Newmanianism/X. The Kingsleyan Controversy

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§ X. The Kingsleyan Controversy

13."It must have taken great gallantry and courage" says Mr. Hutton (p.118, 119) to speak "in an Oxford pulpit at that day (i.e., in Feb. 1843, six months before Newman resigned St. Mary's), as follows :-

"If the truth must be spoken, what are the humble monk and the holy nun, and other regulars, as they were called, but Christians after the very pattern given us in Scripture? ... Did our Saviour come on earth suddenly, as He will one day visit it, in whom would He see the features of the Christians, whom He and His Apostles left behind them BUT IN THEM?".

This is one of the passages which Newman employed to spatter what he called "blots" on Kingsley. His straightforward, English-minded adversary actually thought it strange that a clergyman of the Church of England should use such language! And certainly, since Newman himself held "all along" - and therefore on 5 (or 12) Feb. 1843, the date of this sermon - that no one "could" - i.e. "ought to" - remain "in office in the English Church, wether Bishop or Incumbent" - and therefore in the pulpit of St. Mary, Oxford - unless he were "in hostility to the Church of Rome", it must be confessed that one would suppose Newman himself would be hard put to it to justify the passage above quoted. Two or three months afterwards (May 1843) he asked himself the question, "Is not my present position a cruelty as well as a treachery to the English Church?" If he had put that question to himself in February 1843 and answered it in affirmative, who could have disputed it? Endeavouring to make the kindest answer, what could any man of honour have said to him except this, "Your own conscience must answer this question. We cannot decide it for you"?

Conscious, therefore, of the very critical and painful indecisions of his own mind; aware (at least to some extent) of the very natural suspicions which commonplaces Englishmen entertained about him; and knowing that he had, in the January of that very year, published a "Retractation", in which he had destroyed the last remnant of the basis upon which (on his own showing) he could consistently and honourably use the vantage-ground of the pulpit of St. Mary's, would Newman himself have liked to hear the words "gallant" and "courageous" lavished upon these Romanizing utterances of a quasi-Anglican clergyman? Newman hated humburg and conventionality. It was an "infirmity" with him, he says, to be "rude" to those who paid him excessive deference. I take it that, in this matter, he might have found occasion for displaying his "infirmity".

But what about Newman's actual reply to Kingsley's natural indignation? Unluckily Kingsley did not quote his opponent; he used a loosely-guarded expression which Newman had not employed. "This", says Kingsley, "is his definition[1] of Christians".

Newman, of course, beats up his guard at once:- "This is not the case. I have neither given a definition, nor implied one, nor intended one. .... He ought to know his logic better. I have said that 'monks and nuns find their pattern in Scripture', he adds, ' Therefore, I hold all Christians are monks and nuns". This is Blot one. Now then for Blot two. 'Monks and nuns the only perfect Christians. ... what more?' A second fault in logic. I said no more than that monks and nuns were perfect Christians; he adds 'therefore monks and nuns are not the only perfect Christians'. Monks and nuns are not the only perfect Christians: I never thought so, or said so, now or at any other time".

And such stuff as this went down with the discerning public of 1864!! I have heard that Kingsley was ill at the time. That perhaps, in part, explains the too one-sided result. Judgment, perhaps, went against him by default. I wish he had had a son who might have made answer for him in this and almost every point -except the charge of insincerity, which should have been absolutely disclaimed. It might have runs this :-

"You have not fairly represented the meaning of your words, in asserting 'I said no more than that monks and nuns were perfect Christians'. You went on to say, ' In whom would our Saviour see the features of the Christians, whom He and His Apostles left behind them BUT in THEM?' Now if a man says, 'were would you find the book but in the bookcase?' he means, or at all events ought naturally to be interpreted to mean, that the book would be found in the bookcase, and nowhere else. "For such a statement as this, you have prepared the way by saying that monks and nuns are Christians ' after the very pattern given in Scripture' -which is slightly different from the version given by you in inverted commas, 'I have said that monks and nuns find their pattern in Scripture"'. But you have done more than imply it; you have actually said it in your second clause: ' Where but in them would our Saviour find, &c.,' which ought, if it is to be strictly pressed, to be interpreted as meaning that our Saviour would see the "features, &c.' in the monk and nun and nowhere else. You say you 'never thought so.' Granted. But you said so. And my business is with what you said, not with what yout thought!"

Now it was not at all necessary that Mr. Hutton should have revived the Kingsleyan controversy. But to revive it in this way; to take one of the very quotations on which Kingsley based his case; to give, without comment, the very words which showed that Kingsley was substantially right in this particular point; to omit the natural deduction from these words; and to describe the whole passage as indicating "gallantry and courage" in Newman, evinces a misappreciation of justice so very remarkable, that I know no single epithet whereby to characterize it, except - "Newmanian".

13. Mr. Hutton then refers, at some length (p.121, 122), to the Sermon on Wisdom and Innocence (19 February, 1843) which called forth Kingsley's wrath by this, among other passages in the Sermon :-"What, for instance, though we grant that sacramental confession and the celibacy of the clergy do tend to consolidate the body politic in the relation of rulers and subjects, or, in other words, to aggrandize the priesthood? For how can the Church be one body without such relation?"

Now here Newman made very merry with Kingsley's indignation at the possible effects of such language upon "hot-headed" young men, and scoffed at him in the second person with what will seem (I think) to many of my readers more than "a spice of insolence" :-"Hot-headed young men! Why, man, you are writing a Romance. You think the scene is Alexandria or the Spanish Main, where you may let your imagination revel to the extent of inveracity. It is good luck for me that the scene of my labours was not at Moscow or Damascus. Then I might be one of your ecclesiastical Saints, of which I sometimes hear in conversation, but with whom I am glad to say I have no personal acquaintance. Then you might ascribe to me a more deadly craft than mere quibbling and lying; in Spain I should have been an inquisitor, with my rack in the background; I should have had a concealed dagger in Sicily; at Venice I should have...". And this stuff contiunes for half a page more! And he rates Kingsley soundly for not knowing that, from the year 1841, Pusey and he had given up their theological soirées! As though, by cutting off his tea-parties, a preacher ipso facto excludes Oxford undergraduates from St. Mary's Church!! And this is "Blot twelve" against Kingsley! Surely this "blot", at least, missed its marks.

Here is another unfairness, in connection with the same passage. Newman urges in his behalf that "the sentence in question about Celibacy and Confession of which this writer would make so much, was not preached at all." The sermon was published, he says, after he had given up St. Mary's; and therefore he claimed the right not "to restrain the expression of anything that" he "might hold."

"Good" we reply, "if you give adequate notice to your readers. Become a Romanist, a Mohammedan, a Buddhist, anything if you like; we do not ask you to restrain the expression of ' anything that you might hold '. Only do not publish a volume under false colours as a volume of Anglican sermons".

It may be urged, "He was an Anglican, at the time of publication;" and indeed he expressly declares that he did publish it while an Anglican (Apol. p. 310) "written, preached, and published while I was an Anglican".

  1. I have no doubt that these italics are Newman's. So far I have inspected Kingsley's pamphlet I have noticed no italics. Newman freely italicizes his opponent's words. I should not blame him, if he had give notice of his intention. I have done it myself, copying Newman, though with some misgiving. My present intention is to give up the habit, except in Newmanian controversies. At all events, whenever I have done it, I have given notice of it.
    In my first letter to the Spectator, my notice about italics, given in the rough draft of my letter, was unfortunately cancelled in copying, and the Editor thought it necessary to warn its readers that "all, or almost all, the elaborate italics in Dr. Abbot extracts from our article are his own and not ours". That was quite fair, as against me. But it was not kind, from a Newmanian, to Newman. I wonder what the Editor say about Newman's "manifold and elaborate italics" in his quotations from Kingsley.