The retirement of Newman spelled disaster to the Oxford Movement. The Tractarians lost the single bold and original mind which the then possessed. The national influence of the movement was symbolised in Newman. The parochial sermons of St. Mary’s, bound in successive volumes, were taken into many vicarages and some pulpit The name of Newman rang with the ideals of self-sacrifice which the sermons propagated. He seemed to call the church to a higher life . . . The Tractarian mind looked for leadership from the two other Keble and Pusey. And these two men had the merit of being almo unmoved by ill-repute. They were anxious, but their anxiety was tempered by a religious doctrine that truth will be unpopular. . . .

Keble courted no popularity and in his quiet retirement faced little unpopularity. Pusey intended to court no unpopularity, but was so poor a judge of public prudence that he faced obloquy. Keble and Pusey at least had a stability. But as leaders of a party neither could compare with Newman. Keble’s name was beautiful among high churchmen, but beautiful with the sound of poetry, of simple ministration in a country parish, of a character quaint and pure and naive. He had neither the force of mind nor the breadth of vision to guide the troubled high churchmen of that day. Pusey could do more. By his public stature and by the nickname bestowed upon the Oxford writers, he inherited the mantle of leadership which Newman threw aside. If Newman had faults as head of a party, they were trivial to Pusey’s. Ten years earlier Pusey might have managed better. In 1839 his wife died and left him a changed man. Many years passed before he entered the drawing-room of his own house. He wore crape upon his hat till he died, could not cross Tom Quad without a mental vision of the pall of her coffin fluttering in the breeze, would not dine out or in hall. He tried to see her death as punishment for his past sin, and his strictness and austerity were melancholy. He kept his eyes down when walking, used a hard seat by day and a hard bed by night, repressed all humour, resolved never to look at a beauty of nature without an expression of unworthiness, refused to wear gloves though his hands were liable to chilblains, made an act of internal humiliation when college servants or undergraduates saluted him, and prayed daily for gravity. He made Keble his confessor and asked to be allowed not to smile except with young children or in a matter of love. At one corner of the most splendid college in Oxford he practised the life of a hermit, with its remoteness and strictness, prayerful contemplation, command over select hearts, affection and simplicity, failure to understand the world or to influence the generality of men. It should rightly have been said of Pusey, what was later said of Christopher Wordsworth, that he had one foot in heaven and the other foot in the third century a.d. The Tractarians justly venerated his sanctity and disregarded his judgment. [198-99]


Chadwick, Owen. The Victorian Church. London: Adam & Charles Black. 1966.

Last modified 18 June 2018