been of a family of small landed proprietors in Cambridgeshire, was of Dutch extraction, the name being originally spelt Newmann, and was a partner in the banking house of Ramsbottom, Newman, & Co. His mother, Jemima Fourdrinier, belonged to a well-known Huguenot family, long established in London as engravers and paper manufacturers [see Fourdrinier, Peter]. Newman was the eldest of six children, three boys and three girls. The second son, Charles Robert Newman, died at Tenby in 1884. The youngest was Francis William Newman, professor of Latin at University College, London. Of the three daughters, the eldest, Harriet Elizabeth, married Thomas Mozley [q. v.]; the second, Jemima Charlotte, married John Mozley of Derby; and the third, Mary Sophia, died unmarried in 1828. At the age of seven Newman was sent to a private school of high character, ‘conducted on the Eton lines’ by Dr. Nicholas, at Ealing. There he inspired those about him with confidence and respect, by his general good conduct and close attention to his studies. It was thus early in his life that he made acquaintance with the works of Sir Walter Scott, to whom he always had a great devotion. Writing in 1871, he says: ‘As a boy, in the early summer mornings, I read “Waverley” and “Guy Mannering” in bed, when they first came out, before it was time to get up; and long before that—I think when I was eight years old—I listened eagerly to “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” which my mother and aunt were reading aloud.’ From a child he was brought up to take great delight in reading the Bible. His imagination ran on unknown influences, on magical powers and talismans. He thought life might be a dream, himself an angel, and all this world deception. ‘I was very superstitious,’ he adds, ‘and for some time previous to my conversion used constantly to cross myself before going into the dark.’ This ‘inward conversion,’ of which, he writes in the ‘Apologia,’ ‘I am still more certain than that I have hands or feet,’ he dates in the autumn of 1816, when he was fifteen. ‘I fell under the influence of a definite creed, and received into my intellect impressions of dogma which have never been effaced or obscured.’ The religious literature which he read at this time was chiefly Calvinistic, although a work of a character very opposite to Calvinism—Law's ‘Serious and Devout Call’—produced a great impression upon his mind. His first acquaintance with the fathers was made in the autumn of 1816, through the long extracts which are given in Milner's ‘Church History,’ and of which he ‘was nothing short of enamoured.’ Simultaneously with Milner he read ‘Newton on the Prophecies’ [see Newton, Thomas, (1704–1782)], and in consequence became most firmly convinced that the pope was the anti-christ predicted by Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John.
He was entered at Trinity College, Oxford, on 14 Dec. 1816, when he was yet two months short of sixteen. In the following June he was called into residence, and he then made the acquaintance of John William Bowden [q. v.] , an acquaintance which ripened into a very intimate friendship. His tutor was the Rev. Thomas Short, whose good opinion he soon won, and never lost, and who appears to have directed his reading with much judgment. In 1818 he gained one of the Trinity scholarships of 60l., tenable for nine years, which had been lately thrown open to university competition. In 1819 the bank in which his father was a partner stopped payment. ‘There was no bankruptcy,’ he wrote: ‘every one was paid in full.’ But it was the beginning of a great family trial. In the same year Newman was entered at Lincoln's Inn, where he kept a few terms, it being at this time his father's intention to send him to the bar.
The Trinity scholarship was the only distinction which fell to him during his academical career. He passed with credit his first university examination, but, standing for the highest honours in the final examination, he did badly. ‘He had over-read himself, and, being suddenly called up a day sooner than he expected, utterly broke down, and, after vain attempts for seven days, had to retire, only making first sure of his B.A. degree.’ His name was found ‘below the line’ in the second division of the second class of honours. He was not then twenty, whereas the usual age for graduating was twenty-two.
After graduating B.A. in 1820, Newman remained in Oxford, receiving private pupils, and shortly formed the design of standing for a fellowship at Oriel, ‘the acknowledged centre of Oxford intellectualism.’ In preparation for the examination he gave considerable time to Latin composition, logic, and natural philosophy. He was successful in the competition, and was elected fellow of Oriel on 12 April 1822, a day which he ‘ever felt the turning-point of his life, and of all days most memorable.’
In 1823 the Athenæum Club was founded in London, and Newman was invited to become an original member, but declined the invitation. In the same year Edward Bouverie Pusey [q. v.] was elected fellow of Oriel, and Newman's friendship with him began.