ne of the manifestations of the English Catholic revival was the development of a Catholic periodical press. Catholic journalism, indeed, dated back to the last years of the eighteenth century; but those earlier efforts had been short-lived. Few of the ventures of the 1830s and the 1840s escaped a similar fate, but there were two which were destined to survive: Nicholas Wiseman's Dublin Review founded in 1836, and a weekly newspaper, The Tablet, founded in 1840 by Frederick Lucas, a convert from Quakerism.
The Oxford converts, with their superior education, intellectual abilities and religious zeal, afforded a great potential accession of strength to the Catholic press. For a number of reasons, however, they were slow to enter the field of journalism: they preferred to produce tracts, pamphlets and books of apologetic, controversy or devotion, which seemed to be demanded by the immediate circumstances. The importance of the periodical press was, in fact, little appreciated among English Catholics at that time. Nonetheless, some of the converts, as early as 1846, expressed an interest in a journalistic venture, which was actually commenced in 1848 with the founding of the The Rambler by John Moore Capes.
Capes, a graduate of Oxford, had taken Anglican orders and received the living of St. John's, Bridgwater. Here he spent virtually all of his ample fortune building and endowing a new church. He was not at first an adherent of the Tractarian movement, but found his own way to Rome1. He was drawn to Roman Catholicism by a conviction of the absolute need for an infallible doctrinal authority, an infallibility which was claimed only by the Church of Rome. After a visit to Littlemore, where he found that Newman was moving in a similar direction, Capes was received into the Catholic Church at Oscott College on 27 July 1845, by Wiseman, who had become a bishop and was president of the college. Many of Capes' parishioners, his wife, and his brother Frederick, soon followed his example. The latter, a proctor in the ecclesiastical courts, had to give up a practice of over £1,000 a year. J. M. Capes himself lost both his living and the £10,000 he had spent on his new church. The financial sacrifice of the two brothers was hailed by Newman as "the greatest thing that has been done in money matters" by converts (Newman to Dalgairns, 10 Dec. 1845, cited in Ward, I, 107).
As a married man, Capes was debarred from the priesthood. The struggling English Catholic body offered few openings for married "convert parsons"; Capes, more fortunate than most, found a position as professor of mathematics at Prior Park College, near Bath. Here, in 1846, he conceived the idea of founding a periodical in which he and other converts "should write for the present condition of the English mind, entering into all subjects of literary, philosophic and moral interest, treating them as a person would who believes Catholicism to be the only true religion" (Capes to Newman, 15 July 1846, Newman MSS). He secured the warm approval of Bishop Ullathorne, then Vicar Apostolic of the Western District, and proposed the plan to Newman. Newman approved the project, but pointed out a number of practical difficulties; for Newman's replies, see Gasquet, xii-xiv. Eventually all difficulties were overcome, and Capes, with the assistance of a few friends, among whom was James Spencer Northcote, another convert clergyman at Prior Park, brought out the first number of a new weekly, the Rambler, on 1 January 1848. (The name, taken from Samuel Johnson, has no significance: it was chosen simply for want of a better"; Rambler, I (I Jan. 1848), 2.)
The Rambler was essentially the organ of the lay converts, men of Oxford, who had so recently made the transition from the established Church to a communion which, in England, was small, humble, and weakened by centuries of persecution. Although they showed themselves, at the time of their conversion, extremely docile and disposed to see "all things under a couleur de rose" (To Rome and Back, p. 229), the converts were quickly disillusioned: it seemed to them that the "old Catholics" were 'intellectually backward, apathetic and timid, the clergy limited both in attainments and activity, and the laity isolated from the intellectual and public life of England. To a considerable extent, these criticisms were justified. The converts, however, in their zeal to remedy these defects, sometimes went to opposite extremes, and often provoked the alarm and resentment of the hereditary Catholics with their inclination toward greater freedom in thought and speech. Capes was one of the more moderate of the converts; yet he, too, was capable of quite sharp criticism of defects in the Catholic body, which necessarily led him into conflict with those who preferred a discreet silence to free discussion. He was particularly distressed at the intellectual deficiencies of the English Catholics: "I soon made up my mind that it' was my function to devote myself to promoting that general culture of the English Catholic body in which, as I soon found, they were grievously deficient" (To Rome and Back, p. 271-72). He hoped that his magazine would serve to raise the level of culture of the English Catholics and, by removing the reproach of intellectual backwardness, to enable them to exert their influence on other Englishmen.
Capes desired to improve the teaching and elevate the standards of the colleges which provided secondary and higher education for both the clergy and the upper-class laity. At the same time, he advocated the extension of Catholic schools among the poor, and urged greater financial support by the laity for education at all levels. This stress on lay action was one of the major characteristics of the [9/10] Rambler, which strove for a higher level and more intelligent direction of activity by both laity and clergy. For all practical purposes, Capes and the Rambler are synonymous in this period; Capes wrote the largest part of the journal and determined its policy. I have employed the impersonal manner of speaking when referring to policies or attitudes expressed by the Rambler which survived the period of Capes' editorship, or which cannot be assigned to him personally. It should also be noted that, although the Rambler was predominantly the work of converts , it accepted contributions from old Catholics.As part of this activity, Capes sought to introduce those "Roman" devotions for which the converts were so enthusiastic, and which the old Catholics, bred in the tradition of quiet piety engendered by the centuries of persecution, tended to discourage. In this, however, the Rambler never went to the lengths of the more extreme converts such as Father Faber, the Superior of the London Oratory; it always preferred the intellectual to the emotional side of religion.
The Rambler professed to abstain from both theology and partisan politics. Capes strove, in its first years, to keep pure theology out of its pages; but there is a large region of thought, not in itself theological, which borders on theology and is in frequent contact with it. The Rambler could not avoid entering into this area of "mixed" questions, and was soon led into theology itself. Capes was more successful in avoiding politics; he was not greatly interested in the subject. On those specific issues with which Catholics were particularly concerned, Capes took the side favoured by Wiseman, with whom he always maintained friendly relations. In foreign politics, the Rambler's great interest was in the affairs of Rome, where it maintained its "own correspondent" during the critical year 1848; it took a safe position, praising the reforms of Pius IX, and justifying his eventual break with the Revolution.
One characteristic of the early years of the Rambler, which it did na continue after Capes ceased to be editor, was a marked tendency towards what may be called "social Catholicism." According to "Rich and Poor," which appeared in Rambler for 22 April 1848, "The great problem for the statesman of this day is the reconciliation of rich and poor, or rather of riches and poverty" (I, 345). Capes feared that "social decay" arising from neglect of the problems of the poor might lead to revolution: "If we will not care for the poor man from love, we must do it from dread." -- his comment on the revolution in France: "The Fallen King," Rambler, 1 (2 March 1848), 178. Capes was inclined to believe, with some regret, that democracy was inevitable, and he sought to prepare the lower classes for it by bringing to them the benefits of education and religion. This was the motive for his zeal in urging the expansion of Catholic missions and schools among the poor. His social Catholicism, which was also based on a genuine love of the poor, had some curious manifestations; he opposed Sabbatarian legislation, much to the dismay of some Catholics, because it interfered with the innocent amusements of the poor. The Rambler serialized harrowing "tales" of "Scenes of Life in London" to dramatize its concern for the poor. This concern also brought it into sympathy with the Irish, who formed the bulk of the Catholic poor in the cities.
The most popular and successful section of the early Rambler was its artistic department. Capes was himself a competent musician, his brother Frederick was an art critic, and Northcote, a very able amateur archaeologist who travelled much in Italy, provided articles on the Roman catacombs and on foreign churches and shrines. The Capes brothers were inclined by temperament to favour the revival of Gothic art and architecture and of Gregorian chant. However, the social Catholicism of the Rambler overrode these preferences. It was more important, the Rambler asserted, to build many small, cheap churches among the poor than a few grandiose Gothic edifices; it was better to spend little on decoration and much on schools; and it was preferable to sacrifice the austere beauties of plain-chant in favour of popular hymns in English, such as Faber was writing. In the heyday of the Gothic revival, dominated by so vehement a leader as the architect Pugin, these notions could not pass without challenge. In fact, nothing provoked so much controversy during the early years of the Rambler as its architectural articles, nor was it ever subjected to fiercer denunciation than by the devotees of the Gothic'style.
More important, however, in the light of the future [11/12] development of the magazine, was its constant interest in Catholic religious and political thought on the Continent. From the beginning, the Rambler showed an inclination towards those doctrines and thinkers known as "Liberal Catholic" (see chapter 3). In the first number it began a series of articles on Lacordaire, translated from the Correspondant. Book reviews gave it an opportunity to examine the life of Lamennais and to praise the work of Döllinger. It felt a "deep and almost painful interest" in America (Rambler, 1 (12 Feb. 1848), 120); suspecting that separation of Church and state was the inevitable tendency of the nineteenth century, it looked upon America as a praiseworthy example of a country in which the Church was allowed full freedom by a secular state . These views were not especially stressed by the early Rambler, but they indicated the direction of its thought.
With such views, expressed as they were with considerable vigour and ability, the Rambler was clearly destined for a life of controversy. It could not help attracting attention and interest, and the result was that it achieved an early success which raised it immediately into the front rank of Catholic periodicals. At the same time, Capes was sufficiently cautious in his expressions to retain the good will of most of the bishops, and especially of Wiseman; his conduct of the Rambler received "many cordial expressions of approbation" ("Permanent Enlargement of the Rambler," Rambler, 1 (5 Feb. 1848), 89). By the seventh issue it had been found necessary to increase the size of the Rambler from sixteen to twenty-four pages. After two months Capes thought it desirable to give it the character of a weekly newspaper rather than a magazine, the better to deal with current events in that year of revolution.
This brought the Rambler into direct competition with The Tablet, until then the leading Catholic weekly newspaper. just at this time The Tablet had fallen out of favour with the bishops. Under the vigorous editorship of Frederick Lucas, it had distinguished itself by its manly assertion of Catholic claims; but Lucas was addicted to harsh language, which quickly brought him into disfavour. He had taken up the [12/13] Irish cause much too heartily for the taste of the English Catholics; he had attacked Lord Shrewsbury, a friend of Wiseman; he had opposed the project for diplomatic relations with Rome, against the wishes of most of the English bishops; and, at the beginning of 1848, The Tablet had given offence in Rome by publishing some letters which were deemed disrespectful to the Holy See. Wiseman, urged from Rome, publicly disavowed any connection with The Tablet, and was immediately denounced by it in reply (Ward; Sequel, II. 174-75). The Rambler, with its more cautious policy, grew in episcopal favour as its rival declined; at one of Wiseman's soiries it was whispered that its becoming a newspaper was part of a plan, sponsored by Wiseman, to have it eventually supersede The Tablet (Privately printed circular by Frederick Lucas, 1848; copy in Westminster Archives). Capes denied any such intention; he was, in fact, rather embarrassed by this episcopal sponsorship, and feared that people would think that Wiseman was forming a "convert party" (Capes to Newman, 3 March 1848, Newman MSS.).
The direct collision of the Rambler and The Tablet did not, however, last long. It seemed to be a law of the Rambler's growth that it continually required to expand in scope and size. Capes felt that a weekly was not a suitable medium for the serious papers which he desired to publish. He also found that it was too great a burden to produce, almost singlehanded, an issue every week. In September of 1848, therefore, the Rambler became a monthly magazine of eighty pages. This removed it from direct competition with The Tablet, which continued on its course of opposition to Wiseman until 1850, when Lucas, who had become a thorough Irish nationalist, removed it to Dublin.
The comparatively good repute of the Rambler did not exempt it from a considerable amount of criticism. "We are notoriously the most disputatious community in the kingdom," Capes observed in Vol. III of the Rambler (1848), "quarreling with each other on every possible opportunity" (p. iv).Noting the amount both "of severe [13/14] animadversion and of zealous eulogy" that the Rambler had received, he felt it necessary to justify its "boldness in pressing upon its readers a variety of topics which the cautious conservative spirit of other days would have kept sacred from all public discussion," and to ask for "forbearance, and a candid consideration, both of the difficulties of the task we have undertaken, and of the absolute necessity which there exists for the infusion of a fresh vigour, and a deeper philosophy, into our present system of ideas" (Rambler, pp. iii, v, vi). It was frequently necessary to plead for the right of free debate.
When objection was taken to the discussion of church decorations, a correspondent who signed hismelf "Z" argued that
every person, be he who he may, ecclesiastic or layman, has an unquestionable right to publish and defend any opinion whatever that he pleases on those theological subjects which are not already ruled by the Church herself, and that the attempt to stifle such discussion is pregnant with mischief to the well-being of the Catholic Church. ["The Right of Free Discussion," 1 (19 Aug. 1848), 368.]
This was a position held by the Rambler throughout its history. It also held that such debate need not be confined to the usual paths of Catholic apologetics; thus, when "Communism" was condemned by the Pope, the Rambler warned that "it must still be met with those arguments to which alone they who disown the rights of the Pope will consent to yield" (V (Feb. 1850), 113; in this article the Rambler advocated co-operatives and an increase in wages). This sensitivity to thought outside the Church was another standing characteristic of the Rambler.
The first major controversy of the Rambler was on a question of architecture. It opened on 29 July 1848, with a letter by "X" on "Rood- Screens," opposing Pugin's practice of building rood-screens on " theologico- artistic" grounds, arguing that screens obstructed the congregation's view of the sacramental acts (I, 292-7). All correspondence in the Rambler was anonymous, the correspondents arbitrarily choosing letters to identify themselves. Only one correspondent in this controversy identified himself by name: W. G. Ward, who later acknowledged that he was "H." Most articles were unsigned, including all those for which the editor considered himself responsible; some of the "communicated" articles were signed by initials. The editor desiring to stir up some [14/15] interest, invited discussion on the subject, and promptly found himself flooded with letters. The Rambler, in raising the question, had unwarily trod on a very sensitive area of feeling among Catholics.
The Gothic revival led by Pugin had found particular support among the old Catholics, who regarded it as the appropriate national style. The converts, who wished to follow Roman models as closely as possible, favoured "Italian" styles of decoration and devotion which had developed on the Continent after the end of the Middle Ages. Thus the architectural conflict merged with other conflicts between converts and old Catholics; at the same time, by becoming a battle between the "national" and the "Roman" tendencies in the Church, it took on quasi-theological overtones. The Rambler took the "Roman" side, partly because Capes at that time shared the general attitude of the converts, but even more because he found that the Gothic style could not meet the actual needs of the English Catholics for numerous cheap churches, built among the poor, and suited to those devotions which they found most congenial. The controversy became embittered because of the tone and language of Pugin, who regarded Gothic as the only truly Catholic style, which it was almost a dogma of faith to support and heresy to oppose. Indeed, he was not above impugning the orthodoxy of his opponents. Pugin published a strong letter in The Tablet on 2 September 1848, warning against "a system of deadly enmity to the fundamentals of Church architecture and Christian art" (cited Ward, Sequel, II. 270). and a pamphlet, An Earnest Appeal for the Revival of the Ancient Plain Song in 1850 denouncing "this miserable system of modern degeneracy" as a subversive attempt "to change the whole nature of the divine services of the Catholic Church" and as a display of "Methodism" (pp. 3-4). This brought forth a response from Capes, who was shocked and somewhat disillusioned by this style of controversy among Catholics, but who was quite capable of [15/16] replying in kind. In "Mr. Pugin and the 'Rambler'," Capes charged Pugin with speaking more as an Anglican than as a Catholic, implying that the Church had fallen in perfection since the Middle Ages, and fostering "a belief that the Church has actually done wrong in adopting the peculiar externals which characterise her in modern times" (V (April 1850), 374). Newman took much the same position as Capes in his remarks on architecture in the Idea of a University (1854): "an obsolete discipline may be a present heresy." Pugin defended himself, and assailed the "architectual heresies" of the Rambler -- "a body of mutineers" who were "exciting this insane, I may almost say impious, movement against the restoration of old Catholic solemnity" in a new pamphlet (Some Remarks, pp. 8, 24-5); and the small war between "Goths" and "anti-Goths" continued. Only Pugin's death in 1852 put an end to the controversy.
Meanwhile the Rambler had been engaged in another and more serious controversy. The number for December 1848 contained an article on "Catholic and Protestant Collegiate Education," criticizing the quality of the education given at the Catholic colleges, charging that the Catholic laity were worse educated than any corresponding class of Protestants, and blaming this situation upon the mixing of lay students with those destined for the Church, in which each class was sacrificed to the interests of the other. Capes' criticisms were based on his knowledge of Prior Park, which was notorious for the mismanagement of its finances, and therefore some of his statements were exaggerated; but "even then many of the old Catholics regarded it as 'timely and in the main correct" (Butler, I, 128). The article gave offence, however, to many graduates of the colleges. Bishop Ullathorne, now vicarapostolic of the Central District residing in Birmingham, was at that time engaged in a dispute with Newman and Faber over the Oratorian "Lives of the Saints," which had offended many old Catholics by their extreme Romanizing tendencies; the Rambler had supported the Oratorians and had protested [16/17] against the suppression of the "Lives of the Saints." Ullathorne was therefore ill-disposed towards the Rambler, and he saw in its criticism of collegiate education evidence of a "conspiracy against the old Catholics."" (p. 160). He attacked the Rambler article in a long letter in The Tablet, 9 December 1848, deploring the fact that "those who are but as children amongst us, forgetting their pupilage, have undertaken to rebuke, censure, and condemn the acts of those in authority in our Church" (p. 159). In somewhat exaggerated language he objected to laymen speaking publicly on subjects, such as education, "which depend entirely on Church authority" (p. 159). A more temperate criticism of the Rambler was made in its own pages in a letter from Frederick Oakeley, a convert, who had studied at St. Edmund's College, Old Hall.
The Rambler replied in in the next number with "The Duties of Journalists -- Catholic and Protestant Education," an article that pleaded for liberty of discussion on questions which are not of faith. "It has also pleased the Divine Head of the Church to confine the infallible guidance of the Church herself within certain definite boundaries, which leave an immense domain of subjects upon which the private Christian has no certain guide, and must. make use of the ordinary means for ascertaining what is right and true" (III (Jan. 1849), 329). It claimed that the inferiority of Catholic education in England was undeniable as a matter of fact, and was proved by the absence of any substantial Catholic English literature; it could only be good to bring out the truth and discuss it honestly.
The Rambler's position was supported in a signed letter by W. G. Ward, one of the most prominent converts, who took the occasion to refute the notion of a "convert conspiracy": "It seems to have been the impression of many, that converts are criticizing old Catholic institutions from a sort of external position, as though not feeling ourselves bound up with those institutions . . . it is, on the contrary, precisely because we feel ourselves as fully part and parcel of the existing system as are the older Catholics themselves . . . that we are so constrained [17/18] to speak" (Ward, "The Necessities of Catholic Education," Rambler, III (Feb. 1849), 446). Capes also received the private support of Newman, who described the article as "very clever and very true, adding that "I cannot see on what principle you can draw back from a truth, to which you have given publicity" (Newman to Capes, 6 Dec. 1858, Newman MSS). Cautioning Capes to avoid the appearance of hostility to the old Catholics', he admitted that Capes could not avoid giving some offence no matter how much he moderated his lan guage: "the Rambler is doing a great deal of good, and we cannot do good without giving offence and incurring criticism" (Newman to Capes, 3 Jan. 1849, cited by Ward, Life of Newman, I, 245). Wiseman, too, privately sympathized with Capes and disliked Ullathorne's attack on the Rambler.
Ullathorne continued to be unfriendly to Capes and the Rambler. Capes thought that Ullathorne was one of those who "simply disliked that independence of thought on matters not of faith which he found in converts, as a result of their liberal education; an indeDendence most unpleasant to prelates whose mind was absorbed in the idea that the one function of bishops is to govern, and the one duty of priests and laity to obey." In 1851, in response to the Protestant attack on the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy, Capes proposed a scheme for lay lecturers who would speak in defence of the Church, and himself delivered a series of lectures, with the warm approval of Wiseman, who was now Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster. The lectures were delivered in a church. Ullathorne disapproved of this; it appeared to him that this was a form of "lay preaching; Capes, To Rome and Back, p. 301. The reference is to an old Catholic "prelate," not identified by name, whom I conjecturally identify as Ullathorne. When Capes spoke out vigorously in favour of the greatest possible amount of lay action on behalf of the Church, Ullathorne spoke of him as having uttered "rank heresy" (Newman to Capes, 6 and 10 April 1851, Newman MSS). Wiseman continued his support of Capes, even sending him material with which to vindicate his position (Wiseman to Capes, March 185 1, Westminster Archives. Wiseman pointed out that laymen were frequently allowed to preach from the pulpit in Rome itself.). When Capes [18/19] had to suspend his lectures on account of illness, Newman filled the breach himself by delivering his lectures on The Present Position of Catholics in England. Later, after Ullathorne had come to be on friendly terms with Newman, he ceased for a while to be hostile to the Rambler and even contributed a series of articles to it in 1856.
Capes was always on good terms with Newman, who encouraged his projects. Still the dominant figure among the converts, Newman was the symbol of the hopes of men such as Capes, although he shrank from assuming the leadership of a movement. Newman had the strongest conviction of the need for a revivification of Catholic thought and of the important role which the educated laity could play in this work. The extent, and also the limitations, of the liberalism of Newman's Catholicism were made evident in his Dublin lectures on The Idea of a University, delivered in 1852 to promote the Catholic University of which he was to be rector.
The lectures sought to justify the pursuit of intellectual culture for its own sake, a pursuit which should be welcomed and unfettered by the authorities of the Church. Knowledge and reasons are the real allies of faith, for the common object of both science and theology is truth. The Church meets reason with the weapons of reason. Catholics have no special advantage in the pursuit of secular knowledge: "The Church has ever appealed and deferred to witnesses and authorities external to herself, in those matters in which she thought they had means of forming a judgment" 37 These were to be the basic tenets of the Liberal Catholic movement; but Newman balanced them with a sufficiency of caveats. If left to itself, liberal ' knowledge may work out results prejudicial to Catholicism, leading to an "intellectualism" which tends to produce a "mere philosophical theory of life and conduct, in the place of Revelation," and "gives birth to a rebellious stirring against miracle and mystery, against the severe and the terrible."38 History, for example, takes a merely external view of revelation, and is liable to a perversion which substitutes [19/20] the testimony of historical documents for that of revelation as the measure of religion. This was the basis of Newman's criticism of Döllinger in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (1874). See Tonsor, 352, and Bokenkotter, p. 70. The sciences, Newman felt, may not pursue their course immune from theological criticism, and the Church may employ the weapons of authority to discipline the unbridled intellect. If Newman's intellect was liberal, his instincts were conservative.
Newman's assistance to Capes was rather limited. Want of time, and a certain reluctance to offend Wiseman, who had pressed him to write for the Dublin Review, prevented Newman from contributing to the Rambler. However, he brought Capes into contact with the members of his order, the Oratorians of Birmingham and London, and some of them wrote for the Rambler. In return for this support, the Rambler gave publicity to the work of the Oratorians; Capes also composed music for some of their functions. Eventually, in 1850, he secured from Newman three poems in a series to which Faber also contributed. In. that year Capes also persuaded Newman to become "theological censor" of the Rambler. These associations had created a widespread impression that the Rambler was in reality the organ of the Oratorians; in 1851, at Newman's urging, Capes had to deny this publicly (Newman to Capes, 6 and II May 1851, Newman MSS). Rambler, VII (June 1851), 542. Newman had apparently been criticized by the Continental Oratorians for conducting a secular journal. Capes, in denying this, took occasion to contradict other rumours that the Rambler was the organ of Cardinal Wiseman, or of the Jesuits In 1852, due to his preoccupation with the Achilli trial and the Dublin University, Newman resigned his "censorship" of the Rambler.
His influence had always been exercised in favour of caution, and the two years of his "censorship" coincided with a period of temporary conservatism for the Rambler. The Catholic diocesan hierarchy had been restored in 1850, and the agitation against it had disillusioned many Catholics who had hoped for friendlier relations with Protestants. For a time the English Catholics tended to withdraw into the state of isolation from which they had only recently emerged. The [20/21] Rambler, following this trend, published, in May 1851, an article which warned that the State was perpetually the enemy of the Church, and that its "toleration and favour are always transitory and fictitious. The Church and the world cannot coalesce and walk side by side for a single hour" ("Our Position and Policy," VII, 378.) It denounced "liberalism" and those Catholics who abstained from actions which might irritate Protestants or who did not "live for Catholic objects" (380). In September "Civil and Religious Liberty" denounced the principle of religious liberty as gione of the most wicked delusions" and proclaimed that "Catholicism is the most intolerant of creeds" (VIII, 177-8). The writer acknowledged that religious toleration might be justified as a political measure, though not as a doctrine. The style and spirit of this article suggest that it may have been written by Ward. This attitude, however, was alien to the spirit of the Rambler, and did not last long.
This temporary policy of isolation had its effect on the Rambler's politics-its weakest department. The "papal aggression" agitation had broken the traditional connection of the Catholics with the Whigs. The Rambler advocated the formation of an independent Catholic opposition in Parliament to work for exclusively Catholic objects. However, the reality of the "Irish Independent Opposition" which was formed under the leadership of Lucas-a party which was devoted not merely to Catholicism but to tenant right-soon disillusioned the Rambler, and it relapsed into its earlier indifference to political parties.
Neither the occasional vacillations of its policy nor the controversies in which it was frequently engaged had prevented the Rambler from making good its footing as an established journal. This was no mean accomplishment, as Catholic periodicals were notorious for their instability. Capes frequently complained of the fickleness of the small Catholic reading public, "the most sensitive and touchy class of men in the world" ("Cheap Books," IV (Nov. 1849), 415), who were inclined to cancel their subscriptions whenever an article gave some offence. [21/22]
The Rambler was considered "an unusually successful periodical, as Catholic matters go" (IX (April 1852) 202); its circulation, rather less than one thousand copies, was regarded as satisfactory, and it did not lack for contributors, although it was essentially the work of a single individual and a few friends" ("Hopes and Fears for 1850," V (Jan. 1850), 10). Nonetheless, the financial returns barely sufficed to cover the expenses for printing and paper; contributors were infrequently paid; and Capes, despite some pecuniary aid from his friends, found himself in 1852 out of pocket by some £400. Convinced of the necessity of his work, he was not dismayed by this, and was determined to carry on. His difficulties did not deter him from testifying that in "The Struggles of Catholic Literature, "it is a wonderful thing to be a Catholic" (IX April 1852, 262).
In this spirit he celebrated the fourth anniversary of his conversion with an article on "Four Years' Experience of the Catholic Religion" (July, Aug., Sept. 1849), 161-171, 221-233, 283-295. A pirated edition was published in America Philadelphia, 1849). Arguing that submission to Rome did not enslave the intellect, he asserted that his own conversion could be justified by the same reasoning which is employed in any human science: "the balance of probabilities" was decidedly in favour of Rome, and he had embraced "the most probable of two alternatives" (164). This "probabilistic" argument was criticized by a Catholic theologian, in a private letter to Capes, on the ground that it was a point of doctrine that the certainty with which a Catholic believes in the Church was an absolute, not merely a moral, certainty, excluding the idea of probability. Capes, with his mathematical turn of mind, thought this doctrine a "logical monstrosity" (To Rome and Back, p. 304). Christianity itself, he thought, was a matter of certainty only in the manner in which all other historical questions were certain, "depending, that is, upon documentary evidence, which could never rise to the certainty of abstract mathematical truth" (p. 303). how then could Catholicism claim a greater degree of certainty? This doctrine of faith [22/23] appeared to Capes to violate the immutable laws of reason.
This was the first shock to his faith in the Catholic Church. He could not find a solution to his difficulty; Newman, whom he consulted, apparently did not realize the nature of his problems and returned an unsatisfactory answer. Capes was nonetheless sure that an answer could be found or that his critic had overstated the teaching of the Church. "It was for a long time a puzzle rather than a recognised doubt. So thorough was my trust and my satisfaction, that the new thought was for years nothing but a haunting suspicion of the existence of some sort of intellectual problem, the solution of which must be readily accessible, if only I could find my way to it" (302). It was several years before he came to consider the question as one which required him to reconsider his faith in Catholicism. Its only immediate effect was to make him readier to admit the intellectual difficulties of Catholicism and to look with a critical eye on the shortcomings of ecclesiastical authorities. Only a few friends were ever told of his doubts; Newman, who was one of them, did not consider the difficulty very serious. As late as 1857 Newman was able to write: "Capes is too good a fellow for one to have any fears of him" (Newman to Ambrose St. John, 7 May 1857, cited by Ward, Life of Newman, I, 437). No hint of Capes' doubts ever appeared in the Rambler, and there is no reason to believe that they exercised any significant influence on his conduct of the magazine.
In 1852 Capes, on account of a chronic illness, found the burden of editing the Rambler too great, and persuaded his friend James Spencer Northcote to become editor. Capes remained proprietor of the magazine and continued to contribute articles. Northcote's editorship was not a success. In 1853 his wife became ill and then died; this incapacitated him for some time for his duties as editor. After his wife's death, he resolved to study for the priesthood, and was anxious to give up his secular occupations. Capes, meanwhile, had become dissatisfied with Northcote's conduct of the Rambler, complaining that "his cautiousness, and dry antiquarianism, made the sale fall off so much, that I felt obliged to resume the work as soon as I could" (Letter of Capes to Mrs. Richard Simpson (date uncertain), Downside MSS. Northcote was ordained in 1857.). Northcote resigned in October of 1854, and Capes resumed the editorship.
Capes' second editorship opened a new chapter in the history of the Rambler.On 1 Jan. 1854, as a promotional device to increase subscriptions, the Rambler commenced a "new series," beginning again with Vol. I. There is no special significance in this change. In 1859, another "new series" was commenced; and it has become customary to cite this (actually the third) series as the "new series" To avoid confusion, volumes of the "new" (second) series will be cited as "2nd ser." Hitherto, although it had supported, with some inconsistencies, those doctrines of bold inquiry and breadth of view which were later to be called "Liberal Catholic," it had done so simply by putting them into practice rather than by proclaiming them as a programme. In the middle 1850s, however, it began to take a more positive position.
Last modified 8 September 2001