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Newman and his Family

Published by T & T Clark Bloomsbury  |  August, 2013  |  425 Pages  |  $35.95   Purchase

Book Précis

A study in family history and influence, Newman and his Family looks at how John Henry Newman (1801-90), the priest, educator, theologian, philosopher, novelist, poet and satirist both learned from and was transformed by his parents and his brothers and sisters.  The son of a banker in the City of London and a Huguenot mother whose family were famous and innovative paper makers and printers, Newman was the eldest of six children, two boys and three girls--Charles, Harriett, Frank, Jemima and Mary. While the family was reared Anglican, Charles abandoned Christianity for Owenite Socialism and Frank ended his days a Unitarian.  Although Mary died young, she had a profound influence on her brother, as did Harriett, who could never reconcile herself to her brother’s conversion.  Jemima was also opposed to his conversion, though she lived long enough to witness (from afar) his strange, tumultuous new life as a Catholic.  At the same time, since none of the family followed their eldest brother into the Catholic Church, to which Newman converted in 1845, the book also explores the limitations of Newman’s influence and the ways in which family differences led him to a deeper understanding of such themes as home and ostracism, failure and faith, conversion and apostasy, disunity and prayer, infirmity and love.   

Based on Newman’s vast correspondence and the correspondence of his different family members, as well as on his published and unpublished writings, Newman and his Family presents the great religious thinker in a freshly personal light, where he can be seen sharing his theological and philosophical convictions directly with those to whom he was most closely tied.  While there are excellent studies available on different aspects of Newman and his work, this is the first full-length study to show how the difficulties and heartbreaks inherent in family life helped Newman to understand not only himself and his contemporaries but his deeply personal Christian faith.

Reviews of Newman and his Family

“Newman and his Family, with its detailed account of personal relationships, is a fresh contribution to Newman scholarship offering a distinctive angle of approach to its subject’s life. . . . It will reward patient reading by anyone with an interest in Newman or religion in Victorian England more generally. Its strength is in helping the reader to understand the emotional costs of Newman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism. In the diverse responses of his siblings, Newman confronted the challenges of sharing his faith with the English people. Short argues that their resistance to his ideas, even in his Tractarian phase, had a profound formative effect on him. This is a touching story, from which Newman emerges as more human. . . . Short’s book will enrich our understanding of John Henry Newman. . ." Evangelical Review   

“According to Edward Short, ‘Few eminent Victorians can be understood without reference to their families. . . . Similarly, no one can understand Newman’s warm, affectionate, playful, gregarious, generous nature unless he knows something of the love he received from and gave back to his family, even though his evolving religious convictions would, in many cases, alienate that love.’ The truth of these assertions is convincingly demonstrated in this excellent book. . . . Meticulously researched and elegantly written, Edward Short’s book is a volume worthy of a man who in a long life (1801-1890) played with distinction many parts – priest, educator, theologian, philosopher, apologist, preacher, novelist, poet, satirist, sage, friend and likely saint. Among Newman’s many admirable qualities, Short draws attention to his intellectual rigour, his self-deprecatory honesty, his versatility in friendship, his generosity as a correspondent, his acute sense of home, his undoubted Englishness, his profound simplicity of heart, his singleness of mind and purpose, and “his admirable aplomb under duress.’ Edward Short wrote: ‘My only object was to share with my readers how Newman’s relations with his family informed his understanding not only of himself and his contemporaries but of his faith in God.’ I am sure that readers to whom I heartily recommend this work will concur in my judgment that the author has achieved his stated aim admirably.”    Continue reading...   Brother Brian Grenier, CFC, The Catholic Leader, Brisbane, Australia

Downman, John.  The Fourdrinier Family.  1786. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Downman, John. The Fourdrinier Family. 1786. National Portrait Gallery, London.

“In Newman and his Family, Edward Short ‘provides a feast of selections both from Newman (many from his uncollected works), his family's letters, letters from acquaintances, as well as testimonies from contemporary authors and prominent personalities, retrieved and positioned in the best possible spot. . . . What emerges is the reason for Newman's early success and the consternation, dread and panic in his fellow Anglicans at his eventual conversion.  For Newman was the soul of his age, the attentive and wise curate who knew and could express each man's soul better than he could himself.’ ”   Patrick Madigan, Heythrop Journal

Newman and his Family is a psychological and spiritual voyage around the great Cardinal in the often fraught context of his familial relationships, which will be fascinating equally to Catholics, other faiths and unbelievers. Newman himself said that there was nothing more interesting than the ten thousand little details and complications of daily life and family history. With the wisdom of empathy, Edward Short’s gift is to let us hear Newman speak in his own voice, so distant from our own times and yet still so immediate. In this meticulously researched and lovingly written book, Newman has found his ideal biographer.”   Angela Thirlwell, author of William and Lucy: the other Rossettis and Into the Frame: the four loves of Ford Madox Brown

“As in his first book, Edward Short artfully portrays here the personal influences that formed the character and mind of John Henry Newman. Where Newman and his Contemporaries successfully re-positioned the man among a constellation of his cultural and literary fellows, Newman and his Family charts out the shifting angles and dimensions of a tighter, more powerful ring of influences around the Victorian sage: his father, mother, brothers, sisters, and nephew. Again, Edward Short’s well-wrought chapters, with their characteristic grace, aplomb, and light-borne wit, bring a much-wanted human richness to our understanding of a man we are only beginning to know.”   Dwight Lindley, Assistant Professor of English, Hillsdale College

Newman and his Family is one of the most remarkable books I have read in many years. For newcomers it presents Newman from within, as he really was. For those already familiar with Newman's writings, Edward Short brings informed, refreshing, always original, and sometimes provocative insight into the greatest English religious figure of his time and ours. Here is Newman as understood by, and not understood by his family - and what a family! This often gripping book deserves to find a wide readership. I suspect it will become a classic.”   Dermot Fenlon, The Birmingham Oratory

“In his earlier book, Newman and His Contemporaries, Edward Short probed Newman’s interaction with significant contemporaries, fellow Tractarians, sympathisers and agnostic critics. Here the focus is on Newman’s immediate family… The vast collection of Newman’s correspondence in the thirty-four volumes of Letters and Diaries, together with Newman’s own autobiographical writings, provide ample resources for Short’s fascinating exploration. . . . In his drawing out of Newman’s father’s influence on his eldest son Short contributes importantly to our understanding of the early context of Newman’s life; and he makes good use of Newman’s letters to illustrate both this, and his warm relationship with his mother. A final chapter sets Newman’s later correspondence with his nephew, John Rickards Mozley, in the context of late Victorian scepticism . . . an important, fascinating, and well-researched exploration of the family context and influence on Newman’s life and thought.”   Geoffrey Rowell, The Church Times

“Edward Short offers a fresh perspective on a much covered subject. Analysing Newman’s relations with his family - none of whom followed him into Rome - he illuminates not only Newman’s religious development but that of his whole age. . . . If his female relations showed the strength of traditional English anti-Catholicism then his two brothers exemplified the growth of religious scepticism that haunts Newman’s writings. . . . Short has written an elegant and erudite book, showing how Newman struggled in his thought to respond to his relatives’ views whilst answering ‘the call of charity’. . . . It will benefit any level of university student or intelligent layperson who reads it.”   Christopher Villiers, The Theological Review

Edward Short's Newman and his Family is “learned, delightful and fascinating.”   First Things

Edward Short's Newman and his Family “is excellent, at once scholarly and moving.  It gives deep and original insights into a man and a family whose tragedies and tensions were emblematic of their age.  This is a volume which does not simply enrich our understanding of Newman; it brings a human note to the larger religious and political dramas of Victorian England and thus to the background of our present age.  One can hardly wait for the third volume to see what Short will make of the critics, especially the unfortunate Charles Kingsley, doomed to be forever remembered as the immediate cause of Newman’s finest literary hour.”   First Things

Edward Short's Newman and his Family is “. . . a very fine book, much to be recommended for all lovers of Newman.”   Frances Phillips, Catholic Herald

Edward Short's Newman and his Family is “a work of great sympathetic insight, intelligent reading and wide-ranging imagination which I would recommend unreservedly to all Newman scholars . . . masterly. . .”   Catholic Herald

“John Henry Newman was the eldest of six: three brothers and three sisters. Their shared intimacy was profound - which made their subsequent divisions all the more painful. Short devotes a chapter to Newman’s father and mother, and one to each of the siblings. He adds another, crucially important chapter, on Newman’s correspondence with his nephew, John Rickards Mozley, eldest son of his sister Jemima. For the most part, the chapters draw from the letters exchanged between Newman and the person in question. But Short, the author of a fine volume entitled Newman and His Contemporaries, also provides ample excursus on other writings of Newman, as well as representative figures of Victorian England. ... Edward Short’s superb knowledge of 19th century English literature and history illumines his presentation. . . . Of all the members of the family, undoubtedly the one closest to Newman’s heart was his mother, Jemima Fourdrinier, of Huguenot heritage. Short writes: ‘Newman had a deep bond with his mother - one forged in heartbreak and loss, as well as love and affection - and it showed him not only the vanity of human wishes but the wisdom of empathy.’  That ‘empathy’ is apparent in the letters Newman exchanged, not only with family, but with countless men and women over the course of his long and fruitful life. Empathy also marks Edward Short’s wise study.”     Robert P. Imbelli,  America Magazine