,
the instinctive just estimate of things as they pass before
us, which sometimes indeed is a natural gift, but com-
monly is not gained without much effort and the exercise
of years.

This is real cultivation of mind ; and I do not deny
that the characteristic excellences of a gentleman are
included in it. Nor need we be ashamed that they should
be, since the poet long ago wrote, that " Ingenuas didi-
cisse fideliter artes Emollit mores." Certainly a liberal
education does manifest itself in a courtesy, propriety,
and polish of word and action, which is beautiful in itself,
and acceptable to others ; but it does much more. It
brings the mind into form, for the mind is like the body.
Boys outgrow their shape and their strength ; their limbs
have to be knit together, and their constitution needs
tone. Mistaking animal spirits for vigour, and over-
confident in their health, ignorant what they can bear
and how to manage themselves, they are immoderate
and extravagant ; and fall into sharp sicknesses. This
is an emblem of their minds ; at first they have no prin-
ciples laid down within them as a foundation for the
intellect to build upon ; they have no discriminating con-
victions, and no grasp of consequences. And therefore
they talk at random, if they talk much, and cannot help

Preface. xvii

being flippant, or what is emphatically called "young?
They are merely dazzled by phenomena, instead of per-
ceiving things as they are.

It were well if none remained boys all their lives ; but
what is more common than the sight of grown men,
talking on political or moral or religious subjects, in that
offhand, idle way, which we signify by the word unreal?
" That they simply do not know what they are talking
about " is the spontaneous silent remark of any man of
sense who hears them. Hence such persons have no
difficulty in contradicting themselves in successive sen-
tences, without being conscious of it. Hence others,
whose defect in intellectual training is more latent, have
their most unfortunate crotchets, as they are called, or
hobbies, which deprive them of the influence which their
estimable qualities would otherwise secure. Hence others
can never look straight before them, never see the point,
and have no difficulties in the most difficult subjects.
Others are hopelessly obstinate and prejudiced, and, after
they have been driven from their opinions, return to them
the next moment without even an attempt to explain
why. Others are so intemperate and intractable that
there is no greater calamity for a good cause than that
they should get hold of it. It is very plain from the
very particulars I have mentioned that, in this delinea-
tion of intellectual infirmities, I am drawing, not from
Catholics, but from the world at large ; I am referring
to an evil which is forced upon us in every railway
carriage, in every coffee-room or table-d 'hdte, in every
mixed company, an evil, however, to which Catholics are
not less exposed than the rest of mankind.

When the intellect has once been properly trained and
formed to have a connected view or grasp of things, it
will display its powers with more or less effect according

xviii Preface.

to its particular quality and capacity in the individual.
In the case of most men it makes itself felt in the good
sense, sobriety of thought, reasonableness, candour, self-
command, and steadiness of view, which characterize it.
In some it will have developed habits of business, power
of influencing others, and sagacity. In others it will
elicit the talent of philosophical speculation, and lead
the mind forward to eminence in this or that intellectual
department. In all it will be a faculty of entering with
comparative ease into any subject of thought, and of
taking up with aptitude any science or profession. All
this it will be and will do in a measure, even when the
mental formation be made after a model but partially
true ; for, as far as effectiveness goes, even false views of
things have more influence and inspire more respect than
no views at all. Men who fancy they see what is not
are more energetic, and make their way better, than
those who see nothing ; and so the undoubting infidel,
the fanatic, the heresiarch, are able to do much, while the
mere hereditary Christian, who has never realized the
truths which he holds, is unable to do any thing. But, if
consistency of view can add so much strength even to
error, what may it not be expected to furnish to the
dignity, the energy, and the influence of Truth !

Some one, however, will perhaps object that I am
but advocating that spurious philosophism, which shows
itself in what, for want of a word, I may call " viewi-
nessj' when I speak so much of the formation, and con-
sequent grasp, of the intellect. It may be said that the
theory of University Education, which I have been
delineating, if acted upon, would teach youths nothing
soundly or thoroughly, and would dismiss them with
nothing better than brilliant general views about all
things whatever.

Preface. xix

This indeed, if well founded, would be a most serious
objection to what I have advanced in this Volume, and
would demand my immediate attention, had I any reason
to think that I could not remove it at once, by a simple
explanation of what I consider the true mode of educa-
ting, were this the place to do so. But these Discourses
are directed simply to the consideration of the aims and
principles of Education. Suffice it, then, to say here, that
I hold very strongly that the first step in intellectual
training is to impress upon a boy's mind the idea of
science, method, order, principle, and system ; of rule
and exception, of richness and harmony. This is com-
monly and excellently done by making him begin with
Grammar ; nor can too great accuracy, or minuteness
and subtlety of teaching be used towards him, as his
faculties expand, with this simple purpose. Hence it is
that critical scholarship is so important a discipline for
him when he is leaving school for the University. A
second science is the Mathematics : this should follow
Grammar, still with the same object, viz., to give him a
conception of development and arrangement from and
around a common centre. Hence it is that Chronology
and Geography are so necessary for him, when he reads
History, which is otherwise little better than a story-
book. Hence, too, Metrical Composition, when he reads
Poetry ; in order to stimulate his powers into action in
every practicable way, and to prevent a merely passive
reception of images and ideas which in that case are
likely to pass out of the mind as soon as they have
entered it Let him once gain this habit of method,
of starting from fixed points, of making his ground
good as he goes, of distinguishing what he knows
from what he does not know, and I conceive he will be
gradually initiated into the largest and truest philoso-

xx Preface.

phical views, and will feel nothing but impatience and
disgust at the random theories and imposing sophistries
and dashing paradoxes, which carry away half-formed
and superficial intellects.

Such parti-coloured ingenuities are indeed one of the
chief evils of the day, and men of real talent are not slow
to minister to them. An intellectual man, as the world
now conceives of him, is one who is full of ** views " on
all subjects of philosophy, on all matters of the day. It
is almost thought a disgrace not to have a view at a
moment's notice on any question from the Personal
Advent to the Cholera or Mesmerism. This is owing in
great measure to the necessities of periodical literature,
now so much in request. Every quarter of a year, every
month, every day, there must be a supply, for the grati-
fication of the public, of new and luminous theories on
the subjects of religion, foreign politics, home politics,
civil economy, finance, trade, agriculture, emigration,
and the colonies. Slavery, the gold fields, German
philosophy, the French Empire, Wellington, Peel, Ire-
land, must all be practised on, day after day, by what
are called original thinkers. As the great man's guest
must produce his good stories or songs at the evening
banquet, as the platform orator exhibits his telling facts
at mid-day, so the journalist lies under the stern obliga-
tion of extemporizing his lucid views, leading ideas, and
nutshell truths for the breakfast table. The very nature
of periodical literature, broken into small wholes, and
demanded punctually to an hour, involves the habit of
this extempore philosophy. "Almost all the Ramblers,"
says Boswell of Johnson, " were written just as they
were wanted for the press ; he sent a certain portion of
the copy of an essay, and wrote the remainder while the
former part of it was printing." Few men have the gifts

Preface. xxi

of Johnson, who to great vigour and resource of intellect,
when it was fairly roused, united a rare common-sense
and a conscientious regard for veracity, which preserved
him from flippancy or extravagance in writing. Few
men are Johnsons ; yet how many men at this day are
assailed by incessant demands on their mental powers,
which only a productiveness like his could suitably /
supply ! There is a demand for a reckless originality of
thought, and a sparkling plausibility of argument, which
he would have despised, even if he could have displayed ;
a demand for crude theory and unsound philosophy,
rather than none at all. It is a sort of repetition of the
" Quid novi ? " of the Areopagus, and it must have an
answer. Men must be found who can treat, where it is
necessary, like the Athenian sophist, de omni scibili,

" Grammaticus, Rhetor, Geometres, Pictor, Aliptes,
Augur, Schoenobates, Medicus, Magus, omnia novit,"

I am speaking of such writers with a feeling of real
sympathy for men who are under the rod of a cruel
slavery. I have never indeed been in such circumstances
myself, nor in the temptations which they involve ; but
most men who have had to do with composition must
know the distress which at times it occasions them to
have to write a distress sometimes so keen and so
specific that it resembles nothing else than bodily pain
That pain is the token of the wear and tear of mind ;
and, if works done comparatively at leisure involve such '

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanThe idea of a university defined and illustrated : I. In nine discourses delivered to the Catholics of Dublin; II. In occasional lectures and essays addressed to the members of the Catholic university → online text (page 1 of 41)