ecades of intellectual and (at long distance) personal engagement had passed when Arnold finally met Newman at the reception in mid-May 1880. At the meeting, arranged by the new Cardinal, Arnold reported, "Newman took my hand in both of his and was charming" (L, II, 196). This brief encounter may have reactivated Arnold's interest in Newman's thought. Certainly Newman is very likely at the heart of the key opening passage of "The Study of Poetry," written late in 1880, which is Arnold's most important statement on the quasi-religious function of poetry in the modern world:
"The future of poetry is immense, because in poetry, where it is worthy of its high destinies, our race, as time goes on, will find an ever surer and surer stay. There is not a creed which is not shaken, not an accredited dogma which is not shown to be questionable, not a received tradition which does not threaten to dissolve. Our religion has materialised itself in the fact, in the supposed fact; it has attached its emotion to the fact, and now the fact is failing it. But for poetry the idea is everything; the rest is a world of illusion, of divine illusion. Poetry attaches its emotion to the idea; the idea is the fact. The strongest part of our religion to-day is its unconscious poetry." [EC-2, pp. 1-2]
(This passage is a transposition and alteration of remarks in the final paragraph of Arnold's introduction to The Hundred Greatest Men, written earlier in 1880 (ELR, pp. 237-239.)
Denis Butts (pp. 255-256) argues convincingly that this view of poetry and religion was "anticipated" in Newman's "Prospects of the Anglican Church" (1839), reprinted in Essays Critical and Historical :
How, then, in our age are those wants and feelings of our common nature satisfied, which were formerly supplied by symbols, now that symbolical language and symbolical rites have almost perished? Were we disposed to [139/140] theorize, we might perhaps say, that the taste for poetry of a religious kind has in modern times in a certain sense taken the place of the deep contemplative spirit of the early Church. At any rate it is a curious circumstance, considering how much our active and businesslike habits take us the other way, that the taste for poetry should have been developed so much more strongly amongst ourselves than it seems to have been in the earlier times of the Church; as if our character required such an element to counterbalance the firmer and more dominant properties in it.... It may appear to some far-fetched, of course, to draw any comparison between the mysticism of the ancients, and the poetry or romance of the moderns, as to the religious tendencies of each; yet it can hardly be doubted, that, in matter of fact, poetry has been cultivated and cherished in our later times by the Cavaliers and Tories in a peculiar way, and looked coldly on by Puritans and their modern representatives.... Poetry then is our mysticism; and so far as any two characters of mind tend to penetrate below the surface of things, and to draw men away from the material to the invisible world, so far they may certainly be said to answer the same end; and that too a religious one. [ECH, I, 290-91]
Butts comments: "Newman, then, sees poetry as providing something for mankind which even the harsher aspects of society cannot destroy, although the Church at Newman's time appeared to neglect it"; and so, despite Newman's special pleading and the difference of his approach to religion (and, it may be added, the unrepresentative character of this passage, in Newman's writings), "it is more than likely that here were the origins of Arnold's own lofty conception of the high destiny of poetry. He has, as it were, merely extended Newman's vision." (p. 256.) Butts's linkage is confirmed, not only by Arnold's numerous references to the Essays in Literature and Dogma, but more specifically by the fact that one of those references — to the "truth lying hid under the tenor" of the text of the Bible (LD, p. 303)-occurs only four pages earlier in this same essay on "Prospects of the Anglican Church."
Arnold's involvement with Newman reaches a final high pitch of intensity in 1882 and 1883. These were important years for the revaluation of the Oxford Movement. The men of Newman's and Arnold's generations, now in later life, were summing up their [140/141] impressions of the prodigious movement in which they had had a stake as young men. In 1881 J. A. Froude published his lengthy "The Oxford Counter-Reformation," which Arnold would almost certainly have known of; and in 1882 came the Reminiscences of Thomas Mozley, Newman's brother-in-law, which Arnold had read by the time of his "Liverpool Address" late in September. (See Five Uncollected Essays of Matthew Arnold, p. 92. For Newman's annoyance with Mozley's "seriously inaccurate" account, see The life of John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 513.) Both accounts were highly autobiographical, and both had included detailed evaluations of Newman's personality and influence. Moreover, there occurred, apparently sometime in 1882 or early 1883, a second and more protracted meeting with Newman. This generally overlooked second encounter took place at the London home of Chief justice Coleridge, a friend of Arnold's from his Oxford days. As told by Coleridge's son (who mistakenly refers to it as a first meeting):
They had each expressed a wish to meet the other, so my father arranged it apparently by accident. With perfect taste and by common consent they talked together as a pair of ripe scholars, and no one would have supposed they were not old and familiar friends. They even with great urbanity quizzed each other, though Matthew Arnold never for a moment departed from the sort of attitude of a favourite pupil discoursing with an honoured master.
Each parted manifestly pleased with the other and subsequently they each in turn expressed the pleasure they had found in the society of the other. [Memories, p. 55. The terminal date is fixed by Coleridge's remark [Famous Victorians I Have Known, p. 46.] that Newman's last visit to 1, Sussex Square, was on May 29, 1883.]
It was inevitable, in these circumstances, that Arnold's interest in Newman should suddenly intensify and that he too should attempt a personal revaluation of that extraordinary historical and spiritual movement which had affected the lives of so many men of talent and genius and which by now could be seen in something like historical perspective.
The shadow of Newman falls heavily across all three of the lectures Arnold delivered on his American tour of 1883-1884 (later [141/142] collected as Discourses in America, 1885), but his role is largest in "Literature and Science," which Arnold first gave as the Rede Lecture at Cambridge in May 1882. This, Arnold's carefully considered answer to T. H. Huxley's attack on classical studies in "Science and Culture" (1880), is like Huxley's lecture in being ostensibly about the curriculum of the schools but actually a statement of its author's central humanist position. That Arnold considered himself to be speaking in the name of that Oxford tradition of theological humanism which he had in the past identified with the person and writings of Newman is clear from the substance of his lecture. But the original opening of the Rede lecture, printed in August in the Nineteenth Century but excluded from the book version, shows Arnold explicitly in a mood to analyze the nature of the Oxford tradition. Speaking before a Cambridge audience, Arnold contrasted the characteristic traditions of the two great universities:
the University of Oxford ... has produced great men, indeed, but has above all been the source or the centre of great movements.... within the range of what is called modern history... we have the great movements of Royalism, Wesleyanism, Tractarianism, Ritualism.... You have nothing of the kind.... Yours is a University not of great movements, but of great men. ("Literature and Science," p. 218.)
Newman's presence is felt especially in the opening and closing pages of "Literature and Science," where Arnold defends the specifically classical character of literary humanism. With some irony Arnold states the contemporary objection that liberal education has traditionally been fitted for persons of leisure, and that it is absurd "to inflict this education upon an industrious modern community, where very few indeed are persons of leisure, and the mass to be considered has not leisure, but is bound, for its own great good, and for the great good of the world at large, to plain labour and to industrial pursuits, and the education in question tends necessarily to make men dissatisfied with these pursuits and unfitted for them!" (DA, p. 77). This is of course a version of the very same utilitarian objection to which Newman had [142/143] addressed himself in the Idea of a University. The Newmanesque character of Arnold's ideal is further underscored when it is presented as a living tradition deriving from Plato and the Greeks: this educational ideal "is still mainly governed by the ideas of men like Plato," and 11 passed from Greece to Rome to the feudal communities of Europe" (DA, p. 76). Newman had argued that we "recur to Greece and Athens with pleasure and affection, and recognize in that famous land the source and the school of intellectual culture" (Idea, p. 230). This passage is from Newman's "Christianity and Letters," and the indebtedness is emphasized by the fact that Arnold soon thereafter (DA, p. 83) cites the climactic passage, from "The Function of Criticism," on the unity and continuity of European culture, which probably derived from this same lecture.
In the body of the essay, Arnold has no difficulty in overthrowing a main objection of Huxley's. Arnold agrees that knowing the best that has been thought and said in the world means, historically, the best of modern societies as well as of ancient, and, substantively, the matter of modern scientific discoveries and not mere belles lettres. But he goes on to argue a highly complex case for the emotional and moral function of "letters" in the formation and sustaining of human character — a function that letters, as opposed to science, are pre-eminently fitted to perform. Finally, he restricts his scope even further at the end by arguing once more for the unique and permanent claim of the classics, especially Greek, to the central position in the educational scheme. Characteristically, Arnold defends this view with deceptive simplicity by appealing to "the instinct of self-preservation in humanity. The instinct for beauty is set in human nature, as surely as the instinct for knowledge is set there, or the instinct for conduct. If the instinct for beauty is served by Greek literature and art as it is served by no other literature and art, we may trust to the instinct of self-preservation in humanity for keeping Greek as part of our culture" (DA, p. 131). Arnold's educational ideal is at once more aesthetic and more moralistic than Newman's characteristically intellectualist position but "Christianity and Letters" had made almost identical points. For example, Newman says, "The simple question to be considered is, how best to strengthen, refine, and enrich the intellectual powers; the perusal of the [143/144] poets, historians, and philosophers of Greece and Rome will accomplish this purpose, as long experience has shown; but that the study of the experimental sciences will do the like, is proved to us as yet by no experience whatever" (Idea, p. 229). Concerning the "instinct" that preserves Greek, Newman states: "though there were times when the old traditions seemed to be on the point of failing, somehow it has happened that they have never failed; for the instinct of Civilization and the common sense of Society prevailed, and the danger passed away, and studies which seemed to be going out gained their ancient place, and were acknowledged, as before, to be the best instruments of mental cultivation, and the best guarantees for intellectual progress" (Idea, p. 229).
Clearly Arnold's debt to Newman in formulating a classicist literary position, above mere utility, which sees the Western tradition as "carrying on those august methods of enlarging the mind, and cultivating the intellect, and refining the feelings, in which the process of Civilization has ever consisted" (Idea, p, 223), remains strong to the end. What may not be so evident at first glance is that a major strategy that Arnold adopts in minimizing Huxley's claims in the body of the essay is borrowed from "The Tamworth Reading Room" — which Arnold seems to have been reading again in 1881 (NB, p. 350), and which has cropped up again and again in Arnold's attacks on Liberal pretensions. Arnold readily conceded to Huxley that "knowing the great results of the modern scientific study of nature" (Arnold gives as examples such crucial and controversial matters as Darwin's theories on the origin of the human body and Huxley's views of nature as a "definite order" [DA, pp. 109-1101] is as important a part of education as are literature and art. But he entirely dissociates himself from the view of "the friends of physical science" that "to follow the processes by which those results are reached, ought ... to be made the staple of education for the bulk of mankind" (DA, p. 95). The question is, in one respect, a very practical one, that of the actual distribution of the student's time in the school. In resisting the admission of these detailed scientific "processes" to the central position in education, Arnold adopts a superior and even mocking tone toward these absorbing trivia: "It is very interesting to know, that, from the albuminous white [144/145] of the egg, the chick in the egg gets the materials for its flesh, bones, blood, and feathers; while, from the fatty yolk of the egg, it gets the heat and energy which enable it at length to break its shell and begin the world. It is less interesting, perhaps, but still it is interesting, to know that when a taper burns, the wax is converted into carbonic acid and water" (DA, pp. 96-97). Is not this the very point and something of the tone of Newman's citing a self-parodying passage attributed to Brougham: "Is there anything in all the idle books of tales and horrors, more truly astonishing than the fact, that a few pounds of water may, by more pressure, without any machinery, by merely being placed in one particular way, produce very irresistible force? What can be more strange, than that an ounce weight should balance hundreds of pounds by the intervention of a few bars of thin iron? Can anything surprise us more than to find that the colour white is a mixture of all the others? that water should be chiefly composed of an inflammable substance?" (D&A, pp. 271-272). Newman's more intense scorn reaches a peak when he refers to Peel's talking of "improved modes of draining, and the chemical properties of manure" (D&A, p. 263).
Even the development of Arnold's argument from this point parallels Newman's. Arnold argues that the very "constitution of human nature" works against making physical science the center of education. There are, he repeats, four powers that "build up" human life — "the power of conduct, the power of intellect and knowledge, the power of beauty, and the power of social life and manners" (DA, p. 101). "When we have rightly met and adjusted the claims of them all, we shall then be in a fair way for getting soberness and righteousness, with wisdom" (DA, p. 102). Newman, too, bad said, for all the obvious differences of emphasis, "I have no fanatical wish to deny to any whatever subject of thought or method of reason a place altogether, if it chooses to claim it, in the cultivation of the mind ... the great and true maxim is to sacrifice none — to combine, and therefore to adjust, all" (D&A, p. 274). Similarly, Newman contemptuously asserts that the implicit argument of the Knowledge School, that the art of life "consists, or in any essential manner is placed, in the cultivation of Knowledge, that the mind is changed by a discovery, or saved by a diversion, and can thus be amused into immortality,-that grief, [145/146] anger, cowardice, self-conceit, pride, or passion, can be subdued by an examination of shells or grasses, or inhaling of gases, or chipping of rocks, or calculating the longtitude, is the veriest of pretenses which sophist or mountebank ever professed to a gaping auditory" (D&A, p. 268). Arnold's chief concern is with the unification of the human faculties, in particular with the relation of "these pieces of knowledge to our sense for conduct, our sense for beauty" (DA, p. 103). This is a process that proceeds not only from outside of "the sphere of our knowledge," but from within that sphere itself: "every one knows how we seek naturally to combine the pieces of our knowledge together, to bring them under general rules, to relate them to principles; and how unsatisfactory and tiresome it would be to go on for ever learning lists of exceptions, or accumulating items of fact which must stand isolated" (DA, pp. 104-105). This is of course the central idea of Discourse VI ("Knowledge viewed in Relation to Learning") in the Idea: "we cannot gain real knowledge on the level; we must generalize, we must reduce to method, we must have a grasp of principles, and group and shape our acquisitions by means of them" (Idea, p. 123).
In developing his complex and revealing argument, only briefly summarized here, Arnold goes on to admit in effect that the new conceptions of the universe cannot, at least yet, be "related" to our old "instincts." However, a religiously elevated poetry can provide in satisfactory aesthetic form those emotional supports once supplied by supernatural religion. Poetry refreshes, fortifies, elevates, quickens, solaces, relieves, and rejoices (DA, pp. 123, 114, 115); and thus it satisfies man's deepest needs, both moral and aesthetic, even in the absence of the metaphysical system that once seemed to buttress these emotions. Arnold admits that men will have to forego a meaningful synthesis of natural science and their religious and aesthetic experience; and thus the two "spheres" of the sixties, that of "knowledge and intellect" and that of "religion and poetry," remain as mutually exclusive as ever. If in the education of "the great majority of mankind" there must be a choice between humane letters and the natural sciences, Arnold will choose letters, because they "will call out their being at more points, will make them live more" (DA, p. 129). That [146/147] is to say, I think, that the satisfaction of the perennial claims of our aesthetic and moral instincts must be the center of education and that letters best provide what can only be called an illusion of a Providential order and a human destiny beyond this life. (The examples that Arnold gives from the Bible and Homer [DA, pp. 120-121] obviously suggest this religious structure in the universe, but Arnold, with calculated innocence, claims to be unable to explain their effect.) What is of importance here is the fact that Arnold, in this ultimate statement of his mature humanistic goals, makes a religious, and specifically Christian, moral-aesthetic formation the center of education. I think there is no question that, at bottom and by his own lights, Arnold felt that, as against a Huxley, he stood beside Newman in this crucial debate of the nineteenth century — beside the Newman who never wavered from the principle that "Christianity, and nothing short of it, must be made the element and principle of all education" (D&A, p. 274). Thus, in appropriating Newman's tone and arguments from the Idea and "The Tamworth Reading Room," Arnold was not merely raiding a foreign country for weapons and strategies; be considered, rather, that he was here in the very line of the Oxford literary-religious humanist tradition. Metaphysically, and in the light of subsequent history, Arnold's position may be judged to be chimerical or, at best, a noble but confused failure. But to judge his intentions, as must also be done, is to see his religiously colored humanism as far closer to Newman's than a coarse theological calculus can reveal.7
The two other lectures of Arnold's American tour both refer to Newman directly, and both reveal that he was rereading Parochial and Plain Sermons, which had been reissued in 1869. "Numbers; or, The Majority and the Remnant" was written by early October 1883, just [147/148] before Arnold embarked (L, II, 253). He was urging on his American auditors the unpopular thesis that majorities are not likely to be all good: " 'The majority are bad,' said one of the wise men of Greece; but he was a pagan. Much to the same effect, however, is the famous sentence of the New Testament: 'Many are called, few chosen.' This appears a hard saying; frequent are the endeavours to elude it, to attenuate its severity. But turn it how you will, manipulate it as you will, the few, as Cardinal Newman well says, can never mean the many" (DA, p. 6). This is of course another reference to Newman's sermon, "Many Called, Few Chosen," of 1837 (PPS, V, 268). As early as 1863 Arnold had used this quotation, with its characteristically Calvinist coloring, in support of a double thesis on the prerogatives and immunities of an intellectual elite and on the need to protect "the many" from theological arguments that do not "edify." Why Newman should have been invoked once again is not fully clear, unless it was to give a kind of religious sanction to Arnold's political reflections; but in this same sermon Newman had also discussed the notion of a "remnant," a word that is "frequent with the prophets," including Isaiah (PPS, V, 255). This may have suggested Arnold's dwelling on Isaiah: "The remnant! — it is the word of the Hebrew prophets also, and especially is it the word of the greatest of them all, Isaiah" (DA, p. 15).8
Arnold's last sustained treatment of Newman comes in the third lecture, "Emerson," first given late in November of 1883. It was a "horrid lecture" (L, II, 260), written under difficulties in October and November while amidst the actual confusions of the American tour. Arnold portrays Newman as one of the four "voices" heard at Oxford forty years before by undergraduates of Arnold's generation. Certainly, as the evidence assembled here has shown, of the four voices mentioned — those of Newman, Carlyle, Goethe, and Emerson — only Goethe's can begin to rival Newman's for the clarity and frequency [149/150] with which it had been heard in Arnold's writings through the intervening decades. (Similarly, of the four men from whom Arnold claimed in 1872 to have learned ... habits, methods, ruling ideas "Goethe, Wordsworth, Sainte-Beuve, and Newman — surely not even Goethe can be seen to have penetrated Arnold's characteristic modes of thought and expression as deeply as Newman did.) Newman is introduced here in one of the most highly wrought passages in all of Arnold's prose writings:
The name of Cardinal Newman is a great name to the imagination still; his genius and his style are still things of power. But he is over eighty years old; he is in the Oratory at Birmingham; he has adopted, for the doubts and difficulties which beset men's minds to-day, a solution which, to speak frankly, is impossible. Forty years ago he was in the very prime of life; he was close at hand to us at Oxford; he was preaching in St. Mary's pulpit every Sunday; he seemed about to transform and to renew what was for us the most national and natural institution in the world, the Church of England. Who could resist the charm of that spiritual apparition, gliding in the dim afternoon light through the aisles of St. Mary's, rising into the pulpit, and then, in the most entrancing of voices, breaking the silence with words and thoughts which were a religious music, — subtle, sweet, mournful? [DA, pp. 139-40]
The terms of this analysis are by now familiar: Newman's religious position is "impossible," but his essential power as a force both aesthetic (imagination, genius, style) and religious (spiritual apparition, religious music) remains unimpaired and somehow beyond mere positions.
Arnold goes on: "I seem to hear him still, saying: 'After the fever of life, after wearinesses and sicknesses, fightings and despondings, languor and fretfulness, struggling and succeeding; after all the changes and chances of this troubled, unhealthy state,-at length comes death, at length the white throne of God, at length the beatific vision' " (DA, p. 140). The words "I seem to hear him still" are misleading or at least ambiguous, since the sermon from which Arnold is quoting ("Peace in Believing," PPS, VI, 369-370) was preached in May 1839, and again in June 1841, presumably well before Arnold could have heard Newman. Arnold continues: [149/150]
Or, if we followed him back to his seclusion at Littlemore, that dreary village by the London road, and to the house of retreat and the church which he built there, — a mean house such as Paul might have lived in when he was tent-making at Ephesus, a church plain and thinly sown with worshippers, — who could resist him there either, welcoming back to the severe joys of church-fellowship, and of daily worship and prayer, the firstlings of a generation which had well-nigh forgotten them? Again I seem to hear him: "The season is chill and dark, and the breath of the morning is damp, and worshippers are few; but all this befits those who are by their profession penitents and mourners, watchers and pilgrims. More dear to them that loneliness, more cheerful that severity, and more bright that gloom, than all those aids and appliances of luxury by which men nowadays attempt to make prayer less disagreeable to them. True faith does not covet comforts; they who realize that awful day, when they shall see Him face to face whose eyes are as a flame of fire, will as little bargain to pray pleasantly now as they will think of doing so then." [DA, pp. 140-42]
Arnold's comments here are doubly ambiguous, because this Advent sermon (PPS, V, 2-3) was preached in December 1838, long before Arnold's coming up to Oxford in the autumn of 1841, and because Newman did not go down to Littlemore for good and set up his "house of retreat" until early in 1842. Arnold ends: "Somewhere or other I have spoken of those 'last enchantments of the Middle Age' which Oxford sheds around us, and here they were!" (DA, p. 142; see also CPW, III, 290).
Most important are the rich, impressionistic details — almost Paterian in their suggestiveness and elusiveness — with which Arnold invokes Newman's qualities: imagination, genius, style, charm, spiritual apparition, gliding in the dim afternoon light, entrancing voice, "religious music, — subtle, sweet, mournful," enchantments, of the Middle Age. This is among the rhetorically most effective passages in Arnold. The "medieval" effect here is to make Newman a kind of exalted, slightly theatrical, Merlin-like magician (charm, entrancing, enchantments) in a pre-Raphaelite mural. The passage achieves two purposes at once: it suggests the rather superficial and picturesque "charm" of Newman's person and style — that minimal source of Arnold's perennial interest — while it subtly reinforces his judgment of Newman's [150/151] "impossible" position, for here Newman is simply the priest of that divine "illusion" that Arnold often saw Christian history and thought to be. The preceding chapters have made clear that Newman's influence on Arnold's writings extended to substantive matters of social, educational, and religious interest, far beyond (as Arnold himself said in 1872) a mere "strong impression," but the passage in the Emerson lecture, usually read apart from the larger scope of the relations existing between the two men, is almost invariably taken as expressing the sum of Arnold's indebtedness to Newman. Undoubtedly this suggestion of a limited range of appeal — as a stimulant to the imagination and a model of style — is part of Arnold's intention here. Publicly, and as a kind of last testimonial, Arnold carefully restricts Newman's power to the practice of a rather suspicious imaginative wizardry. Arnold was either unaware of, or unable or unwilling to acknowledge in public, the full extent of his engagement with Newman's thought and personality.
The remaining references to Newman are scattered and incidental. In December 1885 Arnold writes from Berlin that he had talked with Mommsen: "he is quite white, and older than I expected; — in manner, mode of speech, and intellectual quality something between Voltaire and Newman" (L, 11, 362). In such a violent yoking of opposites, Arnold's intention remains unclear. In "The Nadir of Liberalism," which appeared in the Nineteenth Century for May 1886, Arnold introduced Newman's name in discussing the qualifications of a Liberal leader:
A Liberal leader here in England is ... a man of movement and change, called expressly to the task of bringing about a modem organisation of society. To do this, he should see clearly how the world is going, what our modern tendencies and needs really are, and what is routine and fiction in that which we have inherited from the past. But of how few men of Mr. Gladstone's age can it be said that they see this: Certainly not of Mr. Gladstone. Some of whom it cannot be said may be more interesting figures than those of whom it can; Cardinal Newman is a more interesting figure, Mr. Gladstone himself is a more interesting figure, than John Stuart Mill. But a Liberal leader of whom it cannot be said that he sees how the world is really going is in a false situation. [ELR, p. 269] [151/152]
Newman, then, remained to the end for Arnold a symbol of resistance to change; he is a permanently "interesting" figure, but he does not "see clearly how the world is going, what our modern tendencies and needs really are." And yet Newman's larger function (as also stated in the 1879 review of de Maistre) remains still intact, for Arnold also describes a Conservative leader's "business" as being, "to procure stability and prominence for that which already exists, much of it undeniably precious" (ELR, p. 269). Finally there is the unexpected reference to Newman in Arnold's posthumously published review of Dowden's life of Shelley (July 1888); Arnold appeals to Newman — if perchance he does me the honour to read these words" — to judge, for no very clear reason, the Shelley-Godwin circle and "the clerical and respectable Oxford of those old times, the Oxford of Copleston and the Kebles and Hawkins, and a hundred more" (EC-2, p. 238). By a curious justice Arnold ends where he began, as the conscious inheritor of the dual Oriel tradition in which Copleston and Hawkins (and implicitly Dr. Arnold) are as much at home as the Kebles and Newman.9
Last modified 27 March 2002