Newmanianism/VII. The "Spectator's" Arithmetic

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
§ VII. The "Spectator's" Arithmetic

I. In the recent discussion in the Spectator the Editor makes a frank confession, "We carelessly wrote from memory 1842 instead of 1840". Well, that was careless. But, being portentously careless myself, I do not wish to be hard upon others. This, however was more than a mere slip of ordinary carelessness, as the following words show: "Now this is a case in which Dr. Abbott knows the result. The result was, to delay by just a year, or a year and a half, and no more, the resignation of the living". The result was nothing of the kind. The result was to delay the resignation for three years. A mere careless slip of 1842 for 1840 is one thing: an interference based on that careless slip is a repetition of the carelessness which implies a want of familiarity with some of the most critical events of Newman's life.

2. I pointed out above that the Editor has confused together two of Newman's Essays, one of which was written during his Protestant life in 1826; the other, written during his transition stage in 1842, was published, as an Essay, in 1843. He has repeatedly used language indicating that he believed both to have been published -and in one case he says "written" -in 1842.

Now upon this error of his own he bases an attack of "unfairness" against me. "Why", he practically asks me -if I may put his question on my own words -"were you so unfair as to accuse Newman of ignoring the effect of the imagination in working quasi-miraculous cures at the time these essays were written (1842), when, even so late as the time at which Newman's "Apologia" was composed (1864), the very thought of such a thing had never come into any one's head?"

Then the Editor added a sentence which to this day I cannot make out; but I believe it is dedicated by a peculiar and Newmanian method of counting: I had no space to expose it (or several other errors besides) in my reply to the Spectator: but I will expose it now:- "Twenty-five years ago, and, still more thirty-eight years ago, the notion that the stigmata, for instance, could be produced on the skin by mere emotional expectation of them, would have been ridiculed by physiologists, as absurd in the highest degree".

Perhaps. But what, in the name of ordinary arithmetic, have these figures to do with th question? What was it that happened twenty-five years ago? I really do not know: 1891 - 25 = 1866; and I do not know what particular incident, to the purpose, happened in 1866. Can it be that he mean this for 'the time at which Newman's Apologia was composed', i.e., 1864? Again, what happened "thirty-eight" years ago, what, at least, that is in any way to the point? Repeating the process of subsraction, we find that 1891 - 38 = 1853 : but what happened then? I have not the least glimmering of a conception. Here again I can only conjecture that he meant 1843; "the time when these essays were written", and that the result is to be explained by the peculiarities of Newmanian subtraction! Now, after this digression, let the reader note my argument and judge whether it does not completely meet the charge of "unfairness". It was as follows:-

"You imply that at the time Newman wrote his essay in 1842 (I will not press you further as to your blunder about 'the time when these essays were written' but accept your own explanation, viz., that you were thinking only of the second Essay) there was ' not any ' of the present ground for attributing cures to faith-healing.

"I prove to you, by a quotation from Essay of 1826, that Newman did definitely recognize such a ground as early as 1826, and I urge that, if he does not mention it in 1843, it was because he thought less of it, not beacause he was ignorant of it.

"What do you say to that? And will you withdraw your charge of unfairness?"

But the Editor says nothing[1], and withdraws nothing; and the charitable inference is that he sees nothing.

3. The Editor asserts that Newman, in 1843, did not really believe in any of the nine great historical miracles which he selected for particular inquiry, except the miracuolous frustration of Julian's endeavour to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem, and one other.

In answer to this, I quoted a passage in which Newman, insisting that three of the nine were wrought in the teeth of the rulers of their perspective localities, continues as follows: "Surely, if there are miracles prominent above others in these times, in that number are the three which I have just specified; they are the great in themselves and in their fame".

How does the Editor answer this? Why, by quoting a mistiyfying passage about the death of Arius (one of the three miracles above mentioned) in which Newman says that "the question is .... whether it is an event the like of which persons who deny that miracles continue will consent that Church should be considered still able to perform".

Why not have quoted the very next sentence, which is not mistifying at all, but transparently clear -"However, that it was really miraculous, Gibbon surely is a sufficient voucher"? Or why not have quoted Newman's preceding remark: "But after all, was it a miracle? For it not we are labouring at a proof of which nothing comes? -to which Newman replies, after summarizing the facts, "Is it not trifling to ask whether such an occurrence comes up to the definition of a miracle?" Surely, grammar and context and common sense show that this means, "It does come up to the definition of a miracle and it is trifling to deny it".

What then are the facts? Newman calls the death of Arius one of three miracles "prominent above others", "great in themselves and in their fame"; he implies that it is mere "trifling" to deny that it comes up to the definition of a miracle; he alleges a "voucher" to show that it "was really miraculous"; and yet the Spectator, after having accused me of "unfairness" beacuse I differed from them on this point, has the hardihood to persist: "We do not admit that Mr. Newman did think the death of Arius certainly miraculous.

4. I added that in 1843 -"at the time when these essays were written", as the Spectator had asserted- Newman believed in the miracle of the Tongueless Martyrs.

How does the Editor answer this? Thus: "Dr. Newman gave that up as a test case, not only before the essay WAS REPUBLISHED in 1870, but before the appendix to the Apologia was written [i.e. 1865]". Now once more, in the name of correct dates and commonplace non-Newmanian atithmetic, what on earth has this to do with the question? The Editor implied that in the year 1842 - 3, Newman did not believe in this miracle; I showed, from the essay of 1842 - 3, that, on the contrary, he thought it at that time one of the strongest of his miracles. And yet the Spectator actually thinks it worth while to reply, "Oh, but at all events he gave it up in 1870, and even before 1865". The point is 1842 - 3, and nothing else. Taken altogether, these mistakes of dates (to which I shall presently add orders) and of small arithmetical calculations, viz. (a) 1842 for 1840; leading to (b) "a year, or a year and a half and no more", for "three years"; (c) 25 for 27; (d) 38, apparently meant for 48 -and all these in an assault upon whom he repeadetly accuses of "unfairness" because he himself is ignorant of the accurate use of numbers -do they not point to the conclusion that Mr. Hutton's above-mentioned extraordinary mistake of asserting that 4 is more than 7, or at all events more than 5, was not a solitary or exceptional lapse, but one among many results of that Newmanian confusion which seems to infect all attempts at exact thought?

5. I quoted Newman's own words to the effect that no one "in office in the English Church, whether Bishop or Incumbent, could be otherwise in hostility to the Church of Rome". This was, in Newman's words, his belief "all along", i.e., throughout in Anglican career. I then showed that, in 1840, Newman was not, and avowed he was not, "in hostility to the Church of Rome". And then I tried to show how, by a process of "lubrification", Newman contrived to persuade himself that he might do what he at the same time felt no one could do. He remained Vicar of St.Mary's, i.e., "in office in the English Church", although he felt, and avowed, that he was not "in hostility to the Church of Rome". That is, he did what, by is own confession, "no one" (and therefore not he himself) "could" do, i.e., ought to do.

How did the Editor answer this? Simply by placing before the reader a long letter from Newman to Keble, in which the former, though he reveals something of his feelings, is far from being as frank with him as with his friend Rogers, who had told Newman, a year before, that, if his feelings continued, he ought to resign St.Mary's. But even if Newman had been ever so frank, that was not the point. The question was this and nothing else, How did Newman persuade himself that he might do that he had "all along felt" no one "could", or, in plain English ought to, do. I say it was by "lubrification" the Editor says nothing in particular.

6. The Editor expressed his opinion that Newman was a quite exceptionally original theologian. I pointed out that a good many of the original things attributed to Newman really came from Hurrell Froude, and that Newman himself acknowledged this.

I gave an instance. I said that the Spectator had recently printed under the title "A Remarkable Forecast of Cardinal Newman", a letter from a correspondent (sneering, by the way, at Archdeacon Farrar because the point had escaped the Archdeacon's "omnivorous" research) the purport of which was that religion would never be revived in great towns by the married clergy alone, without the co-operation of celibate missionaries. "Considering", said the correspondent, "that it was made in 1836, it is certainly a most remarkable forecast.

To prove that this was an error, I pointed out that this identical "Project for Reviving Religion in Great Towns" was imparted by Hurrell Froude to Newman in a letter dated 31 August, 1833. I added that many other supposed Newmanian originalities were traceable to Hurrell Froude. I need not say that the Editor made no reply to this; for there was no reply to make, except a confession of error.

  1. Since these words were in print, the Editor has said something: "Our opinion as to Dr. Abbott's unfairness has not been in the slighest degree modified by his reply."