LORD JOHN ACTON
AND HIS CIRCLE
CAMBRIDGE MODERN HISTORY
THE letters of the late Lord Acton here published are for the most part 0n literary subjects. They were commenced when he was only twenty-four years of age; and in more ways than one, according to the opinion of many, they show us the real Acton, as he was in the period of his greatest literary activity. In them may be seen his vast reading, his great industry, his marvellous memory and his acquaintance with writers in every country of Europe and with books of every kind on almost every subject. The letters themselves were mostly written in connection with certain literary undertakings, which occupied some of the busiest years of his early life, from 1858 to 1871. In the former year he became part-proprietor of an existing Catholic magazine called the Rambler, the sub-editor of which was one of the most brilliant of the Oxford Converts of 1845, Mr. Richard Simpson. Under the new management Simpson was appointed editor, and in this way a lasting friendship was formed between him and Sir John Acton. They became united in an association in literary matters, which continued for many years, and the nature of which is plainly indicated in the letters here given to the public.
The greater part of these communications were made by Acton to Simpson during a period of six years from 1858 to 1864, and they relate to the conduct and work of the Rambler and of the quarterly into which it developed, the Home and Foreign Review. The letters of the period from 1867 to 1871 were mostly addressed to Mr T. F. Wetherell in connection with a weekly paper, the Chronicle, of which he was editor, and in which Acton took great interest. To this he contributed a good deal of literary matter, although it had a brief career of only ten months. In 1869 Mr. Wetherell was asked to edit the North British Review, and in this he was supported by Sir John Acton and the same band of brilliant writers who had been connected with the Home and Foreign Review and the Chronicle. In order to understand the purpose of the letters in this volume it is necessary to say something about each of these four literary ventures. The greater part of the letters were given to me by Mr. William Simpson, the nephew of the recipient, Mr Richard Simpson; the rest were entrusted to me by Mr. Wetherell, to whom they were written.
In the beginning of 1848 the first number of the Rambler was published. Singular misapprehension seems to exist, even in well-informed quarters, in regard to the persons responsible for it in the various stages of its course. Quite recently an attempt has been made to explain the psychology of its attitude towards authority by the statement that Mr. Richard Simpson took up the post of editor very shortly after his conversion to the Catholic faith in 1845. Such misapprehensions may easily lead to an entire misunderstanding of the inner history of English Catholicity of the last century in its most critical period. It will be useful therefore first to state the facts.
The Rambler was first started as a weekly journal in January, 1848, by John Moore Capes, who was its proprietor for the first ten years of its existence. During most of that time he was its editor and contributed extensively to its pages. It is only just to the memory of this distinguished convert that his connection with the magazine should be recorded at some length, as his part in the undertaking seems to have been strangely overlooked. Mr. Capes was born in 1812, and, having passed through Westminster School, he graduated at Balliol College, Oxford. In course of time he became incumbent of St John's, Bridgewater, where his close connection with Dr. Northcote, which subsequently continued in regard to the management of the Rambler, first began. Mr. Capes was mainly instrumental in building a new church at St John’s and in bringing about a marked religious revival in the parish. In 1845 he threw up his living to enter the Catholic Church.
After his conversion he became for a time a tutor at Prior Park, near Bath, and whilst there, in 1846, he conceived the Idea of starting the Rambler, and at once wrote to Father Newman for his advice. In reply Newman wrote the following letters:
Maryvale, July 13, 1846y
I have just returned from London, and find your letter. To save the post I write you a short answer to your inquiry.
Such a magazine as you propose is very much wanted, and for many reasons Prior Park is the place for it. Your having a press is a sufficient reason, and there are others too.
Nothing could please me more, and I am sure all of us, than to do what we could in the way of assistance, but I have one or two difficulties. One, which is not a great one, is that Mr Keon (Gerald) has most kindly and earnestly pressed me to write for Dolmans Magazine. I have declined on the ground that I have never written in a literary publication, and certainly the tone and style is not such as I should like to take pari in. This would be no reason against assisting you in a religious magazine, if it realty were professedly religious, or at least, critical, philosophical, etc. I mean grave. Another reason, not a very strong one either, is that I should like Dr Wiseman to give his formal approval of the project before I promised to assist, i.e., before I could be reckoned upon, or become more than an occasional contributor.
Ever yours affectionately,
JOHN II. NEWMAN.
The following day a second letter from Newman put the difficulties of starting such a magazine as Capes proposed very clearly before him.
“St Mary Vale, Perry Bar, July 14, 46
There will be difficulties in your way which it is well to be prepared for. One will be the anxiety arising from the work being written by converts only or principally. And it will seem to be setting up against Mr Keon, who is a Catholic. Mr Keon’s talents and zeal command one’s respect, and he has been very friendly to myself personally; yet I do not think he can conduct a periodical; he is too young (in Aristotle’s sense). I wish you could make some arrangement with him, yet do not see how; for when you cast off editor and publishers a very poor identity would remain between his magazine and yours, supposing a coalition were possible. Yet I think this a difficulty, and without meaning to say that Catholics take up Mr Keon’s publications, yet it will be one of your collisions with old Catholics.
But you will say : We shall not write so much for them as for Anglicans. Then another difficulty comes, 0n which I dwelt in conversation with Mr Thompson. How will you get Anglicans to buy your magazine? I mean, how will you enable them to get it? They go to the publisher and ask for the Prior Park Gazette or the Downside Magazine, and they are quietly told there is no such a publication, or it has stopped, or it is out of print, or that it is not published in London; or at any rate they have to send to town for the number which they wish to buy as a specimen. Only one copy is sent for, and the second person who goes has to go through the same process. The bookseller in Birmingham had never heard of the Christian Remembrancer, and could be made only with difficulty to get it. If at last it is ordered, there is a mistake. The first month it comes, then it stops. The difficulty arises in great measure from country shops corresponding with but one London publisher, who is careless about all books bat his own publications. We found this difficulty almost fatal to the Tracts for the Times for a while, and overcame it only in the course of years.
At this moment there is no Oxford shop where publications such as Thompson’s and Northcote’s can be seen. And I do not see well how this is to be obviated. Parker found his only effectual way of selling his best books was employing a traveller or bagman to go about the country with them. Toovey is the most natural medium of a plan such as yours, but as far as I can make out, he is indifferent to publishing altogether.
The only other remark it strikes me to make is that a magazine, particularly if monthly, takes a great deal of time”.
For some reason or other, possibly because of the difficulties urged in the foregoing letters, the project was abandoned for a time, and it was not till January 1, 1848, that the first weekly number of the Rambler saw the light. In this form, however, it continued only until August 26 of the same year, when the editor announced that “in order to carry on the journal with increased vigour and efficiency” it would henceforth be published in monthly numbers. It was obviously impossible that a magazine conducted as the Rambler was from the first, with straightforward honesty of purpose, and with the motto In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, et in omnibus charitas, could long escape the censure of those who differed from it either in principle or on the expediency of discussing delicate questions in public. An article by Capes in December, 1848, on “Catholic and Protestant Collegiate Education” was received with strong expressions of dissent in many quarters. To these criticisms Capes replied in a remarkably able article on “The Duties of Journalists” in the January number, in which he explains how important a matter it is that Catholics should not burke discussion on unpleasant matters, merely because they are unpleasant. In his original paper his object he says was twofold: “It was first, to draw attention to the fact (assuming such to be the fact) that our secular education is, on the whole, inferior to the education which Protestants receive, and secondly, to account for it, by pointing out the almost overwhelming difficulties which have embarrassed the labours of those who have had the charge of the education of our youth”. What are the patent facts? the writer asks. Education must be judged by the literature it produces.
“What then is our literary and intellectual condition at the present moment? Can we claim a high place in English literature? Can we claim any place at all? Is there such a thing as a Catholic English literature in existence, from the profoundest theology down to the most trifling school-books?”
Mr Capes then went on to deprecate any concealment, even were such concealment possible. “If we are worse than Protestants, in all honesty and many courage let us avow it, and claim for ourselves the undeniable admission that it is through the tyranny and spoliation of an anti-Catholic government that we have been robbed of all our ancient means of instruction”.
On the publication of the number containing the above-named article Capes received from Newman a letter on the subject:
“Your new number’s a very good one, and the sale ought to increase, as it does. The defence of the ‘scandalous’ paper on ‘Catholic Education’ is very much to the purpose, and I should trust would soothe people; but I don't think you can quite get over it. You will be sure to have done good by mooting the subject; and all Catholics ought, as many will, be obliged to you; but still you cannot get over the whole difficulty, because your original article had the tone of a hostile attack, instead of a double dose of butter to introduce an unpleasant subject. However, never mind; the Rambler is doing a great deal of good, and we cannot do good without giving offence and incurring criticism.
“It has struck me that not enough is made, in comparing systems of education, of the test which enables a man to write best. Now, the desultory education of Catholic colleges—which is the same which Davison and Copleston opposed against the Edinburgh forty years since—has no teaching, I think, to make men write well; that is, it furnishes the mind neither with the fullness of thought nor the power of composition which is necessary for good writing. If this is the case, it is beside the mark to compare the two systems, as Oakeley does, as one being “the more extended” and the other “the more exact” or “thorough”: the question is, which makes the mind the more effective? This is a safe and apposite utilitarian argument. How few Catholics can compose!"
In the February number of the Rambler Dr W. G. Ward summed up the controversy on Catholic education by a long signed article. It contains much that is of extreme and indeed, of more than passing interest, and for many reasons the whole of this controversy would repay the reading at the present day. Newman’s remark upon Ward’s letter was that “it is very ‘capitulous’, but I suspect it will be a shot over Dr Ullathorne’s head and other old Catholics”.
For some time at Mr Capes’s request Dr Newman kept an eye on the theological matter printed in the Rambler, although he disclaimed any responsibility and made it quite clear that in this he was only acting as a friend. He also readily replied to Mr Capes in any difficulty that had been raised in the course of his editorial work. The inherent interest of these letters is naturally great, and it is difficult to refrain from quoting from one such luminous exposition of a point proposed to him in December, 1849. he question was as to the nature of the proofs of Christianity, “Such a subject”, he writes, “requires very delicate treatment. Your Italian divines, whom I sincerely wish to follow in dogmatics, are not in my mind the best of polemics. Now the proof of Christianity is just the point on which polemics and dogmatics meet as on common ground. It is the province of both, and I cannot altogether stand the Italian treatment of it; unless I mistake their words, and they mine, they know nothing at all of heretics as realities. They live at best in Rome, in a place whose boast is that it has never given birth to heresy; and they think proofs ought to be convincing which in fact are not. Hence they are accustomed to speak of the argument for Catholicity as a ‘demonstration’; and to see no force in objection to it, and to admit no perplexity of intellect which is not directly and immediately willful. This at least is their position in fact, even if I overstate their theory. I hey have not a dream what England is, and what is the power of fascination which the Anglican Church (e.g.) exerts in the case of many minds. F. Passaglia understood it a little better when he got to Westinmster Abbey, and declared the chanting to be a great ‘scandalo’, that is, of course, that its attraction would keep people from joining the Church; and I suspect he was cowed by the vision of Oxford. At present they will not abide in Italy the use of terms which—if not the ideas also contained in them—are received with us; e.g., when you in your papers on Four Years’ Experience speak of the argument for Catholicity being the 'great probability' (do you not?), you say what would scandalize an Italian and would, be put down to my school. At least one Jesuit attacked me as a probabilist in doctrine, though I am not conscious of dreaming of being one; but I don't feel clear that I should not offend those whom I wish to be on good terms with”.
It was not only in regard to these more serious subjects that Newman gave his advice and his encouragement to Mr Capes in the early days of the Rambler. For example, alter looking through the number for April, 1850, he says that he “thinks the Rambler is cleverer each number”. He has been specially interested in looking over the proofs of a paper on “Southey's Life and Correspondence”, although he does not quite agree with the criticism of Southey's poems. “Thalaba”, he adds, “has ever been to my feelings the most sublime of English poems—(I don't know Spenser)—I mean morally sublime. The versification of Thalaba is most melodious too—many persons will not observe they are reading blank verse. I heard of him first (which proves nothing) when the Rejected Addresses came out in the winter of 1812-13. Then I read Kehama, and got it well-nigh by heart. Of course, a boy may easily confuse his first knowledge with the post-popularity of an author. I can’t help thinking that Southey’s poems were not read at once like Scott’s. I recollect hearing Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel read out as early, I suppose, as 1809”.
In 1856 Mr Capes had some thought about turning the Rambler into a quarterly review, and the rumour of difficulties which involved the Dublin for the second time brought the idea of a possible amalgamation to the front. Newman on this matter wrote from Dublin on March 31 as follows:
“You know I have always preferred a quarterly to a more frequent periodical, and so far I should like you to make the change. Yet is not at this moment the Rambler doing better than the Dublin? Did you think of the Dublin, I should stipulate, were I you, for the most perfect autocracy in conducting it, for it is commonly said that there is some secret influence, some say Richardson himself, which is able to half edit it without the editor.
“Next I never would undertake it without being able to pay the writers well. You never will get on otherwise. The Times and Quarterly make it a simple matter of business, so do all well-conducted publications. You have no hold on persons unless there is a commercial bargain. You know this well enough— I knew it in the Critic. Again, not only persons won't be bound, and promise to write without writing, but they have to make a livelihood, and time is money. . . We had a good deal of talk about the Dublin for the University, and I suppose we should be disposed to take and edit it, if we had money for writing; but there is the rub, and I expect will be with you”.
During a period of two years, from 1852 to 1854, the Rambler was edited by Capes’s lifelong friend, Dr Northcote, who had from the first contributed many valuable papers to the magazine. In October, 1854, however, the latter resigned his post as editor; and in view of the retirement Capes, who was still the proprietor and indeed principal contributor, wrote to Mr Richard Simpson on April 20, 1854, to ask him to become his assistant editor. This offer was, however, declined on the ground that, having undertaken to teach a pupil, his time was more than fully occupied. In response, however, to another letter, Simpson undertook to write “a sheet and a half for each number of the Rambler, partly short notices, partly reviews”; but a letter from Capes, dated June 1, 1854, makes it clear that this was done as a simple contributor, and that Simpson had no part in, or responsibility for, the conduct of the magazine. It was not until September, 1856, that he was induced to accept the post of subeditor under Capes, and, upon the latter’s retirement and disposal of his interest in the concern, Simpson became editor in 1858. The further fortunes of the editorship may be summed up in the following memorandum in Simpson’s own hand: “Taken out of R Simpson’s hands by Wiseman, Ullathorne and Grant; undertaken by Newman as a bi-monthly, May and July. Relinquished by Newman at the request of Ullathorne, and restored to us in September. The owners [were] Acton, Simpson, Capes; the editors were Acton and Wetherell with Simpson, and they remained so until the publication of the Rambler ceased in 1862”. Cardinal Newman was thus responsible for only two numbers; he had nothing to do with the conduct of the Home and Foreign Review, the name under which the Rambler was continued.
Still, though Newman had direct control over the Rambler for a very brief time, his indirect influence over writers and contributions was very considerable at all times. Some of this appears in the letters here printed; and with the general literary movement his sympathy cannot be doubted. In a very special way he desired to see a cultivated Catholic laity able to make use of the advantages of education in defence of their religion and to give an account of the faith that was in them. As early as 1851 he writes:
“What I desiderate in Catholics is the gift of bringing-out what they are, what their religion is. . . I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, and who know enough of history to defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity. . . I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases of Catholicism, and where lie the main inconsistencies and absurdities of the Protestant theory... In all times the laity have been the measure of Catholicism”. (Lectures on the Position of Catholics in England). It was to further these views that Cardinal Newman undertook to be the first president of the Catholic University of Dublin, and for this that he sympathised so much with the general programme of the Rambler
It would, however, be quite wrong to attribute either to Newman's influence, or to his encouragement, direct or indirect, the strained relations with the ecclesiastical authorities which were making themselves evident even before the retirement of Mr Capes from the conduct of the magazine. Newman, as his letters show, was always anxious that every endeavor should be made to work loyally with Cardinal Wiseman and the bishops generally, and he frequently counselled the avoidance of subjects liable to be misunderstood, especially upon theological or quasi-theological matters. The following letter to Capes, written when the publication of Mr Simpson's article on "Original Sin" in May, 1856, had involved the Rambler in difficulties with the authorities, will show clearly Dr Newman's attitude in this respect:
Dublin, January 19, 1857.
"I am such a slave now to my business here— the term for which, I rejoice to say, is rapidly coming—that I know nothing of the course of things. Suddenly I find that there is a great split between old Catholics and converts, and I see in the Register that the Dublin is writing against the Rambler. Also I see that you have not been the editor of the latter, and now are. I am truly glad to find that you have not been responsible for that article on 'Original Sin', etc., which seemed to me flat against the Schola theologorum and very unjustifiable; but whether you were or not, I have too grateful a recollection of the services of the Rambler to the Catholic cause not to be much grieved that the Dublin should be writing against it. And I must say that, whoever wrote the article, what I saw of it in the Register did not prepossess me in its favor.
“I am opposed to laymen writing theology, on the same principle that I am against amateur doctors, and still more lawyers—not because they are laymen, but because they are autodidacti. For this reason I am disgusted with Brownson. I don't exclude myself. I have not written on dogmatics or asceticism since I have been a Catholic, and I suppose never shall, because I gave up private judgment when I became one. History and controversy are quite large enough slices of the theological province for a magazine. At least, this is my opinion. Excuse this freedom; my one reason for writing is that I don't like the Rambler to be abused, much less by a dreary publication like the Dublin, which wakes up to growl or to lecture, and then goes to sleep again”.
As to Newman's real appreciation of the value of the work done for Catholicity by Mr Capes in founding and conducting the Rambler, there can be no doubt. The following words from a letter written to him when the rumour was about that he was retiring from the editorship in 1858 make this quite clear:
“I think”, writes Newman, “that the Catholic body in this country owes you much gratitude from the animus and object of your undertaking, the devotion you have shown to it for so long a time, and the various important benefits it has done us. But it is well for us, my dear Capes, that we do not look out for any reward for what we do in this world, for whether we do or not, we are sure not to get it; for what we do imperfectly or wrongly affects the public ten times more than what we do well, even though the good may be ten times as much as the amiss. But this is God's merciful dispensation to oblige us to look up to Him and lay up treasures above, whether we will or no”.
The line that the Rambler took from the first was novel. It proclaimed its “entire and resolute independence” of all powerful interests, public parties, or knots of private friends, although, as far as it is now possible to determine, it maintained this attitude rather by ignoring the divisions that existed among Catholics than by criticizing them all in any independent way. But this probably was a necessity of its position. On any other terms it might have been impossible to establish the periodical at all. Besides, the small knot of converts to whom it owed its origin could scarcely have had any very definite convictions on the merits or very true ideas of the history of the various existing parties, and were themselves too independent of each other, too inconsistent and immature in Catholic thought and knowledge to be capable of forming a party of their own.
The converts were at this time a body both numerically large and intellectually powerful. They formed undoubtedly an element most beneficial to the English Catholics generally. It is hardly too much to characterize them as a leaven, which through the Tractarian movement God’s providence had placed in the midst of our body at a time when it most needed it. But no one who has studied the literature of this period could call them a “party” within the Church. “The convert influence”, says the Rambler, “has not been exercised apart, but has expended its strength rather in lending energy to the rising ideas of the time than in forming the nucleus for a new and distinct phase of Catholic opinion” Cardinal Wiseman allows this even in the very article which he wrote against the Rambler in 1857 on the ground of its striving to set up a convert party against the old Catholics—a charge which, on calmly reviewing the controversy after well-nigh half a century, seems to have arisen from the misconstruction of certain phrases a somewhat unwise and petulant article of the magazine. Wiseman, in his reply, says that "the intellectual separation of a knot of able persons is at once the creation of a party upon the very worst ground, that of a distinction of old and new Catholics". This attempt he deprecates, because rightly he does not admit the existence of the two parties; and at the same time he allows that the Rambler, if it ever tried, had never the least success in forming a party. After comparing, with what sounds like the disappointment of an editor, the popularity of the Rambler with that of the Dublin Review, he shows how the former with its superior circulation has "never exercised any practical influence nor led public opinion amongst us". This is because its writers do not attempt to throw themselves into the true position of Catholics. They stand aloof, and do not share the real burden of Catholic labour. They lecture admirably; find imperfections in what is done; give excellent theoretical instruction on our duties as Catholics. But they address us rather as a speaker does from the hustings from without and above the crowd addressed”. Any such attitude of independent criticism was condemned by the Cardinal as one of the displays of party spirit which the authorities of the Church could not safely endure and which must be put down at any cost.
As early as 1848 in his Words of Peace and Justice, a pamphlet published in support of the Government project of entering into diplomatic relations with Rome, Wiseman incidentally sketched what he conceived to be the respective spheres of action of laity and clergy. To the laity he assigned the world of politics, legislation and administration, the part of commerce, the army and navy, “every profession which enriches or ennobles, every pursuit which gives fame and honor, by research in science, or genius in art, or popularity in literature”, courts, exchanges, public halls and private firesides. To the clergy he reserves only one thing—the Church of God; and not only its internal government and guidance, but its external protection and defence. “The Church”, he adds, “does indeed often want your zealous cooperation, your social influence, your learned or ready pen, your skillful pencil, your brilliant talents, your weighty name, your abundant means. But the direction, the rule belongs to us. We will call you forth when the Church of God wants your aid; we will always gladly see you working with us, but we cannot permit you to lead where religious interests are concerned”.
This much it seems necessary to quote from a now forgotten pamphlet, in order to explain the subsequent attitude of the ecclesiastical authorities to the Rambler spirit in general and to certain of its writers in particular. For it would seem to follow from the above declaration of policy that the only ecclesiastical subjects on which the laity were to speak, except according to the mot d'ordre of ecclesiastical authority, were questions of taste and dilettantism, obsolete controversies or matters of no particular present interest or importance. At least this was the interpretation which was, and with increasing emphasis, put upon his pronouncement during the years of Cardinal Wiseman's administration.
That Newman thought very highly of the work that Mr Capes was doing for Catholics in the Rambler cannot be doubted. The following letter would be sufficient to prove this, were proof necessary. It is also interesting as suggesting to Capes a scheme of lecturing on Catholic matters of interest, which was subsequently tried with only partial success, owing apparently to a misunderstanding as to the intentions of the lecturers.
"Birmingham, February 21, 1851.
I am very sorry to hear of your indisposition. You must get well for the good of the Church, those who have a view, have indefinite power over those who have none. You say too that there is good materials among the younger men of all classes. I dare say it may be in the event advisable for our bishops to do nothing, but for that reason, if for no other, the laity should stir. I like the article on ‘How shall we Meet the Protestant Aggression?’ though when I like a thing I always fear it is imprudent and violent.
I do think you should get a set of fellows who will devote themselves to the cause of the Church. Let it be their recreation, as geology or ecclesiology might be, which is their work. Would the committee for supplying members with information furnish such? Men do with a special gusto what they do themselves—it is an outlet to private judgment. I do wish you could do it, it is a great object. Cannot you have some half-dozen or more? It should be quite voluntary and informal at first, only with the secret sanction of the Cardinal and Dr Ullathorne. If you do anything in getting them to approve it, command me.
Ward I suppose would not walk with other men or lead them. Is there no Old Catholic of sufficient calibre to begin? I would throw over all but energetic men. This you could not do if the Bishops' names were openly given to it, for they would offend respectable or noble nobodies if they did not include them, but if it were voluntary, the choice would be your own.
Why should not half a dozen meet and consecrate their purpose by a religious act? their object being to stir up their brethren to the duty of maintaining and impressing on the people of England the spiritual independence of the Church, as a kingdom not of this world? Or take a larger subject, not to the exclusion, of this, viz: of bringing before the laity the position of the Church in England and method of defending it (which last clause brings in your lectures and all controversial matter whatever).
If you could get two or three good speakers, you could have public meetings in the principal towns. I know this could not be done without a vast deal of spirit, but surely you might find some young men who would carry it out. We were about thirty in age when we began the Tracts; have you none of that age? Only they must not speak treason. In particular localities you might get great assistance from a meeting; e.g., I suppose I could get H. Wilberforce to speak here, if there was a meeting. The Oratory ought to have nothing to do with politics, and I would not do any very ecclesiastical subject; but Father Gordon and I would, I dare say, do something, if a sort of club was formed here, though we would not with our engagements dream of managing it.
Supposing meetings were once a month, consisting of a paper read, etc. The lecturer might be supplied from London or elsewhere, if he could not be found on the spot.
How many good lecturers and speakers could you collect up and down the country? Northcote, Thompson, yourself, Simpson, etc., etc. The thing would be to keep it from being ecclesiastical, in which case it would fall under the priest of the place, who, if dull, would rum the whole, and yet with ecclesiastical authority. The Cardinal surely would take up this, idea (if practical). The first qualification of a member should be energy. If you got six men in London, six in Liverpool, etc., might you not do it? If you could get six men of talent, they at least must be willing simply to put themselves under those who had talent, i.e., for London or elsewhere”.
It was in the year 1848—the year when Cardinal Wiseman published his declaration as to the functions of the laity—that the Rambler saw the light. The first controversy in which it engaged was on "Rood-screens"; it opposed them in the interest of the modern spirit of the Church and of the new popular devotions. For years its pages were filled with articles in this spirit; it printed series of essays on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, on celebrated sanctuaries of the Madonna and on the pilgrimage to La Salette. It was lavish in its admiration of Father Faber's Hymnology, St Alfonso Liguori’s Glories of Mary and the Oratorian Lives of Modern Saints.
The definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 led to some letters in the Rambler in July, 1855, and in May and July, 1856, on Original Sin and the destiny of the unregenerate. At the end of the last-named number there is a statement that the Cardinal-Archbishop had commissioned a certain number of theologians to examine the doctrines put forward in the letter of May, and a declaration on the part of the writer of his submission to whatever censure might be the result. The number for September, 1856, however, contains the notice that the writer of the letter, feeling with regret that there are certain statements which appear to require a revision, withdraws from the discussion of the question, and that His Eminence thereupon does not consider it necessary to proceed with the examination. What these "certain statements" may be readers are not informed; they may be fundamental positions, they may be only illustrations. But they would seem not to be the former, for in spite of the notice must quoted the whole theory of the letters is editorially and somewhat vehemently reasserted in the May number for 1858.
To understand the difficult position created by the general trend of the Rambler it is almost necessary to refer as briefly as possible to what may be called the long duel between it and the Cardinal. In October, 1856—that is in the next number after the Rambler had withdrawn the discussion on "Original Sin" to which reference has just been made—there appeared among the short notices a petulant article, clearly directed against the Cardinal personally, complaining of the necessity of observing silence and of being warned off the discussion of serious topics. The line of argument required of it, it says, is one that, whilst showing up the enemies of the faith as both absurd and wicked, endeavors to make out by a set of garbled quotations how all the sciences of the nineteenth century are demonstrating the truth of the ultramontane views of politics, history and scientific truth. The notice was made even more pointed by part of it being a parody of a sentence from an article, very probably by the Cardinal, in the Dublin Review; and the Cardinal lost no time in replying to it. In the Dublin for January, 1857, an article appeared on "The Present Catholic Dangers," in which the Rambler was treated with a considerable amount of mock irony, and a scarcely fair use was made of an expression to fix upon it the charge of trying to divide Catholics into parties.
This article was replied to in a very feeble manner in the Rambler for February. Instead of treating it as the work of a mere reviewer, the writer of the reply insisted upon seeing in it, no doubt correctly, the hand of the Cardinal, and declared himself precluded on account of the dignity of the writer from answering the structures passed upon it. In the next number, however, an article appeared with the title, "Literary Cookery", which is the real reply to the Dublin. "We don't want", says the writer, "to prove Protestants rogues, so much as to force them to see that we Catholics are neither cowards nor tricksters, but possess our full share of courage and truth-telling...". "We have to encounter the belief that we are not only crafty and false, but actually afraid of the truth's being known. This belief has to be vanquished, not by an angry denial of its justice, not by taunts, not by braggadocio, but by proving our courage by our acts. It is useless to proclaim that history and science are in harmony with our religion, unless we show that we think so by being ourselves foremost in telling the whole truth about the Church and about her enemies".
Though the writer of the article abstains from any personal allusions to the Cardinal, and even goes out of his way to recommend a new and revised edition of the lectures on Science and Revealed Religion, it is impossible not to see under the ridicule which he throws on the mosaic geology of M. Nicolas and the authors whom he quotes, a reference to those very lectures, which are largely quoted by His Eminence, and for the very error tor which he is ridiculed.
For a time matters rested here. In May, 1857, the Rambler published a letter about the “Controversy on the Poor School Grant”, against the known tendencies of the episcopal portion of the Poor School Committee, and in spite of the Cardinal's declaration in the Dublin Review of January, 1857, that education was one of those questions on which the spirit of party might be excited and which was therefore not a matter for free discussion by the laity. Nevertheless the Rambler continued at intervals to discuss the question throughout 1857 and 1858, till, early in 1859, it was obliged, in consequence of episcopal pressure brought to bear upon the proprietors through Cardinal Newman, to come to a sudden halt and to begin afresh in new hands.
In September, 1857, the Rambler published another article on “Converts and Old Catholics”, in which it thus adverted to the controversies it was engaged in: “We have been occasionally found fault with in public—and of course what is made public indicates the private opinion of at least one real person—for stepping out of our province and criticizing when we have no right to interfere. In the cases referred to we have generally been prompted to the course we have adopted by the very authorities on whose exclusive rights we have been supposed to encroach. The freedom of remark which we have adopted as a matter of principle has found its chief opponents among converts and its warmest supporters among old Catholics. And though, now and then, some person considers that we are going too far, the general body of Catholics, both clerical and lay, have too much good sense to be permanently offended because something is now and then written which they do not approve or for which there may be motives which do not appear on the surface”.
From this time there was a pause in the controversy till the publication of Cardinal Wiseman's Last Four Popes in March, 1858, which was reviewed in the Rambler for April. Out of this article arose a controversy on the alleged cardminalate of Lingard, and the Cardinal thought it necessary to answer Canon Tierney's letter in the Rambler for June, 1858, in a special letter addressed to his priests. In the August number there was a sentence, “Because St Augustine was the greatest doctor of the West, we need not conceal the fact that he was also the father of Jansenism”. This bold expression gave great offence, which was not lessened by an elaborate defence of its truth in the December number from the pen, it was understood, of Dr Dollinger. This defence was attacked in pamphlets and letters to the Catholic newspapers.
In 1859 the Rambler again entered upon the educational controversy, and in February it replied to criticisms in the Tablet. To this matter it will be necessary to return later, and here it need only be noted that the controversy led to a cessation of the monthly form of the magazine; the publication was suspended for three months, and it then appeared in May, 1859, as a bimonthly periodical, under the management of Newman.
In 1861 the Rambler admitted a letter by Mr H. N. Oxenham, signed X.Y.Z., on the subject of secondary education given in Catholic colleges. A lengthy correspondence ensued, in which Canon Oakeley and Dr Ward took part. It is in some respects worth reading still, but at the time the publication of the original letter was strongly resented. What was meant as suggestion for improvement, or at most for helpful criticism was taken as only ill-natured reflections upon the existing state of things, and here also bad blood was generated, although there were persons of influence and standing among the older clergy who warmly approved of Mr Oxenham's endeavor to call attention to what was amiss. Even the late Dr W. G. Ward, although entirely opposed to what he supposed to be the Ramblers position in the controversy on other grounds, wrote to Mr Simpson at the time as follows:
“Amidst the differences which I recognize between the Rambler and myself (specially, if you will allow me to say so, between your contributions to it and myself) I am extremely grateful to you and it for many things. First, you have been bold enough to face much obloquy in refusing to ‘bow the knee to Baal’, to join in the most disgusting chorus of self-laudation, which is the present fashion. I cannot indeed think your ‘croaking’ at all up to mark; but it is refreshing to hear the ‘croaking’ at all. Secondly, I think the Rambler has been the only publication which has shown the most distant perception as to the immense intellectual work incumbent on us, in both theology and philosophy. Even your contributions on ‘Original Sin’—though I doubt if they contained two consecutive sentences in which I could concur—yet did this most important service (in my humble opinion): that they opened the way into a new ground which it is absolutely essential that we Catholics should occupy. Thirdly, I very much wish to have some talk with you on matters philosophical. I am most deeply convinced that the whole philosophical fabric which occupies our colleges is rotten from the roof to the floor (or rather from the floor to the roof). Nay, no one who has not been mixed up practically in a seminary would imagine to how great an extent it intellectually debauches the students’ minds. At least we agree that all these questions are most momentously important”.
Varied as were the subjects dealt with in the yearly volumes of the Rambler, the ready appeal to the modern spirit involved ideas which every now and then found expression and showed unmistakably that the writers proceeded on principles and grounds which would equally serve for the foundation of contradictory judgments with a little more knowledge and a little longer experience. Its protestations of independence have already been quoted. In an early volume we find the editor claiming for all Catholics "that unbiassed liberty of following after truth at all costs, which is the inalienable privilege and the bounden duty of every creature endowed with the great gift of reason". One feature, which may be traced throughout its career, is a disposition to exult over the diversity of Catholic thought on all things beyond matters of faith and to deny any necessary subordination of the laity to the clergy in their opinions on matters of general interest. It even glories in this attitude, which it holds to be essential for the mental development and progress of the Catholic mind. We shall always differ, it proclaims, as long as we are good for anything. Indeed, even while the feelings of the conductors were engaged on the side of the then modern devotional system of Rome, the Rambler every now and then exhibited a tendency to pare down speculative doctrines as pious opinions. In 1850, for example, it seemed to limit the rights of the Church in the interpretation of Scripture, and asserted a duration of the world which, although it would probably have passed quite unnoticed in these days, must then have appeared scandalous to Mosaic geologists. Occasion even was taken of the definition of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of the Church to inquire what were the scantiest possible views of Original sin and eternal punishment compatible with the defined doctrines of the Church.
For these and other reasons upon which it is unnecessary to enter the Rambler certainly succeeded in making itself an object of anxiety to the ecclesiastical authorities. This is not wonderful when it is remembered that its policy was very different, if not in some ways contrary, to that laid down some years before by Cardinal Wiseman for the conductors of a lay review.
In another matter also "its spirit" gave great offence, and under the circumstances most naturally. The year 1845 saw the first of that great flood of conversions to Rome which was only stayed by the agitation of the "Papal Aggression". With it the first decade of the Dublin Review came to an end. When it closed, the Review in summing up its past career said that its controversial period was over; that a new epoch had come in its history; and that it; saw opening before it fields for labours more agreeable, more varied, and no less interesting to its readers. What these proved to be t is beyond the present inquiry to determine. In one point, however, it is necessary to remark that the Dublin and the Rambler were conducted upon lines wholly divergent. In historical matters the policy of the Dublin appears to have been to avoid, as far as possible, facing unpleasant facts in the past and to explain away, if it could not directly deny, the existence of "blots" in the ecclesiastical annals of the older centuries. The Rambler, on the other hand, held the view that the Church had nothing to lose and much to gain by meeting facts as they were. And acting up to this it did not hesitate to discuss the conduct of the Popes of the Renaissance and the characters of canonised saints, etc., with entire freedom, on the ground that no supreme office nor assured sanctity was an a priori proof of impeccability, and that it should not shield the one class or the other from legitimate criticism. It taunted all those who would attempt, for example, the rehabilitation of “bad popes”, and would desire that all should shut their eyes to the unpleasant facts of Church history, as being plain “whitewashers”. It placed them upon the same historical level as Mr James Anthony Froude, who was then attempting his rehabilitation of Henry VIII. They even insinuated that such writers were acting on the very same principle as Froude was, namely, “that a good work proves a good workman”. The Rambler thus came into distinct opposition to the Dublin Review, not only in point of circulation among the small body of Catholics, but likewise on principles of conduct.
It has been necessary to speak somewhat at length about the Rambler and the views of those that supported it in order to understand the origin of the difficulties which beset its conduct, and which were already in existence when the first letters printed in this volume were written. It is impossible to deny that in many ways, rather perhaps by the irritating tone in which delicate matters were spoken of than by much that was actually said, the Rambler gave cause to the English ecclesiastical authorities to regard it as an enfant terrible. Looking back after half a century it is possible to see that many of the opinions which, when expressed by the Rambler, called forth the strong condemnation of many Catholics in the public journal, and in some instances remonstrances and threats from the authorities, would pass today without remark. Times have changed, and we with them; and many of the strong things that were then said and many of the aspirations that were then uttered, say upon the thorny subject of higher Catholic education, have been settled. So, too, on the theological points raised in certain articles written by Mr Richard Simpson in the Rambler, the loud protests of certain theologians at the time seem half to discredit his true Catholicity. Yet it is not uninteresting now to know that in reality his opinions were shared by many ecclesiastics of weight, who did not care to come out into the open, and left upon him the brunt of the battle
On a calm review of all the circumstances it seems as if, in regard to the controversy about the Rambler, as in so many cases, the whole might have been avoided with just a little better understanding on both sides. But here precisely was the difficulty: the parties never did and never could look at the matters from each other's standpoint, and in great measure this arose from the nature of things. Though the Rambler cannot be said to be the representative of the convert element, yet the ideas it propagated came into the Catholic body with and through the converts; and converts with lapse of time had come to discover the real state of things in the body they had joined, and were perhaps at tunes piqued or irritated at the policy of couleur de rose which had been adopted almost officially. They were impatient at what they considered the need of education and the want of spirit which they saw in the English Catholic body. No doubt to a great extent they were right: for half a century and more the Catholics of England had been deprived by the French Revolution of even that measure of higher education which during three centuries of penal law they had found at Douai and at the other universities of France. Thrown back upon themselves, they had done what was possible under the circumstances to carry on the Douai traditions of clerical trailing; but the lack of the incentive of public competition was sufficient to cause them in time to fall behind in the race, and their isolation made them perhaps too contented with the existing state of things. In one sense it was their glory and their misfortune, not their shame, for it was part of the penalty they paid for fidelity to the faith
Converts coming fresh from the universities were unprepared for this; and the two parties seemed for a time at least incapable of understanding each other: the one did not realize its shortcomings, the other failed to make the necessary allowances for defects that were not the fault of those in whom they existed. But there were matters of form that accentuated the differences arising from divergencies of view; this cause for aggravation dates from the quite early days of the Rambler. It was known that some of the most irritating articles were written by converts who, it was (rightly or wrongly) felt, were assuming a tone of superiority, whilst certainly, however zealous in their designs or however good their intention, they were only neophytes. On the other hand, these new comers were genuinely unprepared for the strength of language and vituperation which was adopted by their fellow Catholics in their regard. One of them writing in 1849 says that, “compared with other classes and religious bodies, Catholics attack one another with a virulence, an uncharitableness, a reckless imputation of motives and an ungentlemanly coarseness of language, which can be paralleled in no other society professing to be guided by religious principles and to be restrained by the laws of common propriety”. And twenty years later the Saturday Review called attention to this peculiar characteristic of Catholic internal controversy. “The curious in polemics”, the writer says, “will be well rewarded for his trouble if he will turn over the pages of Roman Catholic newspapers, reviews and magazines of the last fifteen or twenty years. It is clear from the extraordinary freedom with which names and persons are handled, and from the eagerness of bishops and dignitaries to enter into the lists, that an amount of pugnacity exists among Roman Catholics, which by no means finds a [sufficient] vent in onslaughts on Protestantism”.
One natural tendency of this style of polemics was to strain to the snapping point the relations between the men of the Rambler school and the authorities of the Catholic Church in England. Unfortunately the former did not always realize the importance of subordination in doubtful and difficult matters to those in whose hands the ecclesiastical government ultimately rested, or the imperative need, for the sake of peace and the welfare of the Church, whose interests after all they had really and only at heart, to avoid topics calculated to give offence or cause misunderstanding. This in the eyes of many seemed in practice to bring with it intellectual stagnation, or indeed to render impossible the treatment of any subject of real intellectual interest. Above all, in spite of the insistence of Newman that all theological questions should be avoided, some of the writers, and notably Simpson, to whom most of the letters in this volume were addressed, could not refrain sometimes at least from entering upon the domain of theology. This brilliant writer, in many ways undoubtedly one of the ablest of the converts, has thus appeared to many an enigma, to some in past days a scandal, and he is still not Infrequently treated as a scapegoat. No one who really knew him, or has been through his papers and letters, could doubt that in reality he was a true and fervent Catholic. He was daily at holy Mass, and he constantly frequented the sacraments. Whilst some even highly-placed ecclesiastics shrugged their shoulders at La Salette, Simpson simply believed in the apparition. He was exceptionally charitable to those in need. Whenever anyone, no matter who it might be, was in trouble, he was as concerned and as anxious to help as if it had been his nearest and dearest friend. In numberless ways he gave practical proof that he truly loved his neighbor as himself. He was misunderstood by many; but it is impossible not to confess that the misunderstanding was mainly the result of his own methods. His transparent sincerity, his ready forgiveness of injuries, and his freedom from all animosity against those who bullied and slandered him, seem worthy of notice here.
He was a man endowed with fair health and with an exceptional share of the good temper that arises from this; in fact there remained in him a strain of almost boyish fun and love of mischief. As Acton wrote to him in April, 1859 (Lett, xxxiv): “If Dollinger were certain that the effervescence of your conversation would not communicate itself to your ink, he would consider that nobody can give as just information and as discriminating judgments as you can on things religious and secular in England”. He had the gift—the fatal gift it may be called in the circumstances—of catching the comical side of serious matters, which made him not always a respecter of persons in authority, accustomed to look for reverence and obedience. His general robustness of temperament made him not averse to the disturbance arising from dispute, whilst, when he was seriously engaged in a contest, his brilliant intellectual endowments and mental acumen, brought by the urgency of the crisis to bear seriously on the subject in discussion, rendered him eminently displeasing as a professed antagonist. By nature he loved to "tease", but certainly not to hurt; and some ecclesiastics, especially some dignified ecclesiastics, seemed to possess a special power of evoking in him this peculiar spirit. But t is to be added that these efforts were often confined to manuscript, and were reserved for the delectation of his friends, and found their way into print less often than has sometimes been supposed. Still, in a small and narrow society, like that of the English Catholics of the middle of the last century, everything—even what was “private”—easily and quickly became public property, and much was put down to Simpson's account for which he was not rightly responsible.
Simpson on more than one occasion tried to put matters right with the authorities. In 1858, for example, Cardinal Wiseman misunderstood the action of the Rambler in printing a letter from Canon Tierney against himself, in regard to the question of Lingard’s “Cardinal’s Hat”. The expression, “we willingly print”, appended by the editor to the letter, gave Wiseman the impression that the Rambler was against him, whereas as a fact the conductors of the magazine were with him in his contention. Mr Simpson, as editor, wrote to endeavor to put matters right, and after explaining the facts, he goes on to say:
“I regret very much indeed that the idea should have got abroad that the Rambler is conducted in a spirit of personal opposition to your Eminence, and that persons should busy themselves in picking out sentences from nearly every number, which they distort and interpret after their sinister fashion to widen a breach that unfortunately exists. I protest to your Eminence, as I have had occasion to protest to others who have reported these interpretations, that they were not intended, and that any impertinent reference to your Eminence was far removed from the ideas both of the writers and of the editor.
“The Rambler has been independent from the first, and it will remain so. But the proprietors do not consider that independence means personal opposition to you. They know that you are the head and representative in England of the religion which they defend and profess, and that any systematic opposition to you, so far from being real independence, would be only a slavery to passion and to an un-Catholic idea.
“The Rambler only claims the liberty of saying what it thinks of measures and men, so far as its thoughts are not inconsistent with faith and discipline, and looks to authority to protect it in its rights against ignorance and dogmatic tyranny, which are continually on the watch to fix the brand of heresy or suspicion on things which would never have been published unless they had been previously sanctioned, or at least pronounced to be within the limits of orthodoxy, by sufficient theologians”.
As one of Simpson’s correspondents, who knew him well and had personal experience, writes to him in 1858: “I think people’s notions of you are most unjust. I fancy I have always had the credit of being more prudent, etc., than you, while really I have meant what people would have disliked much more than you have meant”. It was to Mr Simpson, however, that the “wrong-headedness” of the Rambler was at the time very generally ascribed, and during his lifetime he never attempted to shift from his shoulders the responsibility for certain writings with which he was credited, and which are still supposed to be his.
A remarkable letter, written by Dr W, G. Ward in February, 1859, Simpson, shows that, in part at least, the latter had the deep sympathy of some who were generally opposed to him. He writes : “I never expected to hear without lively pleasure of the Rambler being brought to an end, but certainly our eminent and Right Rev. Fathers have managed to do the thing in a way which effectually prevents any such feeling. I think there is hardly a convert in England who does not cordially sympathize with the articles on the Royal Commission. It is indeed remarkable from my point of view that they [the bishops] allowed every kind of questionable statement on matters of doctrine, and then come to issue on a mere matter of political prudence. The Church's doctrine may be assailed, but not our judgment on a difficult practical matter.
“Will it not be worthwhile for you to be extremely careful as to the comments you may make in public on this strange procedure? Will not two advantages be gained by such care and self-restraint?
“First: and chiefly, that the designs for your own sanctification (which God must have in sending you such a trial) will be really allowed their accomplishment.
“Secondly: that the cause itself for which you are rightly anxious will be very much the gainer. The right of a Catholic layman's independent thought is so important an object of struggle that it seems ten thousand pities if its advocate makes any obvious moral mistake."
The reference in the above letter to the “Royal Commission” and the sympathy conveyed by Ward to Simpson in regard to the articles in the Rambler upon it, require some explanation, especially as the misunderstanding created by the latter caused a change in the editorship of the magazine. Early in the session of 1858 Parliament consented to the appointment of a Royal Commission which was to review the whole system of the education of the poor in England. At the time any communication between the Government and the Catholic Church in this country for several reasons was difficult to be conducted by the bishops in person; the law did not recognize them, and made the assumption of their titles penal. Now though the law was never seriously intended, or was intended solely to strengthen the hands of an unscrupulous party leader by an appeal to the social prejudices of a vast class of Englishmen, it was not possible for the Government to open communications with the very persons whom they had put under a ban. It was found most convenient, therefore, to appoint a committee consisting partly of clergymen, partly of the most influential Catholic laymen, with a lay chairman, to be the organ of communication between the bishops and the Government, and to represent the secular interests that must always be combined with so mixed a subject as education.
Among the duties of the Catholic Poor School Committee not the least was that of watching all the relations between the Government and Catholics in matters of education. Its functions in this regard were deputed to a sub-committee the members of which, in some unexplained way, failed to notice the appointment of the Royal Commission, or to comprehend its nature when at last they awoke to the fact of its existence. They saw only a breach of faith on the part of the Government and an insidious attempt to force upon Catholics Protestant inspectors and the religious examination of Catholic children by Protestants. The bishops took alarm: they first demanded that the Commission, which had been appointed by the Queen and had already matured its plans, should be dissolved and reconstructed with the addition of the chairman of the Catholic Poor School Committee. When this was refused, they asked that a Catholic sub-commissioner might be appointed: this also was refused. Whereupon, without any more consideration of possibilities, Catholics were directed not to have any further communication whatever with the Commission or the Government. When this action became known, it caused dismay among the laity generally, and it was at this time that the two articles appeared in the Rambler for January and February, 1859. They were written by Mr. S. N. Stokes, who had been the first secretary of the Poor School Committee, and the one man to whom its organization was due, and who at this time was the Catholic School Inspector, and might be supposed to know what he was writing about, the articles gave great offence, as appearing to trench upon the episcopal prerogatives. Publicity and discussion were deprecated, and the Rambler was, in the words of Mr. Simpson quoted above, “taken out of [my] hands by Wiseman, Ullathorne and Grant”. A letter contributed by Father Formby to the Register newspaper attributes its “collapse” to its articles on the Commission, whilst Cardinal Wiseman's Lenten Pastoral clearly indicates the Rambler when he speaks of “the enemy choosing [education] for the field in which to sow the tares of division amongst Catholics”, and deplores that “any one should endeavor to lead you astray from the simple path of right and dutiful feeling on a matter so obviously belonging to ecclesiastical authority”."
When the news that the Rambler was to be continued became public, Dr Ward wrote to Simpson: "Who is to be the new editor? I hope you won't think me insensible as to the extremity of injustice with which you have been visited, because on your statement it is very extreme. I cannot help fancying the possibility of some misconception in the latter point: i.e., the breach of covenant [in the publication of pastorals]. Do you mean they are still going to issue a joint pastoral against the defunct Rambler? Things seem to me tending to a kind of union of converts against ecclesiastical authorities. I think, e.g., Newman and Faber will be brought far more together if this sort of thing goes on". And two days later, on March 3, 1859, when Simpson had informed him that Newman was going to issue the Rambler as a bimonthly, Ward writes: "I shall be most deeply interested to see how J. H. N. develops himself in the R. God grant all may turn to good: it looks bad enough as to our governors" .
Newman's editorship lasted a very short time. In point of fact he never intended that it should be anything more than a temporary expedient to get over the existing difficulty. He subsequently declared that he had made up his mind in May, 1859, to retire from the post of editor on the publication of the July number. (Purcell's Life of Cardinal Manning). In a letter to Mr Wetherell, written on July 17, 1859, he writes: "I undertook the charge in order to set it off, and intended and bargained that my continuing it should depend on a variety of circumstances. I very soon found it was impossible, and other circumstances co-operated; and the first number had not been out many weeks when I told the proprietors that the July number would be my last". Thus two numbers only came to be edited from Birmingham. In the second, the July issue, the future Cardinal's article, "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine", caused surprise and, in some quarters, consternation; it was even denounced to the Holy See, by Bishop Brown of Newport, as dangerous doctrine. Consultation with Bishop Ullathorne hastened the fulfillment of Newman’s previous resolution not to edit another number.
The Rambler was handed back to its proprietors, and with Newman’s approval and encouragement Mr Wetherell, who had had no relations with the magazine prior to Newman's editorship, became joint editor with Sir John Acton, whilst Simpson, as he himself put it, occupied the place of “an exceptionally privileged contributor”. In writing to encourage Wetherell to accept the post, Newman tells him that “to take trouble about it would be simply an act of merit, as proceeding from a wish to serve the Catholic cause in England”, and he adds : “I think you will find yourself able to give your confidence to Sir John Acton, the editor. I am sure he wishes to keep clear of what is likely to give offence to Catholics, and has no wish to make the Rambler the organ of a party”. Then, after saying that he hopes that the editors have been able to gather round them a distinguished band of writers, Newman adds that he rejoices to understand that the subjects to be treated in the magazine “are to be mainly political and literary—and religion will not be introduced except in such occasional articles and with that external treatment which characterizes the Quarterly Review”, and he concludes by declaring that in his opinion “it seemed a great point, if possible, to raise the standard of our Catholic literature. Nor do I see a better way of doing it than by a well-conducted periodical”.
It has been pointed out that when Newman retired from the editorship of the Rambler, after his very brief rule, Acton undertook the editorship with Mr Wetherell as his colleague. Simpson stood aside in theory; but in practice, owing to Acton’s occupations and rather frequent absences from England and Mr Wetherell’s disablement from time to time by pressure of official work at the War Office, he, as part-proprietor of the magazine and in the position of an “exceptionally privileged contributor”, occupied the post of locum tenens for the unavailable editor. The letters here printed show that he was consulted upon all literary matters, and wrote almost what he liked, although he afterwards complained of being sometimes left out in the practical working of the magazine under the new conditions. “I got down to lighten the coach”, he writes to Acton, "and it has driven on, leaving me behind and not quite knowing where I am”.
Newman continued to take a considerable interest in the fortunes of the magazine after his retirement. He promised to contribute to its columns, and he did so, but not to the extent that the conductors had been led to suppose, or at least had hoped. He excused himself on the plea of overwork and poor health, but said that apart from that he could not continue to write in the Rambler, if other priests did not. He had made this a condition with Acton, and had specially named the Bollandist de Buck, Gratry and the Abbé Maret, of whom the first-named only was ever an actual contributor. Moreover, as he writes on November 13, 1859, a page of the last Rambler had pained him “a good deal”. “On page 14”, he writes, "a comment or interpretation is made in two notes on the synodal letter with a “venture to suggest” and to “presume” This seems to me highly indecorous. Putting altogether aside the style of it, the mere fact of interpreting a synodal letter in a magazine, when the bishops are alive, present and in an authoritative place, to recur to, and to ask, as to their meaning, seems to me a great mistake"
Apart from this instance of what Newman considered bad form and an unjustifiable slight put upon the ecclesiastical authorities, he thought the number of the magazine excellent. “I am very much pleased with it”, he writes. “It contains a great variety of subjects, a great deal of thought and much careful composition. It is so good a number that I think it must make its way”.
As time went on, the opinion of Dr Newman as to the wrong-headedness of the line taken by the Rambler became even more definite. In 1861 he wrote to Mr Wetherell again excusing himself for standing aloof from a literary effort in which he much sympathized, and said that his health would not allow him to do so even “though I saw my way ever so clearly to approve of the steps which the proprietors of the Rambler have taken of late; but, to tell the truth, I have not been able to follow them for several months. . . I think they are in a false position; but as this is a matter which concerns them specially, I do not say more about it here”.
The magazine continued as a bi-monthly till 1862, when after the April number it was determined to transform it into a quarterly review. The advice of Dr Newman was sought before any final decision was arrived at, but he replied on March 21, 1862, to Mr Wetherell as follows: “I do not find myself in a position to be of any use in advising you and Sir John Acton on any question connected with the Rambler. The truth is, I have already expressed the conclusion to which I have come that, in spite of the great talent with which it is conducted, it lies under conditions which, as it seems to me, render the prospect of its usefulness hopeless. Not to state any other condition, I think its name has by this time such associations that the public mind cannot be fair to it. Let it change its external appearance or its constituent parts ever so much, its name gives it an identity”.
The determination to change the form of the magazine was ultimately arrived at in view of the fact that the tone of the articles published in it on the Temporal Power of the Pope was much disliked in Rome and by the authorities in England. The principles which actuated Simpson during the years of his editorship and subsequently may perhaps be best understood from a letter written by him on the Rambler question to his bishop, Dr Grant of Southwark, on April 23, 1862, when the conversion of the magazine into the Home and Foreign Review had already been determined upon. He says:
“I wish simply to try and show what were my intentions, and what are and have been my reasons for writing as I do.
“Brought up as I was, I have no other resource but literature, and being a Catholic I cannot help writing as a Catholic—in matters defined, taking the one side defined; in doubtful matters, choosing my side according to my convictions, and trying to recommend my opinion to others. I am convinced that in what I have ever written I have not gainsaid any definition of the Church, nor gone beyond the liberty permitted to all Catholics in doubtful points. If I have, I retract it and will retract it. And I am convinced also that, in spite of many blunders and follies, the general line I have taken is one that is supremely necessary for the course of truth.
“I have written in a journal which deals necessarily with public topics, and cannot handle the private spiritual concerns of individuals, and so cannot lead men to contrition and penance—a journal which is not theological, and so cannot deal directly with matters of faith. It is only left to me to try and take the side of faith by defending the truth, and by proving that a man may be sincerely Catholic and may defend his religion without suppressio veri and suggestio falsi, and to try and take the side of charity by an objective and dispassionate way of writing, which does not attack the person, but only discusses the opinion. . .
“I am certain that the cessation of the Rambler, or its change, would do great harm to the Catholic cause in England. I know, for I have experienced the thing, that the great prejudice against the Church among educated Englishmen is not a religious one against her dogmas, but an ethical and political one; they think that no Catholic can be truthful, honest or free, and that if he tries to be so publicly he is at once subject to persecution. The existence of the Rambler is more or less a reply to this prejudice; and we bear all that is said and done against us in silence rather than make any public complaint about the dirty ways in which different parties have, at different times, tried to crush us, in order not to create any scandal”.
Perhaps in the earlier days of his connection with the Rambler Simpson saw less clearly than some of his friends the direct conflict of underlying principles involved in the current disputes. But when once he had realized this fully, he withdrew from the treatment of specifically Catholic subjects and collaboration in Catholic periodicals altogether, and acted upon the view (as he wrote in January, 1875) that "our only way of speaking to the nation was in the midst of controversies like this in papers like the Times."
The Home and Foreign Review, a quarterly, first appeared in July, 1862. with Acton as editor. In the prospectus the scope of the venture in succession to the Rambler is thus explained:
“It will abstain from direct theological discussion as far as external circumstances will allow; and in dealing with those mixed questions into which theology indirectly enters, its aim will be to combine devotion to the Church with discrimination and candour in the treatment of her opponents; to reconcile freedom of inquiry with implicit faith; and to discountenance what is untenable and unreal without forgetting the tenderness due to the weak, or the reverence rightly claimed for what is sacred. Submitting without reserve to infallible authority, it will encourage a habit of manly investigation on subjects of scientific interest”.
These sentences were taken, almost verbatim, from Newman's prospectus for the bi-monthly Rambler; and the programme was practically that of the Rambler, as explained in several of the articles published in that magazine at various times. The need of some such studies and the principle upon which they were undertaken were, for example, thus stated in 1861: " In intellectual encounters the Church and the world must always use the same weapons; they must argue upon the common principles of reason, and assume the same universally accepted truths. In her battle with successive schools of philosophy she has ever fought with their arms."
The principle appears sound and simple enough; but the difficulty lies in the practical application; and especially in the concrete case of historical investigation and criticism. Already in 1857 the Rambler had uttered the word of warning: “A prophet if he wishes his predictions of the future to be credited, should be careful not to show ignorance of the present and the past; for if he talks nonsense about subjects that we know, how shall we believe him when he talks about that which we understand not?”. In 1861 the Rambler came to state the concrete case; the difficulty which was actually beginning to press at the time. “It is slovenly logic”, it said, “to argue that because Suarez, Petavius or à Lapide were good divines they were also competent authorities in physical science. If students in theology are forced to suck in the theories which ages of ignorance have foisted on Moses, when they have to work as clergymen they will have to experience in their own persons the way in which Church and Scripture have been exposed to the contempt of intelligent infidels, who, after hearing divines teaching physical falsehoods as Bible truths, have mocked at the same men when they claimed credence for Biblical faith and morals; for most people have at least Biblical knowledge enough to be aware that those who are found unfaithful in what men can see are not to be believed when they speak of heavenly things that men cannot see”.
But it was felt that really it was on the subject of history which touched ordinary living men at so many susceptible points that the battle between the two schools among Catholics in England as elsewhere would have to be fought out. It was felt by the conductors of the Rambler all the more keenly inasmuch as they perceived that the divisions then existent in the small body of English Catholics were largely due to misconceptions as to the history of their own past.
An article on “The Catholic Press”, in the number for February, 1859, explains the case exactly. It is, indeed, proper to give some extracts from it, as it reads in some respects almost like a programme of the Home and Foreign Review a few years later.
“Where our knowledge of events”, it says, “is not obscured by time, it is often quite as much distorted by partiality. . . . If [our history] were more thoroughly cleared up—the earlier period from the mists of ignorance, the later from the mists of prejudice—it would then be possible to appeal to the experience of English Catholics as a lesson for their present guidance”. But we want to know not merely the “the noble and consoling history of the persecutions" but also the less edifying "story of our gradual emancipation”. But looking round the writer found that, apart from the great work of Lingard, “if we except certain very elaborate essays in the Atlantis, there is hardly anything serious or durable in the productions of the Catholic literature of the day. Entertaining books abound; we have history made edifying, science religious, and religion exceedingly attractive”. “But a popular literature cannot stand alone; it must be fed from the overflowings from more serious books. It is incapable of progress or improvement, and, if cultivated to the exclusion of more substantial things, must inevitably degenerate. By itself it... promotes a superficial self-contented way of looking at all things, of despising difficulties, and overlooking the force of objections. It nourishes the delusion that we have only to communicate truths, not to discover them; that our knowledge needs no increase except in the number of those who participate in it. The consequence is that we have not a half a dozen books which will bear critical examination, or which we are not ashamed of before Protestants and foreigners”.
With the words “critical examination” the writer puts his finger on the chief weakness of literary effort among English Catholics in the ‘fifties; even the “best” writers were only too easily content with what looked well; and a “critical examination” was only too likely to prove a severe trial for some whose repute stood highest.
“The great object of our literary efforts”, the writer continued, “ought to be to break down the Protestant tradition"; but he was conscious that in the measure in which this was effectively performed some other cherished traditions or illusions would have to go along with it. "We need a guide, an example and an authority in literature; and this would be the great purpose which a Review could accomplish. The literary inferiority of Catholics is due to the absence of the will, not of the power to excel. The contempt and indifference with which knowledge is often regarded soon engender aversion and dread.
“There are many venerable people who still refuse to travel by steam; and there are many who cannot reconcile themselves to the alliance of the Church with that secular science which they have accustomed themselves to consider her foe.
“The necessity of waging this double contest, at once with those who are of little faith and with those who have none at all—with those who for the sake of religion fear science, and with the followers of science who despise religion— is the fruitful cause of so much scandal and vexation in the Church. In reality this pretence of antagonism is on neither side sincere. Solicitude for religion is merely a pretext for opposition to the free course of scientific research, which threatens, not the authority of the Church, but the precarious influence of individuals. The growth of knowledge cannot in the long run be detrimental to religion; but it renders impossible the usurpation of authority by teachers who defend their own false opinions under pretence of defending the faith which they dishonour by their artifices.
“Instead of acknowledging that the old conflict of doctrine must be decided by the sword of science, and that the urgency of the case requires them to mend their slovenly ways, they content themselves with denouncing those who, by refusing to share in their dishonest practices, make it the more conspicuous and the more unavailing. They impute to others the evils they themselves have caused, and do not see that the progress of error and unbelief is their own work. Partly afraid of the truth, and partly ashamed of it, they want to shelter their own ignorance by preserving that of others. But religion is not served by denying facts, or by denouncing those who proclaim them. A fire is not put out by a policeman's whistle, nor a thief taken by the cry of 'Stop thief!" Truth's not the exclusive possession of the ignorant; the sun does not shine only for the blind. Authority can only condemn error; its vitality is not destroyed until it is refuted!
“The one thing needful at the present day, when science has made such progress, and has so much perfected its methods as to be far more powerful, whether for friendship or enmity, than ever before in the history of the Church, is to accept it as her necessary and trusty ally... Nothing else can save religion from the twin dangers of unbelief and superstition; Nihil Veritas erubescit nisi solum modo abscondi—Truth is only ashamed of concealment"
Writing to the American Catholic philosopher Brownson, alter the issue of the first number of the Home and Foreign, Mr Simpson throws some not uninteresting sidelights upon the designs of the conductors of this new venture. He says:
“We have no easier task here in England than you have in America. Our old families, the Catholic aristocracy, where they cultivate literature, have been so long accustomed to go to the general English literature that they never think of looking for distinctively Catholic books or periodicals except as furniture for their oratories or chapels, and only extend a patronage half contemptuous, half eleemosynary to the efforts of those who would get up a Catholic literature. We are consequently left to the patronage of the lower orders, who are satisfied with a periodical literature of which almost any other religious body would have reason to be ashamed. Our novels are controversial or sentimental, sermons decanted into trashy stories; our social science consists in the depreciation of the intellectual and moral condition of our religious antagonists, and our policy of denunciation of parties is not in proportion to their anti-Catholic principles but to their supposed hostility to measures or combinations which are thought to be conducive to the present interests of the Church. To this democracy we have made ourselves sufficiently obnoxious in our existence as the Rambler, without altogether conquering the profound indifference of the educated persons who would agree with us if they would read us. These two facts have led us more and more to diminish the religious specialty of the Rambler and to bring it into even closer approximation to our old reviews the Quarterly and the Edinburgh. It professes to compete with them on their own ground, and even in some points to surpass them. You will see that the articles on foreign politics (‘Nationality’ and the ‘Gotha Party’) are written by experts. It is chiefly for this foreign department that we wish to secure your invaluable assistance. No man can give so philosophical a view of American politics and history, expressed in so brilliant a style, as you
The first number of the Review appeared in July, 1862, and it ceased in April, 1864; eight quarterly parts in all were published. Each number was divided into three parts: the articles, the notices of books under the title of “Contemporary Literature”, and “Current Events”. In regards to the articles in the Home and Foreign one of the most striking features is that they were mostly contributed by Catholic laymen. The list of those who were associated in the work of the new Review includes the names of Sir P. le Page Renouf, Lord Emly, Judge John O'Hagan, Professor Paley, Sullivan (of the Catholic University, Dublin), Thomas Arnold, Chester Waters, S. N. Stokes, T. F. Wetherell, J. M. Capes, Florence McCarthy, Stevenson, Riley and Edmund Dease, besides, of course, Lord Acton and Simpson. Conjointly these two last produced what in many ways was perhaps the most remarkable article in the whole eight numbers. This was the paper entitled “Ultramontanism”; it was then a subject little understood historically, and the article may very well be read with profit still.
But it was the second half of each number—the “Notices of Books”—which gives the Home and Foreign Review a special place in the history of English periodical literature. It is true that the Saturday Review gave its monthly survey of “French” and “German Literature”, but these were articles of the type of the more modern professional “reviewer”, able of course (as Mark Pattison says in another connection) to write a quantum on any subject with the least possible amount of knowledge of the subject that can colourably suffice. The notices in the Home and Foreign were the intermediate stage between the “reviews” now common and the “reviews” of the older style written in what may be called “the grand manner”; that is to say, the review style of the Quarterly reviewer when a review of a book meant an article, often written by a man who knew as much—sometimes more—of the subject than the writer of the book itself. The notices of books in the Home and Foreign differ from notices of this kind, since they are and profess to be reviews only in the modern sense; but they are differentiated from the modern “review” inasmuch as they were written by men perfectly competent to appreciate the book “noticed”. It was judged by the writer of the notice from personal and independent acquired knowledge of the subject matter for its own sake; by men abreast, not only with the latest literature of the subject, but—what was a mark of singularity in England in those days—with the latest “improvements” in the methods of criticism. The letters published in this volume are sufficient evidence of the care taken to secure the best possible results in this department of the Review. To many, even at the present day, it would probably be a revelation to turn over the pages of the “Contemporary Literature” section in this now almost forgotten Review. Here, for instance, is a quotation from the preface of one book noticed. “I have often thought of writing a history of one of our early rulers”, says the author, G. Waitz, “based entirely on the words and testimonies of our ancient, i.e., medieval historians, with references, etc., all quite in the learned way in which not a single statement should be true”; and he then goes on to explain the rationale of his own procedure, the modern critical method in treatment of texts and historical work which would stand today as then as a statement of the best work done in the domain of history. Nowhere else in England at this time was to be found such evidence of true and sound literary scholarship as in the pages of the Review; and the interest of the movement lies in the fact that the men who saw all these things, who were alive to them, who looked fairly and squarely at problems which seemed to menace the very foundations of religion, who perceived ahead the difficulties that threatened the faith, yet tried not to obscure them, pooh-pooh them, dismiss them with soft-sounding words, or turn from them in fright, were Roman Catholics. What makes the Home and Foreign Review phenomenal is that at that time, now more than forty years ago, it was more solid in the knowledge of German methods and ideas on all matters than even the Westminster Review, and that it was more up to the very latest date in all this than any other periodical then published in England. How this was so may be in part understood by the present Acton letters.
From the first Newman, anxious for the success of the Review, had his fears that the Rambler spirit would be found to taint the new undertaking, and that in spite of every good resolution to avoid the discussion of dangerous theological subjects in its pages, somehow or other this fertile source of difficulty and misunderstanding would continue to crop up. When consulted as to the proposed conversion of the Rambler into the quarterly Home and Foreign Review he had declined to advise. But he was favourable to the proposed change; and upon the appearance of the first number of the Home and Foreign he wrote to Mr Wetherell, one of the editors, expressing his amazement at “the resources, vigour and industry” which were conspicuous in the new Review. He wished it every success from his heart, and “among these successes, for which I wish and pray, and for which I have before now said Mass, of course the foremost is, that, by its soundness and prudence in treating matters quasi-religious and cognate to religion, it may obtain the approbation and confidence of our bishops”.
The second number of the Review was published in October, and almost immediately Newman wrote the following letter to Mr Wetherell:
The Home and Foreign has been sent me here [Deal], and I have read the article on the Cardinal's reply with great interest. I shall be very anxious to hear what is thought of it, and perhaps you will have the kindness to bear to hear what I think of it. I say this, knowing how easy it is to criticize anything; and feeling you have an abundance of kind friends to favour you with their remarks and advice.
“Everyone, I think, must be struck with the excellence of its tone. It is both generous and candid: generous towards the Cardinal, and candid, manly, modest and moderate as regards the Rambler. It is clear, moreover, in the exposition of its own principles, and in explaining the Ramblers position in the Catholic community. And it is well-written.
“These are great excellences. As far as it goes, it must do good, and perhaps it could not go further than it does. It may be that to have attempted more would have been to effect less; or at least to lose one way what was gained in another.
“I am disposed to except from these remarks the wording of the paragraph, pp. 514, 515, beginning ‘Learning, etc.’ I fear it will be read thus: ‘Among the writers of this eminent but short-sighted school, of course, we reckon our illustrious Cardinal. Without derogating from the great merits which we have ascribed to him, we take this opportunity of insinuating that, in his controversial writings, he has never been more than a 'brilliant rhetorician’. His knowledge is that of a 'dilettante'. He has attempted too 'wide' a range, and in consequence is always ‘superficial’. No ‘single writer’, be he who he may, could possibly write on ‘Scripture, history and physical science’, as he has done in his Roman lectures, with more than a ‘shallow versatility’, etc., etc. I heartily trust no one else will so interpret this paragraph; but I do not think it unlikely. If so, you must be prepared with your answer.
“If I go on to mention what seem to me the deficiencies of the article, it is because it may be useful to you to know the impression it made on a ‘Lector revera Benevolus’.
“I wish it had more definiteness and more warmth; definiteness to satisfy and warmth to win.
“1. What I specially mean by ‘definiteness’ is a direct answering to the charges brought against the conductors of the Rambler. The Cardinal, e.g., says that ‘the journal has shown an absence of all reserve and reverence in its treatment of persons and things deemed sacred’. Are ‘sacred persons’, e.g., saints, one of what the article calls 'principles' of religion, or 'interests'? Again: 'It has grazed even the very edges of the most perilous abysses of error'. What answer to this is it to say that the conductors of the Rambler have ever felt it their duty to keep to truth of principle in matters of science and to right in the principles of government? And so on.
“People are likely to say that the article has not met the formal imputations of the Cardinal.
“2. What I mean by want of 'warmth' is this: that theologians and ascetic writers tell us that the perfection of a Christian lies in never pleading his own excuse, except when accused of error of faith, for such error is dishonourable to God.
“Now the Cardinal has accused the Rambler of treachery to the cause of truth. I think it the duty of one who has occasion to notice this charge made against him to be indignant. To write this, with due respect to the accuser, of course requires skill, but it admits of being done, and has not been done. I fear this will leave an (unjust) impression on ill-natured readers that the writer of the article did not care much about the Cardinal's charges, and is not too much in earnest. These two defects will prevent the article, good as it is, from destroying suspicion. Perhaps you will say that suspicion cannot be destroyed”.
A few days later Newman wrote to Thomas Arnold about another article in the same number.
“Oct 11, 1862.
“Of course you have at least cast your eyes over the new number of the Home and Foreign. I am so put out with one article in it that I cannot talk of the others.
“As to the article, the ‘Apology’, I wrote a letter to Wetherell on it, but I did not send it, thinking he had plague enough. But this fresh article seems to me so objectionable as to make both apology itself and criticism upon it nugatory. Why will they go to theology?
“It is the article on Dollinger’s work; and a theological discussion is plugged in, without any occasion, on the first chapter of Genesis.
“Alas! why will not reviewers let that chapter alone? It is not contemporary literature: the Review is not a retrospective one. A grave ex-professo comment indeed, a learned, argumentative discussion upon it, this will always be worth reading; but this can hardly find place in a review. There is too much foundation work necessary, too much detail work, too much laying of bricks, of measurements, of levellings, of hewing, of joining, of plastering, in such a task to allow of its finding a place in popular literature. But let it be possible : still, the article in question does not attempt such a process. If I must describe it, I would call it a speculation edged with an insinuation, or an insinuation hoisted on a speculation.
“We are bound to interpret all Scripture by the unanimous consent of the Fathers; again, we have certain traditionary or popular ideas, true or mistaken, about the right interpretation of this chapter in particular. Is a reviewer justified in coming out with an interpretation, certainly not the popular one, nor professing to be patristical, nor claiming to be that of the author reviewed, nor appealing to any author or authors whatever, nor based on any careful body of proof, and making for itself a probable case, but consisting of a multitude of categorical assertions, hazy in their drift, and of a conclusion, not asserted, but insinuated? For myself, I am not scandalized at such ‘views’, as I should call them, but incredulus odi. You will think my remarks, enclosed, [to Wetherell] fierce, but I have a lifelong disgust at speculations, as opposed to carefully argued theories or doctrines; but in the case of readers in general, I think the mildest criticism will be, ‘What is it all about?’ with an uncomfortable suspicion as to its intended meaning. Of course this is but my opinion; it will be a great relief to me to find myself mistaken”.
Later on again, on Mr Wetherell writing to explain matters as they seemed to him, Newman replied:
“Nov. 8, 1862.
“You must bear with me, if I express my feeling that, in your letter of yesterday, you take the article on the translation of Dollinger too easily. I don’t care at all whether it has or has not attracted general attention, because I think it is in itself bad. Had I read it first, I never should have been so delicate about the wording, and the sending to you, of my remarks on your article on the Cardinal. It seems to me to renew the worst faults of the Rambler, and, as far as one article goes, justifies enemies in saying that the Home and Foreign is, what its original prospectus seemed to promise, nothing else than the Rambler under a new name.
“The article in question (1) is a theological article; (2) is one of those off-hand ipse dixit theorizings on a theological subject, which are now so common in Protestant reviews; (3) it simply goes out of its way to commit this grave offence; (4) it insinuates its conclusions when it ought either to keep silence or to speak out.
“I agree with you that an editor is not bound to any deep acquaintance with the subject of a particular article; but surely he is severely bound that its spirit, tone and effect should be good. For myself I can only say, that if this article is to be a sample of the Home and Foreign, I hope the Review and I may henceforth be 'better strangers.
“Since I made my remarks on it, which Sir John Acton received from Arnold, our Bishop's letter has appeared. I have written to Sir John upon the subject of it.
“It is a very different letter from the Cardinal's; but, little as I liked his attack upon the Home and Foreign, you will find, on looking at my last letter a second time, that I by no means gave an unqualified approbation to your reply to it”.
In April, 1864, the directors of the Home and Foreign Review put an end to its existence. Strange misconceptions have existed as to the termination of what all must consider as at least one of the most brilliant literary Reviews of the last century. Most people apparently are under the impression that it was condemned by the authorities at Rome at the instance of the English ecclesiastics, and ceased in virtue of obedience to that pronouncement. The facts are put forth clearly and calmly by Lord Acton at the close of an article in the last number, entitled “Conflicts with Rome”. In this paper he stated the history of the fall of Lamennais and the then recent condemnation of Frohschammer, and then went on to discuss a Brief of Pope Pius IX issued on December 21, 1863, relative to the Munich Congress of that year. “Besides the censure of the doctrines of Frohschammer and the approbation given to the acts of the Munich Congress, the Brief”, he says, “contains passages of deeper and more general import, not directly touching the action of the German divines, but having an important bearing on the position of this Review”.
Then after pointing out that any disposition to find fault with scholastic theology was blamed by the Brief, Lord Acton continues:
“Catholic writers are not bound only by those decisions of the infallible Church which regard articles of faith; they must also submit to the theological decisions of the Roman Congregations and the opinions that are commonly received in the schools. And it is wrong, though not heretical, to reject these decisions or opinions. No Catholic can contemplate without alarm the evil that would be caused by a Catholic journal persistently labouring to thwart the published will of the Holy See. The conductors of the Review refuse to take upon themselves the responsibility of such a position. And if it were accepted, the Review would represent no section of Catholics”. They consequently determined to print the text of the Papal Brief upon which they felt compelled to act, and to discontinue the Review with the number then published.
Mr Wetherell, writing to the Pilot, July 19, 1902, thus states the facts in regard to the cessation of the Review: “In December, 1863, Pius IX addressed a Brief to the Archbishop of Munich on the subject of the Munich Congress of the previous September. No part of the Brief applied distinctly to the Home and Foreign Review; and the letter of t could be interpreted in a sense consistent with the habitual language of the Review. Formally, therefore, we were not under any obligation to take note of it at all. But we considered it more respectful to the Holy See, more serviceable to the principles of the Review, and more accordant with the spirit in which it had been conducted to recognize openly the existence of the Brief and to interpret the words of the Pope as they were really meant. The Brief expressed with unusual emphasis the adverse opinion of Rome on certain principles for the support of which the Review existed. As we were not prepared to surrender these principles, it was evident that the continuance of the Review would result, sooner or later, in a direct conflict with Rome. Such a conflict, however it might end, must necessarily weaken the position of authority and wound the peace of the Church; and we had to consider whether our principles could derive from it any advantage sufficient to counterbalance those grave evils. Our conclusion and the grounds of it were stated by Lord Acton in an article on ‘Conflicts with Rome’ in the final number of the Review, April. 1864. He wrote the main body of the article on behalf of himself and his colleagues, and the three last paragraphs of it in his own particular character of proprietor of the Review”.
Before leaving this subject it is due to the memory of Sir P. le Page Renouf to say a word as to the peculiar relations he had in the conduct of the Review. From its beginning he was one of its regular and most important contributors, and had always been consulted on matters connected with oriental and early Christian literature. He contributed articles on “The Earliest Epochs of Authentic Chronology”, “Orientalism and Early Christianity”, and on Dr Smith’s “Dictionary of the Bible”, as well as many important reviews of books. In 1863 he became additional editor of the Home and Foreign with Mr Wetherell, but shortly afterwards he was appointed to be an Inspector of Schools, and the work of this Government office disabled him for editorial work, though he remained a constant contributor until the Review ceased in 1864.
Finally, in regard to the Home and Foreign Review it may be of interest to recall the verdict passed upon it by that master critic, Mathew Arnold, in his essay on “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time”. Of this Review he says: “Perhaps in no organ of criticism in this country was there so much knowledge, so much play of mind”.
Three years later, in 1867, Mr Wetherell proposed another venture, in which Acton, Simpson, Renouf and almost all the contributors of the Home and Foreign Review, as well as many other writers, took part. This time it took the form of a high-class weekly journal, which after considerable discussion it was agreed to call the Chronicle, for which the present Right Hon. Sir Roland Blennerhasset found the necessary capital. Before its appearance in the spring of 1867, the fact transpired, and the Pall Mall Gazette announced the forthcoming paper as a “Roman Catholic organ”. This was not in any sense true, as it had been specially determined that it should be the organ of no religious party, and many of the writers had joined on that condition. The editor was Mr Wetherell, but the sub-editor, Mr Lathbury, was a member of the Established Church, and among the writers many were non-Catholics. The circumstances which had caused the cessation of the Home and Foreign were obviously equally valid against the establishment of another scientific periodical claiming to represent Catholicism. The intention of the promoters and those who were acting with him was that the Chronicle should be a secular, not a religious, paper. A memorandum written at the time by Mr Wetherell as editor states its position clearly: "Of course, it will have a religion, but as the Saturday Review has; and its religion will be Catholic. The fact that it is Catholic may still strike outsiders as one of its features; but it does not so present itself to us. We are not founding a representative Catholic organ; we are not trying to propagate Catholicism, though we may have our own conviction as to the ultimate consequences of following a scientific method. We are merely pursuing, in company with a large number of Protestants, independent investigations in politics, literature, natural science, art, etc. We assume the whole Catholic dogma to be true, just as the Saturday Review assumes some of it to be true and some untrue. But we are not going to discuss it any more than the Saturday Review does. And we think we have as good a right to carry on a secular paper from our point of view as Protestants have from theirs.
“The distinctive points of the paper, as we conceive them, are these: (1) That it will have singularly good information on foreign affairs, being in immediate relations with those who are behind the scenes in politics in the most important countries of Europe. (2) That its politics will be frankly and continuously liberal; that it will give as hearty a support as is compatible with complete independence of judgment and action to the Liberal party in Parliament; and that within the liberal party itself it will go for the Gladstone rather than the Lowe, or Bright, or Palmerston ideas. (3) That it will have singularly good information about the state of feeling amongst the different sections of Irishmen, of which scarcely anything is really known in this country, and that it will devote great attention to Irish questions. (4) That it will be cosmopolitan in its review of the literature of the day. (5) That it will be written by men who only write on the subjects which they have specially studied; not by clever fellows who are indifferent what subject they take up, and know nothing thoroughly. (6) That it will be perfectly impartial in all its criticisms, caring more at all times for the accuracy of its facts and the soundness of its reasoning than for any 'cause' whatever”.
It is only necessary to add that this ambitious programme was faithfully carried out during the brief existence of the paper. It lasted unfortunately only ten months, but in that period it produced much that deserves even now to be read for the critical principles enunciated and as a model of the scientific methods which ought to be followed in all investigations. The letters published in this volume for 1867 were written by Lord Acton to the editor, Mr Wetherell, and will afford abundant evidence of the care taken to obtain the best information possible on foreign affairs. The letters written by Lord Acton from Rome are of exceptional interest, and although much of what’s contained in them was used at the time in the columns of the Chronicle, a great deal has never seen the light, and even what found its way into print is now buried in a newspaper, the existence of which is now well-nigh forgotten.
The life of the brilliant Chronicle was brief, and on receiving the news of its impending cessation Mr Gladstone wrote to Mr Wetherel on February 5, 1868:
“I am truly concerned to receive the intelligence you send me, but I am not so much surprised as sorry. I have been indeed astonished at the amount whether of talent, of learning, or of tact exhibited in the Chronicle, and I am not surprised that those who have to build and lack materials of their own should supply themselves from your stores, as the Roman nobles did from the walls of the Coliseum. But a strain such as the Chronicle was in its political and still more in its non-political articles could hardly, I have often feared, be reached by the mass of readers. Had you allowed yourself the licence of gossip, of scandal and even of calumny which some journals employ, your merits might have been endured for the sake of your vices. But this you did not do. Your religious ground, too, while objectively broad was subjectively narrow. I mean that few in these days would thoroughly appreciate it”.
In 1869 the conduct of the North British Review was placed in the hands of Mr Wetherell. This quarterly had been established twenty-five years previously, during the Scottish Kirk disputes, and was the secular organ of the Free Kirk party. During the 'fifties it had been a vigorous rival of the Edinburgh or Quarterly, but had declined in the following decade. In the summer of 1869, at the suggestion of Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff its owners and proprietors approached Mr Wetherell, who undertook, as far as possible, to gather round him once more the band of writers who had been associated with him in the Home and Foreign and the Chronicle. He had no difficulty in securing their adhesion to the new scheme. Acton and Simpson threw themselves into it with all their literary energy, and Acton scoured Europe to obtain the services of the most capable men in every country to write on the special subjects they had made their own. With the July number, which was the last under the old editorship, a prospectus was issued, written by Mr Wetherell, and designed apparently to prepare subscribers for the revolutionary completeness of the impending change and at the same time to allay the misgivings of the Kirk. In the first number which appeared under Mr Wetherell’s editorship, in October, 1869, Acton contributed two articles, one on “The Massacre of St Bartholomew” and the other on “The Pope and the Council”. During the brief career of this quarterly review, which finished with the January number of 1871, when Mr Wetherell’s breakdown in health brought the enterprise to a close, Acton wrote two more lengthy articles, and contributed to the section entitled “Contemporary Literature”, which was identical in character with the corresponding section in the Home and Foreign and the Chronicle, over a hundred carefully considered reviews of books in English, German, French and Italian.
Owing to ill-health and the pressure of starting the Review, Mr Wetherell has been unable to keep Newman well informed about the negotiations. On the appearance of the first number he sent Newman a copy and received the following few words in return -
“November 7, 1869.
“Thank you for the copy of your Review. It is exceedingly able and careful, and the articles on 'Gladstone', 'Saint Bartholomew' and 'Logic' are especially good. It has, to me, only one fault, but a serious one.
“I don't want a review to be religious, or even to profess Catholicity; but did not I know the quarter whence it came, I should think it written by liberal Scotchmen, religious in a way, who looked at the Church as a fiction of past time”.
A year later, when he had come to know more of the Review and its circumstances, as a postscript to a letter on another matter Newman says: “The North British is wonderful in point of matter and conscientious hard work. I wish, for its influence, it had some leaven of lighter stuff”.
It has been almost necessary to write at some length about the four literary undertakings in which Acton was concerned in order to appreciate the letters contained in this volume, the great part of which have to do with these enterprises. We may now briefly consider the letters themselves and note one or two points which seem to stand out prominently in them.
Most of the letters here printed relate to the conduct of the Rambler, of which, as already pointed out, Acton became part proprietor and joint-editor in 1858. It is impossible to turn over these communications with Simpson without being impressed, not only with the extent of Acton's reading at the age of four-and- twenty, when most people are but beginning their studies, but even more by the care taken in his editorial capacity to obtain the best possible information on literary and political subjects, and to make the Rambler all that in his opinion such a magazine should be. It was not his design to make it the organ of any party, nor merely to “reproduce the ideas” of others; but his desire was to find in all countries of Europe “men who think for themselves and are not slaves to tradition and authority” to write with knowledge on the subjects which they have made their own.
During the whole of his connection both with the Rambler and with the other literary ventures that followed it, Acton showed himself to be in touch with all the foremost writers and workers both in England and in the various countries of Europe. When the notion of establishing the Chronicle was being mooted by Mr Wetherell, Acton threw himself into the work of preparation. He wrote, whilst on a journey to Rome and consequently out of the abundance of his knowledge, long lists of the chief continental writers who might be incited to co-operate. These are compiled with a wealth of biographical and bibliographical detail which shows .in what these writers were to be considered as first-hand authorities, and why they should be induced to help in the new venture. The lists themselves prove Acton's intimate acquaintance with all that was best in the way of learning and talent in Europe. Unfortunately, for reasons of space, it has been found impossible, at the last moment, to include in this volume these lists, which had been placed at my disposal by Mr Wetherell.
One of the objects Acton had in view in throwing himself so thoroughly into the work of the Rambler was to further what he called “the political education” of Catholics. In his first letter to Simpson he sketched out a series of articles by which this night be accomplished; but, unfortunately, the entire scheme of the articles was never carried out. In order to review important works more thoroughly Acton devised a plan of “associated criticism”, in which the work was to be considered by three or four readers, who then compared their impressions and conclusions before the final criticism was written by one of them. This plan was first tried by the writers in the Rambler in the ease of Buckle’s History of Civilization in England, the first volume of which was published in March, 1858. Acton’s somewhat severe opinion of this work may be seen in Letters IV and V, and the results of the “association” in reviewing in two articles in the Rambler, the first by Simpson in July, 1858, and the second by Acton in the August number.
To many people some of the most interesting of the letters here printed will be those that deal, in one way or another, with the question of education. Letter XXVI, for example, contains much that is of interest even after this lapse of time. In it Acton expounds what “science” and scientific methods of study add to the value even of theology. He had drawn out something of this view in an article in the Rambler of January, 1859, as he considered it almost an "unknown idea amongst us in England". He ends this letter by a declaration : “I think our studies ought to be all but purposeless. They want to be pursued with chastity like mathematics. This, at least, is my profession of faith”.
One feature in these letters, which will probably seem strange to those who have been accustomed to see illustrated in Acton a spirit of aggression against ecclesiastical authority, is the manifestation of his desire to avoid quarrels and to soften any expressions likely to give offence. He even wished to abstain altogether from the publication of letters and articles likely to be misunderstood by the ecclesiastical authorities, and he agreed with Newman as to the necessity of avoiding theological subjects. Writing to Simpson in August, 1859 (Letter XLII), he speaks of a “proposed letter on the composition of the Catholic body”, and urges that it should be “gently done”, and in several places in these letters this same spirit is clearly manifested.
Throughout this series of letters Acton ever shows himself the true scholar in his readiness to help others in their studies to the full extent of his powers. For this he would take any necessary trouble, and constant offers are made by him to lend the books that were needed for the study of some particular subject; and for this end packets of volumes arc frequently spoken of as having been dispatched from Aldenham. Moreover, in reply to questions addressed to him, he was always prepared to take up his pen, to criticize, to give reasons, to suggest additions, and to amend, sometimes to a great extent, and in a way that, allowing for his great knowledge of sources, must have cost him much time and labour. In two of the letters here printed—Letters XLV and LVII— he suggests to Simpson the need of having lighter articles, and, asking him to write them, proposes not merely the titles—“A Plea for Bores” and “The Philosopher’s Stone”—but sketches an idea of the treatment and furnishes some considerable number of illustrations. These ideas were worked up by Simpson into the form in which they appear in the pages of the magazine.
Besides the literary side of the Rambler, Home and Foreign, etc., in which Acton was perhaps chiefly interested, he took no less care that the best information might be obtained for the political department. Whilst abroad, he devoted much of his time to studying the trend of European politics, and the letters he sent back to England are full of first-hand information. Although much of this was utilized at the time in the magazines and reviews, it is interesting to read once more the impressions made upon so acute an observer of the events which were happening in Austria, Germany and Italy fifty years ago, and to see how he obtained his information. In this regard, his views about “Austria and Prussia” and the then possible “confederation of German States” may be read with advantage by all who desire to understand the history of those countries. The two letters represent the opinions current at the time, tie “Roman Question”, raised in 1860, is treated of in several of the letters, not only because of the urgency of the case at the time, but in regard to the works of Dollinger and Dr Manning, which both appeared at this period, and which were reviewed in the pages of the Rambler. Acton’s “proposed solution of the Roman question” (took for granted that it was practically certain that the Pope would have to leave Rome for good, and that, being obliged to seek a refuge in some other country, he might probably find a fitting position in Bavaria. In this, as in many of the forecasts of the possible issue of events made at the time, Acton was, of course, wrong; but this does not diminish the interest which the representation of the events possesses for the student of contemporary history.
At the end of this volume, a few letters not belonging to the periods of Acton's literary undertakings are printed, as they possess much intrinsic interest. It has generally been supposed that both Simpson and Acton were in some way concerned with Mr Gladstone’s attack on the Vatican Decrees in 1874. The writer of Simpson's biographical notice in the Dictionary of National Biography, for example, says: “When Mr Gladstone was writing his treatise on ‘Vaticanism’, Simpson was constantly at his side, and the curious learning of that famous pamphlet is thus largely accounted for”. The letter from Acton to Simpson, dated November 4, 1874, here printed, proves that Acton at least, and almost certainly Simpson, had no notion that Gladstone had any such pamphlet in preparation. So far from helping in this, Acton declares that he did everything in his power to prevent the publication, but found Gladstone deaf “to all political, spiritual and other obvious arguments against it”.
Amongst these letters will also be found several dealing with Acton's own attitude towards the Vatican Decrees and the Council generally. It would seem from them that whatever position he had taken in regard to the question of Papal Infallibility before the promulgation of the dogma, after the decision he accepted the Council and its decrees as he did those of every other Council. The reply made to Archbishop Manning by Acton, which was drafted for him by Simpson, seems to answer for both of them.
It remains only to record my thanks to those who have enabled me to publish these papers. In the first place I am indebted to my old friend. Mr William Simpson, for having placed his uncle's papers at my disposition, and to Lord Acton, for having consented so readily to the publication of his father's letters. Then I am greatly indebted to Mr Wetherell not only for letting me have the Acton letter's in his possession, and the Newman letters addressed to him, to choose from, but for reading and criticizing my Introduction, and giving me information about the literary enterprises with which he was so closely concerned. To Miss F. M. Capes I owe permission to print the letters addressed to her father, which are to be found in this Introduction; and, lastly, I am much indebted to the Superior and Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory for leave to print all the Newman letters which are here published for the first time.
Theological essays : The rule of faith -- The Sonship of Christ -- The decrees of God -- The early history of Pelagianism -- Original Sin -- The doctrine of imputation -- The doctrine of imputation -- The doctrine of imputation -- Melanchthon on the nature of Sin -- Doctrines of the early Socinians -- The power of contrary choice -- The inability of sinners -- The new divinity tried -- Beman on the Atonement -- Sacerdotal absolution -- Regeneration -- Sanctification -- Transubstantiation -- Sunday mails -- Bodily effects of religious excitement -- The History of theology in the eighteenth century / by Professor Tholuck of Halle -- Transcendentalism -- On cause and effect
St. Paul & Protestantism : with an essay on Puritanism & the Church of England ; and Last essays on church & religion - Arnold, Matthew
Faith and peace : being some answers to some of the "Essays and reviews" : Supremacy of Scripture : an examination into the principles and statements advanced in the essay on the education of the world / by William Edward Jelf. -- The national church : an answer to an essay on "The national church" by Henry Bristow Wilson / by James Wayland Joyce. -- Authority of Scripture : an examination into the principles and statements advanced in Professor Jowett's essay on the interpretation of Scripture / by James Fendall. -- On miracles : an examination of the remarks of Mr. Baden Powell on the study of the evidences of Christianity contained in the volume entitled "Essays and reviews" / by William Lee. -- The sacred record of creation vindicated & explained : in answer to the essay "On the Mosaic cosmogony" ... / by Edgar Huxtable
Essays upon some controverted questions - Huxley, Thomas Henry : The rise and progress of palæontology.--The interpreters of Genesis and the interpreters of nature.--Mr. Gladstone and Genesis.--Note on the proper sense of the "Mosaic" narrative of the creation.--The evolution of theology: an anthropological study.--Science and morals.--Scientific and pseudo-scientific realism.--Science and pseudo-science.--An Episcopal trilogy.--Agnosticism.--The value of witness to the miraculous.--Agnosticism: a rejoinder.--Agnosticism and Christianity.--The lights of the church and the light of science.--The keepers of the herd of swine.--Illustrations of Mr. Gladstone's controversial methods.--Hasisadra's adventure
Catholic union : essays towards a church of the future as the organization of philanthropy - Newman, Francis William,
Roman Catholic and Protestant Bibles compared : the Gould prize essays - Jacobus, Melancthon Williams : Whitley, W.T. Catholic and Protestant versions of the Bible. First prize essay. -- Beard, G.H. The history of the Catholic English and the American revised versions of the Bible. Second prize essay. -- Dalton, C.B. The origin and history of the version of the Bible authorized by the Roman Catholic church, and of the American revised version. Third prize essay.
The evolution of world-peace; essays - Marvin, Francis Sydney : I. Introductory: The appeal to history, by F.S. Marvin.- II. Alexander and Hellenism, by Arnold Toynbee and F.S. Marvin.- III. The work of Rome, by Sir Paul Vinogradoff.- IV. Innocent the Third and the mediaeval Church, by H.W.C. Davis.- V. Grotius and international law, by G.N. Clark.- VI. The French revolution as a world force, by G.P. Gooch.- VII. The congress of Vienna, by C.R. Beazley.- VIII. the nineteenth century, by F.S. Marvin.- IX. The League of nations in being, by Frederick Whelen.- X. An apology for a world Utopia, by H.G. Wells.- XI. The teaching of history and world peace, by Eileen Power