Newman and his Contemporaries

Published by T & T Clark Bloomsbury  |  June, 2011  |  530 Pages  |  $32.95   Purchase

Book Précis

No one in nineteenth-century England had a more varied circle of friends and contacts than John Henry Newman (1801-1890), the priest, theologian, educator, philosopher, poet and writer, who began his career as an Anglican, converted to Catholicism and ended his days a Cardinal. That he was also a leading member of the Oxford Movement, brought the Oratory of St. Philip to England, founded the Catholic University in Dublin and corresponded with men and women from all backgrounds from around the world made him a figure of enormous interest to his contemporaries. In this study of Newman's personal influence, Edward Short looks closely at some of Newman's relations with his contemporaries to show how this prophetic thinker drew on his personal relationships to develop his many insights into faith and life. Some of the contemporaries covered in Newman and His Contemporaries include John Keble, Edward Pusey, Emily Bowles, William Gladstone, Matthew Arnold, Catherine and William Froude, Richard Holt Hutton, Dean Church, Lady Chatterton, Charles Kingsley, Lady Georgiana Fullerton, Cardinal Manning, F.D. Maurice, Catherine Ward, and William Makepeace Thackeray. Based on a careful reading of Newman's correspondence, the book offers a fresh look at an extraordinary figure whose work continues to influence our own contemporaries.

Reviews of Newman and his Contemporaries

"Thank goodness for Edward Short's work.  Victorianists and scholars of late modern religion and culture will enjoy every page of Newman and his Contemporaries.Dwight A. Lindley, III, Christianity and Literature

"Edward Short's Newman and His Contemporaries is that most intellectually satisfying phenomenon; a deeply-researched, beautifully-written and important book that answers all the questions it sets itself, and all that any reader may also ask. The Oxford Movement might not engage many people today, but in Victorian England it was an absolutely revolutionary concept and the author blows pure oxygen onto its almost-dead embers in recreating its crises and controversies. Moreover, the reader doesn't need to know anything about Tractarianism to enjoy the perceptive and witty essays covering the Cardinal's relations with such figures as Gladstone, Thackeray, Arnold, Clough and the Froudes."   Andrew Roberts, BBC History Magazine Books of the Year 2011 

"Newman and His Contemporaries is like a Victorian Dance to the Music of Time, except the characters are all real historical figures. Social historians, Spectator readers, literate people in general, young BXVI generation Catholics and those old enough to finish the sentence Introibo ad Altare Dei . . . will love it. This is a book to be taken on a summer holiday and read under a palm tree with a gin and tonic. Social histories can be boring and sag in the middle, but this one isn't. It's a soufflé that doesn't flop."   Tracey Rowland, Dean and Professor of Political Philosophy and Continental Theology at the John Paul II Institute (Melbourne) and author of Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI

"In this well-researched book, Edward Short shows how Newman, far from being the self-absorbed introvert as some have claimed, had a wide circle of friends who benefited from his extraordinary powers of empathy. Newman and his Contemporaries is a useful introduction to this essential quality of the man and will send readers back not only to Newman's published works but to his wonderful letters."   Ian Ker, author of John Henry Newman: A Biography (1988)

"Another Newman book? Well, yes, and a particularly fine one that explores Newman's relationships with the great ecclesiastical, literary, political, and journalistic figures of his time. Edward Short's close reading of Newman's vast correspondence also demonstrates just how many of our post-Vatican II arguments were anticipated in the 19th century among Newman and his interlocutors."   George Weigel, Christmas Books for 2011

"Newman and his Contemporaries is a charming blend of erudition, lively commentary and judicious selection of sources. Eavesdropping on heart-to-heart conversations with novelists and social critics, politicians and journalists, scientists and clergymen, Edward Short has succeeded in bringing alive some of Newman's most engaging correspondence and setting it within its proper historical framework. The Newman that emerges from this study confronts the modern reader on the burning issues of the times - both his times and ours - and captivates us by his subtlety of mind, his exquisite prose style and his genius for friendship."   Paul Shrimpton, Magdalen College School (Oxford), and author of A Catholic Eton? Newman's Oratory School (2005)

"Newman and his Contemporaries sets out to place Newman in context and in dialogue with a range of his contemporaries. Newman famously said that ‘a man's life is in his letters.' The 30 or so volumes of Newman's Letters and Diaries provide a significant quarry for Short's exploration. . . . In its rich citations from Newman's correspondence Newman and his Contemporaries reminds us of Newman's skill as a pastoral theologian and theological apologist... Newman saw that there were hard questions for Anglicans to answer, with which we need to continue to wrestle-about authority, about the right discernment of development, and, fundamentally, about the nature of the Church. If this book provokes us to do this, then it will have achieved one of its purposes."   Geoffrey Rowell, Church Times

Newman and His Contemporaries "is the best study of Newman since Ian Ker's magisterial biography. It complements the latter work by showing Newman through the eyes of his contemporaries, from the perspective of his relations with them... The text of every chapter is chock full of engaging anecdotes and witty commentary. We are introduced to a panorama of life among an educated class of English-speaking people for whom religion was a matter of passionate concern. Best of all, this book introduces us to a type of holiness that manifests itself uniquely in the form of friendship."   Carleton P. Jones, OP, First Things

"Edward Short puts us in contact with Newman's opinions and decisions, but does so via a well-chosen selection of his contemporaries. The result is a fresh reading of, and insight into, the dramatic character of Blessed John Henry Newman's eventful, even iconic, life. . . . Newman and His Contemporaries can be highly recommended to both Newman specialists and Newman beginners."   Thomas Norris, author of Newman for Today, in the Irish Theological Quarterly

"This formidably researched and carefully organized book provides a valuable approach to a much-covered subject from a novel angle... The author skilfully moves . . . from John Keble, Edward Pusey, the family of Hurrell Froude (who died in his thirties) . . . [to] Wellington, Peel, Melbourne, Palmerston, Disraeli, and Gladstone, almost 60 years of prime ministers. . . . It is interesting to read of the Duke of Wellington, not someone I ever thought was much exercised about theological fineries . . . accusing the ‘shopkeepers' whom he considered the beneficiaries of the First Reform Act, of being "Socinians and atheists." Then, again, here Charlotte Bronte describes . . . the rather bonhomous . . . Cardinal Wiseman [as] ‘swimming into the room, smiling, simpering, and bowing like a fat old lady . . . the picture of a sleek hypocrite.' When the Iron Duke is roaring about Socinians and a Bronte is raving like this, the glories of the Victorian era were not as august and tranquil as is generally thought. . . . This is a very rigorous and readable account of the personal impact of one of modern England's greatest intellectuals on a fascinating range of his contemporaries, and . . . a valuable addition to the Newman literature."   Conrad Black, The Catholic Herald

"This book . . . with its rich cast-list and broad sweep, will be a valued addition to the libraries not only of the Newmaniacs but of anyone who takes the 19th century seriously and who wishes to explore its often alien ideas and characters."   A. N. Wilson, The Spectator

Newman and His Contemporaries "offers a fresh voice to the field by . . . looking at the impact that Blessed Newman had upon a number of his contemporaries. . . . Perhaps most impressively, Short demonstrates an intimate familiarity with the relevant literature, navigating with ease both Newman's writings as well as the published works and personal correspondence of Newman's interlocutors. . . . His prose is exceedingly readable. . . . Overall, I found Short's monograph to be both impressive and also accessible."   Saint Louis University, Catholic Book Reviews

"Novelists, social critics, politicians and journalists, scientists and clergymen are all well-represented. . . . The numerous photographs which illustrate the book help to bring its many characters to life. Highly recommended!"   Newsletter of the Friends of Cardinal Newman

"Edward Short’s Newman and His Contemporaries reminds us what a central figure Cardinal Newman was to Victorian intellectual and cultural life, whose relations with Gladstone, Thackeray, Matthew Arnold, his American friends, and many others are told with scholarship and wit in this highly engaging book."   Newsweek/Daily Beast Writers' Favorite Books of 2011

"For those minded to observe the Christmas season on a more ecclesiastical note, I recommend Edward Short's Newman and his Contemporaries, a familiar subject approached from a novel angle. . . . The fear that the British Victorian gentry and aristocracy had of the intellectual seduction of Rome, especially when the temptation was limned out by Newman in all his rigor, brilliance, [and] charm is very striking."   American Spectator, Christmas Books, 2011

"Edward Short's fine book is closely argued, well researched, and very readable."   Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal

“Edward Short has both an in-depth knowledge of Newman's life and thought, as well as an enviable familiarity with the writings of many of Newman's contemporaries. . . . The wide-ranging discussions in this book are both fascinating and thought-provoking. Readers can look forward to Short's promised sequel on Newman and his family."   The Catholic Historical Review

"Short has limited his field of reference to the Victorian intellectual world . . . but within that world he moves with great facility and aplomb, drawing out the remarkable - and remarkably complicated - strands of friendship that made the fabric of John Henry Newman's long nineteenth-century life. . . . Thus, Newman and his Contemporaries successfully returns one of the great ninetenth-century public intellectuals to his natural habitat. . . . Thank goodness, then, for Edward Short's work. Victorianists and scholars of late-modern religion and culture will enjoy every page of Newman and his Contemporaries.”   Dwight A. Lindley, III, in Christianity and Literature

". . . interesting and massive. . . . Admirers of Ian Ker's John Henry Newman: A Biography should find Short's book a useful complement to that study.  Despite its 403 pages of dense small print, the main text reads easily and is full of rich material from Newman's Letters and Diaries and many other sources.  It illuminates well-known contemporaries of Newman and helpfully introduces others who are less well-known . . . an excellent book which belongs in every serious library."   Walter E. Conn, Villanova University, Horizons

Newman and his Contemporaries "includes an excellent 'Select Bibliographical Index,' which briefly identifies hundreds of historical figures with whom Newman interacted.  Over a hundred pages of notes complete this very well written work.  The book is delightfully readable...  Short's book deserves a place in all academic libraries as well as personal and parish collections."   Arnold Rzepecki, Catholic Library World

“Short interweaves excerpts from Newman’s letters with passages from a whole range of his writings and sets them all in context. In so doing, he gives his readers a real sense of the lived character . . . of Newman’s thought . . . of the fact that Newman’s theology was firmly rooted in experience and inspired by a pastoral solicitude for individuals in very specific circumstances... One of the greatest merits of this book (in addition to the author’s lively style) is Short’s extensive use of Newman’s correspondence, a voluminous collection of letters that would otherwise remain largely unknown except to dedicated researchers. . . . Short allows the sources to speak for themselves and he presents them in a wonderfully readable and even entertaining fashion while managing, at the same time, to introduce his readers to the essential elements of Newman’s theology. . . . Eminently readable and enlightening.”   Terrence Merrigan, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, Recusant History

"It is a joy to hear Newman’s characteristic voice speaking through such a mass of adroitly chosen quotations and contextual material from a wide range of writings by other great Victorians, in a work which is easily and agreeably written and a pleasure to read. . . . there is much here to value in this sympathetic and enlightening account of Newman and his world."   Sheridan Gilley, Victorian Studies

"As a seminarian, I found Newman and his Contemporaries a formative read. Throughout the book, Newman is revealed to have been a concerned pastor, sharing with his flock the heart of the Good Shepherd, who truly cares for his sheep . . . . He desired to serve God at all times and with all of his gifts that God had bestowed on him. . . . I recommend Newman and his Contemporaries to fellow seminarians and priests especially, as well as to all who desire to get to know Newman for the first time or to deepen their knowledge of him."   Brother Luke J. Leighton, C.F.R., Dunwoodie Review

"Ian Ker once observed that a new frontier awaits those in Newman studies who look at Newman’s influence on other writers.  Edward Short may not cite Ker’s observation, but in Newman and his Contemporaries he answers the call splendidly.  Not an academic but an old-fashioned man of letters, Short, in his characteristically literate and engaging way, shows how Newman remained an intellectual touchstone for a who’s who of the nineteenth century. . . . " Newman and his Contemporaries, “the stated goal of which is ‘hagiography without panegyric,’ succeeds marvelously. . . ." David Deavel, Gilbert

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Coleridge, Sara.  Untitled . 1873-4. Photograph. Birmingham Oratory, England.

Coleridge, Sara. Untitled. 1873-4. Photograph. Birmingham Oratory, England.