atthew Arnold and John Henry Newman met only twice . The first meeting took place on May 13, 1880, when Arnold was invited to a reception given by the Duke of Norfolk at his house in St. James's Square in honor of Newman, who had been made a Cardinal in Rome in May of the preceding year. Arnold was fifty-seven years old, with the bulk of his poetry and criticism behind him; Newman, then seventy-nine, had felt that "the cloud is lifted" in the bestowal of the hat, but the major writings had ended ten years before, and the remaining decade of his life was spent out of the public eye.
Arnold received the invitation on Thursday, the day of the reception, but had to attend a dinner first. His friend Arthur Stanley, himself a former Rugbeian and Oxonian and now a leader of the Broad-Church party, was present. Arnold later gave his sister Fan a delightful vignette of Stanley, always something of a social climber, "who was deeply interested and excited at my having the invitation to meet the Cardinal; he hurried me off the moment dinner was over, saying, 'This is not a thing to lose!' " (L, II, 196) That very night, when he arrived home, Arnold wrote Stanley the following account:
Newman stood in costume, in a reserved part of the drawing room, supported by a chaplain and by the D. of Norfolk. Devotees, chiefly women, [05/06] kept pressing up to him; they were named to him, knelt, kissed his hand, got a word or two and passed on. I don't know that I should have had the courage to cleave the press, but Lady Portsmouth took charge of me and conveyed me safe to the chaplain who whispered my name to Newman. I made the most deferential of bows, he took my hand in both of his and held it there during our interview, which of course was very short. He said: "I ventured to tell the Duchess I should like to see you," and I said I was glad of the opportunity to tell him how much I owed him. He asked me a question or two about myself, and then about Tom and his troubles; nothing of any interest passed, but I am glad to have spoken to him and shaken hands with him. The sentiment of him, of his sermons, of his position in the Church and in English religion, filled Oxford when I was there; it suited the place, and I am glad, and always shall be glad, to have been there at that moment, and grateful to Newman for the atmosphere of feeling he then created for me. [Unpublished letter in the possession of Mr. Seymour Adelman of Philadelphia, by whose generosity it is presented here.]
The "sentiment" of Newman, "the atmosphere of feeling" he created in Arnold's young manhood, suffused much of Arnold's later career. How much Arnold "owed" Newman, however, in two of his most persistent concerns — the role and stance of the critic, and the religious future of England — has never been fully recorded.
Forty years ago the late Henry Tristram in a helpful study suggested a number of connections between the two men, especially in their common attack on "Liberalism." ("Newman and Matthew Arnold," The Cornhill, p. 309-319.) What remains unexplored in its range and complexity is Arnold's life-long involvement with Newman, as a man and as an intellectual stimulus — and the two are not easily separated. For example, Newman is a constantly invoked presence in Arnold's religious writings of the eighteen-seventies, and not always as the "adversary," even though Newman's religious position is, for Arnold, frankly "impossible" (DA, p. 139). The sheer mass and importance of direct and indirect reference to Newman in Arnold's writings, when combined with an extended correspondence between the two men, force the conclusion that Newman was more central and more essential to Arnold's development than is generally [06/07] believed. The precise weight and tone of Arnold's attitudes toward a number of crucial matters — criticism and the qualities of the critic; culture, Liberalism, Philistinism; religious "development," the Oxford Movement, the Roman Catholic Church; the relation of religion to poetry — cannot be caught without reference to Arnold's relation to Newman. Beyond these matters of belief and opinion, however, there remains the enigma of the two men — both subtle, both masters of style and the public manner, and, despite the barrier of twenty years and incompatible commitments, bound together in an almost unique (though long-distance) master-disciple relationship compounded of affection, respect, flattering mutual interest, and a kind of awed and wary incomprehension.
When Matthew Arnold entered Balliol College in the autumn of 1841, John Henry Newman, until recently the acknowledged leader of the Tractarians, was unquestionably the most spiritually attractive figure at Oxford. But Arnold's enrolment almost exactly coincided with the ebbing of the Tractarian tide. Tract 90 appeared in February, 1841, its burden being that the Thirty-Nine Articles "do not oppose Catholic teaching; they but partially oppose Roman dogma; they for the most part oppose the dominant errors of Rome" (Apologia, p.72). In the deafening din of repudiation, Newman retired to Littlemore, and, as he says in the Apologia, "From the end of 1841, I was on my death-bed, as regards my membership with the Anglican Church" (Apologia, p.133). For the observation of this scene of acute spiritual and intellectual turmoil, Matthew Arnold brought special qualifications: his father, Thomas Arnold, had been for some years perhaps Newman's most bitter and outspoken public enemy.
In the. decade before he went up to Oxford, Matthew Arnold must have heard a great deal, much of it decidedly unfavorable, about the Tractarian Movement and its leading spirit. Almost unbelievably, Newman and Thomas Arnold met only twice. In 1828, Newman had disputed with Arnold for his B.D. degree, "merely to keep Arnold company" (LCJHN, I, 158, 159). And in February 1842, four months before Arnold's death, they met again; reflecting, two years later, on their relations, Newman regretfully describes the elder Arnold [07/08] as "a man whom I have always separated from the people he was with, always respected, always defended, though from an accident he got a notion that I was a firebrand, and particularly hostile to him" (LCJHN, II, 395). Between the two meetings stretches the phenomenon of Tractarianism, the meaning of which Thomas Arnold remained to the last stubbornly unable to comprehend. (See Thomas Mozley, p. 54. and Arnold Whitridge, p. 170.) His blindness to its theological richness and to the value of its practical side, the quest for a religion of holiness, may have sprung from his closeness to its chief figures. Oriel College is the key. Both Dr. Arnold and Newman had held fellowships at Oriel, and consequently had a great many mutual friends and acquaintances (T. W. Bamford, Thomas Arnold, p. 95; Leslie Stephen (Studies of a Biographer, II, 99-102)long ago broached the subject of Matthew Arnold's dual Oxford inheritance.). There, in John Keble and in Hurrell Froude, Newman had found the companions suited to create a climate favorable to the aims of the Oxford Movement. There, too, Dr. Arnold found, in liberals like Richard Whately, Renn Dickson Hampden, and Edward Copleston, support for his own Latitudinarian theology and for a reading of Scripture which minimized the traditional force of prophecy and miracle.
Matthew Arnold's standing with regard to these two incompatible Oriel traditions is of the utmost importance in understanding his own complex theological disposition — at once liberal and conservative, poetic and rationalistic. To the Oxford Movement, and above all to Newman, Arnold was to look for that temper of mind which he was to recommend as perhaps the chief substance of his critical and social essays. From the "Oriel Noetics," men like Whately and Hampden, Arnold learned the chief method of his religious criticism of the eighteen-seventies — the sharp distinction between the explicative language of theology and the symbolic and "approximative" language of the Bible. (See William Blackburn, p. 70-78.) The two original lines of antagonistic thought grew, significantly, by mutual repulsion. One of the chief purposes of Hampden's Scholastic Theology Considered in its Relation to Christian Theology [08/09] (the Bampton lectures for 1832) was precisely to discredit the views on tradition held by the men of the Oxford Movement. That movement, born officially in July 1833, defined itself from the first as a "counter-movement" bent upon resisting "the assault of Liberalism upon the old orthodoxy of Oxford and England" (Apologia, p.53), a Liberalism centered very strongly in the person of Thomas Arnold. This was the "Liberalism" that Matthew Arnold in the sixties was to insist that he and Newman were joined together in repulsing. In fact Matthew Arnold, who won an Oriel fellowship in March 1844, claimed both Oriel traditions as his own, though undoubtedly he was never willing or able to resolve the deep ambiguities of their union in his thinking. At times, to be sure, Matthew Arnold expressed impatience with that whole generation of Oriel thinkers, their common defect being, it would seem, their taint of provinciality — so abhorrent to Arnold. In 1869, after reading John Taylor Coleridge's Memoir of John Keble (who was Matthew Arnold's godfather), Arnold complained to his mother: "my one feeling when I close the book is of papa's immense superiority to all the set, mainly because, owing to his historic sense, he was so wonderfully, for his nation, time, and profession, European, and thus so got himself out of the narrow medium in which, after all, his English friends lived" (L, II, 5; February 20, 1869). However, in the last essay Arnold wrote — published three months after his death in 1888 — he looks back to that Oriel generation, and sees them all as one in "tone, bearing, dignity." Speaking of such figures as Shelley, Godwin, Hunt, and Byron in his review of Edward Dowden's life of Shelley, Arnold suddenly, arid for unclear reasons, exclaims:
what a set! The history carries us to Oxford, and I think of the clerical and respectable Oxford of those old times, the Oxford of Copleston and the Kebles and Hawkins, and a hundred more.. . . I appeal to Cardinal Newman, if perchance he does me the honour to read these words, is it possible to imagine Copleston or Hawkins declaring himself safe "while the exalted mind of the Duke of Norfolk protects me with the world?" [EC-2, p.238]
The conflation of all these disparate men, Edmund Copleston, John and Thomas Keble, Edward Hawkins, and Newman, as well as the [09/10] grounds for his admiration, suggest the complexity, and perhaps the confusion, of Matthew Arnold's religious position. It also suggests that when Arnold speaks, again and again, of the Oxford of the "old times" he is thinking of the eighteen-twenties, thirties, and forties, of the Oriel of Thomas Arnold's and John Henry Newman's generation.
Thomas Arnold was involved in one of the great spiritual crises of Newman's life. In May 1833, while traveling alone in Sicily, Newman fell seriously ill; in his feverish state, he subjected himself to an intense examination of his own spiritual "hollowness." In the account he later wrote, Newman explained: "Arnold in his letter to Grant about me, accuses me among others of identifying high excellence with certain peculiarities of my own — i.e. preaching myself." (Autobiographical Writings, ed. Henry Tristram, p. 125. Father Tristram's comments: "it is not clear whether he admitted the truth of the impeachment or not" [p. 143]). The letter to Grant does not survive; the closest we may come to its contents is a letter to A.P. Stanley, of May 1836:
Now with regard to the Newmanites. I do not ca11 them bad men, nor would I deny their many good qualities.. . . but fanaticism is idolatry . . . a fanatic worships something which is the creature of his own devices, and thus even his self-devotion in support of it is only an apparent self-sacrifice, for it is in fact making the parts of his nature or his mind, which he least values, offer sacrifice to that which he most values. The moral fault . . . is in the idolatry,-the setting up some idea which is most kindred to our own minds, and then putting it in the place of Christ. . . it is clear to me that Newman and his party are idolators. [The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold, II, p. 46-47]
The manner is, for all its characteristically "explosive" tone, (Mozley, p. 54.) surprisingly balanced for the man whose article on the "Oxford Malignants" had appeared in the preceding month.
Sometime earlier than Newman's illness of May 1833 occurred an episode that was to plague the personal relations of these two men of Oriel. At Rome, when asked whether a particular interpretation of [10/11] Scripture held by Thomas Arnold was Christian, Newman replied, "But is he a Christian?" (Apologia, p.30). By June of 1834 an "innocent" Newman complains that Hurrell Froude is abandoning him over this "strange mishap":
only think how mildly I have always spoken of Arnold, and how bitterly you; never did I use a harsh word against him, I think, except that once, and then at Rome, and with but one or two friends. Yet even from Rome these words are dragged forth, and I have to answer for them, in spite of my very great moderation and charity as touching him. [LCJHN, II, 42]
The unpleasantness was increased by the open bitterness of Thomas Arnold's treatment of Newman in an Appendix (on the Apostolical Succession) to Volume III of his Sermons (LCJHN, II, 82). By of 1836, Newman and Thomas Arnold had come to be looked upon as the symbolic leaders of the opposing extremes at the University (LCJHN, II 146). Newman himself referred to the Liberals now as "the school of Dr. Arnold" (Apologia, p.191); and Newman saw that Arnold's party was growing, throughout the thirties, in numbers as well as in "breadth and definiteness of doctrine": above all, "by the accession of Dr. Arnold's pupils, it was invested with an elevation of character which claimed the respect even of its opponents" (Apologia, p.264). Thomas Arnold's own lack of "mildness" and "moderation" reached a kind of crescendo in the famous Edinburgh article of April 1836, titled (though this was not Arnold's phrase) "The Oxford Malignants." Newman and E. B. Pusey had both written works attacking Hampden as heretical, and the Tractarians made his being offered the Regius Professorship of Divinity the occasion for a violent furor theologicus. Arnold, convinced of the ill will of the Tractarian party, plunged into the fray with his attack on "the Oxford conspirators, . . . the formalist Judaizing fanatics," and "the pretended holiness" of their lives: "But the attack on Dr. Hampden bears upon it the character . . . of moral wickedness. . . . in such a proceeding we see nothing of Christian zeal, but much of the mingled fraud, and baseness, and cruelty of fanatical persecution." Arnold is convinced he is dealing with men "blinded by wilful neglect of the [11/12] highest truth" or "corrupted by the habitual indulgence of evil passions." (Cited in Whitridge, p. 235)
This is the Arnold who, as a contemporary remarked, "wielded his pen as if it were a ferule" (pp. 170-71.) he went to his grave without any clearer grasp of the real bearing of the Oxford Movement. The irony, perhaps even the tragedy and waste, of much of Thomas Arnold's controversial career, was that he and Newman were at one in their efforts to deepen the spiritual lives of the young men who came under their influence, and each was to leave a mark on the Church of England — on its piety and its theology — which would remain indelible for many years. Newman seems to have had a kind of tolerant contempt for Arnold as an ecclesiastical thinker, judging that "there is so little intellectual consistency in his bases" regarding the chimerical doctrine of the identification of the perfect State and the perfect Church. On the other hand, Newman could generously grant, on the appearance of A. P. Stanley's edition of the Life and Correspondence in 1844, that "it is very pleasant to think that his work has been so good a one — the reformation of public schools — this seems to have been blessed and will survive him." (Correspondence of John Henry Newman with John Keble and Others, pp. 321-22.) Newman claimed, in a letter written to John Keble three months after Thomas Arnold's death: "I think I never spoke harshly of him except on the occasion which gave me the opportunity of doing so, and which I really cannot reproach myself with" (LCJHN, II, 359-360). That single remark, however, remained to trouble Newman for some years; only the conversion to Catholicism of Matthew Arnold's brother, Thomas Arnold, Jr., put that specter to rest. In 1856, two years after Tom Arnold's conversion, Newman wrote him: "I knew your father a little, and I really think I never had any unkind feeling towards him.. . . If I said ever a harsh thing against him I am very sorry for it. In seeing you, I should have a sort of pledge that he at the moment of his death made it all up with me." (Mrs. Humphry Ward, p.21.) [12/13]
In the absence of direct testimony, it is dangerous to speculate too closely on the motives for Matthew Arnold's abandonment of the Christianity of his boyhood home. Nevertheless, it has recently been shown that the loss of religious faith in such representative early Victorian agnostics as F. W. Newman (John Henry Newman's brother), J. A. Froude (brother of Newman's close friend, Hurrell Froude), and George Eliot was not due, in the first place, to the usually suggested reasons — the rise of evolutionary theory in geology and biology and the Higher Criticism of the Bible. Instead, in each life the dominant factor was a growing repugnance toward the ethical implications of what each had been taught to believe as essential Christianity — especially the set of interrelated doctrines: Original Sin, Reprobation, Baptismal Regeneration, Vicarious Atonement, Eternal Punishment (see Murphy and Gillespie). Only after this alienation was fixed did the skeptical trio show serious interest in the Higher Criticism (as support for attacking offensive orthodox teachings) and evolution (as indicating a way of life more in harmony with the meliorist ethic of the age). Despite Matthew Arnold's rather tepid defense of the Christian "system of morality" in 1863 against John Stuart Mill's indictment of its negative character (CPW, III, 133), it is precisely the familiar arguments of the nineteenth-century agnostics based on ethical revulsion which Arnold urges in his own full-dress assault on Evangelical theology in Saint Paul and Protestantism (1870). He contemptuously rejects the "monstrous" vision of a capricious God who deals in election and predestination and cruelly emphasizes the crass commercial quality of the Puritan catchwords, "covenant," "ransom," "redeem," "purchase," "bargain" (SPP, pp. 7-11).
Arnold's loss of faith, whatever its cause, came early and was remarkably undramatic; it was not the turbulent spiritual struggle J. A. Froude endured (reflected in his semiautobiographical novels, Shadows of the Clouds, 1847, and The Nemesis of Faith, 1849), nor was it the [13/14] years-long diminution of belief which flickers painfully through the letters of Arthur Hugh Clough." Instead, as Alan Harris has written, Arnold "seems, indeed, to have shed his orthodox beliefs with few of the usual struggles" (499-500). By the time of his Oxford residency whatever crisis Arnold had undergone seems to have passed. Even in 1840 and 1841 he was reluctant to avow the Thirty-Nine Articles or accept the Athanasian Creed; (LC, pp. 23-24, citing a letter of Edward Walford, The Times (London), Friday, April 20, 1880, p. 13.) and Clough testifies that Arnold's chapel attendance was irregular (LC, p.25 ). Froude resented Arnold's tone of being au-dessus de la mêlée, of being aloof from the spectacle of religious struggle going on all about him. So fixed was Arnold by 1849 in the attitude of lofty impassivity, which is one of the moods of the poems of this period, that Froude could complain to Clough, obviously alluding to his own torment: "I admire Matt — to a very great extent. Only I don't see what business he has to parade his calmness and lecture us on resignation when he has never known what a storm is and doesn't know what he has to resign himself to — I think he only knows the shady side of nature out of books." (The Correspondence of Arthur Hugh Clough, I, 251.)
It is not surprising, then, that Arnold, like his brother Tom, never "showed . . . the smallest tendency to 'Newmanism' " in any formal sense while at Oxford. (Mrs. Humphry Ward, p.11.) Mrs. Humphry Ward, Tom's daughter, writes:
Matthew Arnold occasionally went, out of admiration, my father used to say, for that strange Newmanic power of words, which in itself fascinated the young Balliol poet, who was to produce his own first volume of poems two [sic] years after Newman's secession to the Church of Rome. But he was never touched in the smallest degree by Newman's opinions. He and my father and Arthur Clough, and a few other kindred spirits, lived indeed in quite another world of thought. They discovered George Sand, Emerson and Carlyle, and orthodox Christianity no longer seemed to them the sure refuge that it had always been to the strong teacher who trained them as boys. [Ibid, p. 11-12.] [14/15]
But her father, while supporting her view of the reason for the attraction, suggests a more intense and prolonged personal involvement with Newman. Tom writes: "The perfect handling of words, joined to the delicate presentation of ideas, attracted him powerfully to John Henry Newman, whose afternoon Sunday sermons at St. Mary's he for a long time regularly attended. But, so far as I know, Newman['s] teaching never made an impression upon him." (Passages in a Wandering Life, p. 57.) Tom himself was scarcely under the influence of Newman the man or the preacher:
Of Newman, in my undergraduate time, I had seen scarcely anything. I went certainly once — perhaps twice — to hear one of his afternoon sermons at St. Mary's, but the delicacy and refinement of his style were less cognisable by me than by my brother, and the multiplied quotations from Scripture, introduced by "And again"- "And again," the intention of which I only half divined, confused and bewildered me. [Ibid, p. 150]
What Matthew Arnold sought and found in the sermons he attended "for a long time" is not easily expressed, "The strange Newmanic power of words," "The perfect handling of words, joined to a delicate presentation of ideas" — these are the unquestioned attractions, and the burden of Arnold's praise of Newman in the sixties is precisely Newman's urbanity and intellectual delicacy. Further, in the 1883 lecture on "Emerson" Newman is presented as a figure of refined aesthetic interest in himself-a man of "imagination," "genius," "charm," and "style," a "spiritual apparition" (DA, pp. 139-41).
Exactly what did Arnold hear in Newman's sermons preached between the autumn of 1841 and September 25, 1843, the date of his last sermon in the Anglican Church? First, it is important to note that he did not hear either of the famous quotations rather misleadingly given in the "Emerson" lecture forty years later: these belong to 1838 and 1839. Only three of the Parochial and Plain Sermons belong to this era (Sermons X and XI of Volume VII, and Sermon XVI of Volume VIII), and only one of the Oxford University Sermons, "The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine" (despite its title, a rather distant forecast of the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine). [15/16]
The bulk of the sermons Arnold could have heard were sixteen of those appearing in Sermons Bearing on Subjects of the Day, which, notwithstanding its title, is almost exclusively concerned with devotional matters. Only very occasionally is a note struck which will be heard again in Arnold's religious writings: for example, Newman's dwelling on the small "elect remnant" who provide the nexus between the Jewish and the Christian Churches will be recalled in Arnold's lecture on "Numbers; or, The Majority and the Remnant"; and Newman's sermon on the Kingdom of God as "a kingdom founded, based in righteousness." finds an echo later in Arnold's increasing emphasis on "the kingdom of God or the reign of righteousness." (See Sermons, pp. 193 ff, and DA, pp. 15 ff. [Newman is cited directly, in a related context, DA, p. 6.]; and Sermons, pp. 237 ff., and LD, pp. 337 ff.) Above all, the Arnold who preached the "method of Jesus" as the overcoming of "faults of temper and faults of sensuality" by strictness of conscience ("inwardness"), and "the secret of Jesus" as "self-renouncement" leading to Peace, joy, life, and the "element" of "mildness" and "sweet reasonableness" would have responded with great sympathy to Newman's exhortation: "Whatever is right, whatever is wrong, in this perplexing world, we must be right in 'doing justly, in loving mercy, in walking humbly with our God;' in denying our wills, in ruling our tongues, in softening and sweetening our tempers, in mortifying our lusts; in learning patience, meekness, purity, forgiveness of injuries, and continuance in well-doing." (See Sermons, p. 13, and LD, Chapter VII [Newman is brought into the argument on LD, p. 211.]) These are, of course, all matters of direct concern to Arnold many years afterward and if Newman's sermons did indeed influence these passages in Arnold's writings, it is more likely that Arnold reread the Sermons after they were reissued in 1869.
The little direct evidence of Newman's influence on Arnold during Arnold's Oxford days is inconclusive. In 1843, in a letter to his friend, John Duke Coleridge, concerning his father's sermons, Arnold praised his own "utter want of prejudice" in finding it "perfectly possible to admire" both his father's and Newman's sermons. (See Appendix I) On the other hand, [16/17] when A. P. Stanley's Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold appeared in May 1844, it was precisely Thomas Arnold's letter of May 1836, already cited above, attacking the Newmanites as "idolators," that Arnold singled out for approval. He wrote his mother in late May or early June: "What I have always thought clean conclusive, as he [Dr. Arnold] would have said, against the completeness of Newman's system, making it impossible that it should ever satisfy the whole of any man's nature, and which I have no doubt now I may have heard him say, is most characteristically put in the CXXXth Letter" (Unpublished letter, dated only "Balliol, Sunday," in the possession of Arnold Whitridge; dating fixed by sentence, "you shall have my exhibition before June ends." For T. Arnold's letter, see Stanley, The Life of Thomas Arnold, II, 46-47.). The point of Arnold's objection to Newman's "system" is not clear, although the idea of satisfying the whole of a man's nature is suggested in Thomas Arnold's definition of Tractarian idolatry as "setting up some idea which is most kindred to our own minds, and then putting it in the place of Christ, who alone cannot be made an idol, and cannot inspire fanaticism, because He combines all ideas of perfection, and exhibits them in their just harmony and combination." But of course by 1844, although he might well refrain from telling his mother so, Arnold's own notion of the "ideas of perfection" in their "just harmony and combination" had advanced well beyond his father's. At least as regards Arnold's Oxford days, his brother Tom's judgment seems roughly correct: "Newman's teaching never made an impression upon him." How true this is, is seen by contrast in Arthur Hugh Clough, who had been bitten deeply by the Tractarian, bug. In January 1838 Clough C was reading Newman's sermons, and in April he reports that he likes "the great Newman" increasingly. In May, though no "thoroughgoing convert ad Neomanism," he was obviously filled with the heady theological disputes of the movement. (Correspondence, I, p. 66, 69, 71-72.) And as late as October 1843, the familiar Clough was struggling over the Thirty-Nine Articles and not "particularly inclined to become a Puseyite" but was prevented by his "Puseyitic position" from becoming anything else. (Ibid, I, p. 124.) For Arnold there could be no such immersion in theological politics, and a letter [17/18] of his of March 1845, just a few months before Newman's conversion to the Catholic Church, is a "satire on Tractarianism," although its exact point is rather hard to specify (LC, pp.55-57, and Lowry's note).
What remains, then, of the effect on Arnold of Newman and the Oxford Movement during this period? Owen Chadwick has recently reminded us:
There is a certain continuity of piety between the Evangelical movement and the Oxford Movement. There were other reasons why the high churchmen should learn not to be afraid of the feelings — romantic literature and art, the sense of affection and the sensibility of beauty pervading European thought, the flowering of poetry, the medievalism of the novel or of architecture. But in religion the Evangelicals taught the Oxford men not to be afraid of their feelings. . . .
Probably it is this element of feeling, the desire to use poetry as a vehicle of religious language, the sense of awe and mystery in religion, the profundity of reverence, the concern with the conscience not only by way of beauty, but by growth towards holiness, which marks the vague distinction between the old-fashioned high churchmen and the Oxford men. [The Mind of the Oxford Movement, p. 27]
Surely it is these latter qualities to which Arnold could and did respond most strongly in the Oxford Movement, and above all in Newman. If one-half of Newman's influence on Arnold was to center on such matters as Liberalism and culture in the sixties, the rest was to affect the tone — and to some extent even the ideas — of the religious writings of the seventies. Only if Newman's "teaching" is restricted to his theological propositions and to Anglican ecclesiastical politics, can Tom Arnold's statement be said to be strictly true. For all of Matthew Arnold's plunge, during and after the Oxford years, into Goethe, Emerson, Carlyle, Spinoza, and George Sand, the experience of Newman's sermons over a "long time" was almost certain to provide Arnold with key attitudes that he developed later in Literature and Dogma and elsewhere. Feeling as an essential element of religion, the close tie between religion and poetry, the profound concern with conscience and morality — all of these Tractarian emphases survived the period of Arnold's greatest alienation from Christianity. Perhaps most important, [18/19] these residual attitudes were to make Arnold unhappy, in the sixties, with the rather joyless stoicism that he had developed as an alternative to Christianity during the preceding two decades.
Not surprisingly, Newman's is a somewhat wraithlike presence in Arnold's early poetry. The bulk of the poetry falls during the forties and fifties, and his early critics soon saw that a "perfectly natural feeling of regret towards a departing faith" was "the principal source of the mournful and pathetic inspiration" of the early collections. (J. B. Selkirk, p. 43.) The poetry is, in fact, unintelligible except as the expression of Arnold's struggle to clear some standing room in a world where he can accept neither past, nor present, nor future. With regard to that past, which is in large part Christianity, Arnold may feel intense regret at the departure of faith, but never in this period does he hesitate in his rejection of Christianity, nor does he make the slightest movement toward reconciliation. What the poetry insists upon is the obligation of renouncing false props from the past and of accepting unblinkingly the implications of a naturalistic universe. He could have little sympathy for or patience with what he regarded (in "Thyrsis," 1866) as Clough's wavering and perhaps his spiritual cowardice. Throughout this period Arnold's attitude toward Christianity has a double aspect related to his later views; now his interest is in forging a philosophy outside the context of historical Christianity, whereas later his philosophy of man and of history will be explicitly "Christian." In both periods, however, he displays undisguised contempt for official religion and a kind of intense gaiety in exposing the pretensions of self-consciously religious people. He writes Clough in 1849, admitting that he is "more snuffing after a moral atmosphere to respire in than ever before in my life"; but he makes clear that be and Clough are above merely religious people like Arnold's brother Tom, who was soon to follow Newman into the Catholic Church. Only he and Clough are "The children of the second birth /Whom the world could not tame" (A quotation from Arnold's poem, "Stanzas in Memory of the Author of 'Obermann'" [PW, p. 310.])the others, those preoccupied with religion, are "mystics and such cattle": Tom is not "in any sense cattle or even -a mystic but he has not a 'still, considerate mind'" [19/20] (LC, pp.109-110; September 23, 1849). The "cattle" whom Arnold seems most to have contemned were precisely agnostics like J.A. Froude and F.W. Newman, whose torments of conscience had become matters of public controversy.
In Arnold's Cromwell, the 1843 Newdigate prize poem at Oxford, Mrs. Tillotson claims to hear, "faintly, the voice of Newman." ("Matthew Arnold and Carlyle" [Warton Lecture on English Poetry], p. 139.) She may be alluding to Arnold's almost Tractarian interest in the seventeenth-century Anglican Church, evident in the portraits of Laud, "In priestly garb.. . . like a saint at rest," and of Charles I: "the monarch wept alone, / Between a ruin'd church and shatter'd throne!" (PW, pp.476, 477). Ironically, as C.B. Tinker and H.F. Lowry remark, "The selection of the subject may well have been intended to turn the attention of young enthusiasts back to the principles of Puritanism, and away from the pernicious doctrines of Catholicism with which Pusey and Newman had infected the University." (The Poetry of Matthew Arnold: A Commentary, p. 323. Hereafter cited as Commentary.) If in "Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse," first published in 1855, Newman's voice can, as Mrs. Tillotson says, ("Matthew Arnold and Carlyle", p. 149.) be heard more clearly, it is in a deeply ambiguous context. Conceived as far back as Arnold's Oxford days, and written perhaps from 1851 on,(A Commentary, p. 323.) the "Grande Chartreuse" not only suggests the reasons for Arnold's growing dissatisfaction with his painful interim state, conveyed in the early poems, of a lofty, impassive stoicism; it also suggests in detail Arnold's attitudes toward the place of historic Christianity in the modem world — and with obvious references to Newman and the Oxford Movement.
The poem is not so much a lament for a lost Christianity, as an expression of Arnold's hopelessness over the impotence to which his melancholy, withdrawn stoicism has reduced him. At least four different attitudes are considered in the poem: (1) Christian faith, which has simply "gone" (1. 84;) (2) Arnold's own "outworn" and "outdated code (11. 100,106) gained from the "rigorous teachers" and [20/21] "masters of the mind" of his youth, who are the "shy recluses" of 1. 192; (3) the attitude of the present, the "world" (1. 97), which is entirely insensitive to the melancholy demeanor of "the race of them who grieve" (1. 110); and (4) the vision of a far-distant renewed world, now "powerless to be born" (1. 86), but in waiting for which Arnold and his fellow recluses ask allowance for their "tears" (1. 162). And so the "children" beneath the "abbey-wall" are not, as some commentators have assumed, Christians, but people like Arnold, post-Christians, who have nevertheless been schooled in a philosophy of meditative withdrawal and therefore are as unfitted for the life of "action and pleasure" offered by the modern world (11. 194 ff.) as are the traditional Christians like the monks. Rather wistfully, Arnold sees himself as too far committed to the "reverie" and seclusion of his shy masters (1. 206), and resigns himself to his "desert" (1. 210). Arnold's sense of being totally unfitted for activity in the world, as the result of his early ethical discipline, is clear, and the poem thus becomes entirely consistent with Arnold's relative indifference to Christianity in this period. The tone of regret with regard to his present state is unmistakable.
By the mid-fifties, then, the two "faiths" that Matthew Arnold had successively held — that of Christian orthodoxy, and that which bade him aspire to "the high, white star of Truth" — were both of the "dead" world of the past. He seems, even if reluctantly, to accept the view of the despised "world" that orthodox religious faith "is now / But a dead time's exploded dream" (11. 97-98). Tinker and Lowry are correct, certainly, in seeing Dr. Arnold and Rugby Chapel, and Newman and St. Mary's, as one of the real subjects of the poem. The implication is strong that, for Arnold, then as later, Christian theology was an "exploded dream," intellectually indefensible. (Ibid, p. 252.)34 As he was to [21/22] say of Newman in 1883, "he has adopted, for the doubts and difficulties which beset men's minds to-day, a solution which, to speak frankly, is impossible" (DA, p. 139). Also, it seems likely that Arnold is referring to both groups, the "last of the race of them who grieve" and the "last of the people who believe," in his remark, "the best are silent now" (11. 110-114). Was Newman in the eighteen-fifties, like Dr. Arnold and like Arnold's favorite sages, one of the now "silent"?35 At any rate, the image for the intellectual confusion of the age, as expressed by Arnold in the conclusion of "Dover Beach," (Published in 1867 but "probably composed much earlier" [Commentary, p. 173.])
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night,
may well have been derived in part from the conclusion of one of Newman's most impressive Oxford sermons: "Controversy, at least in this age, does not lie between the hosts of heaven ' Michael and his Angels on the one side, and the powers of evil on the other; but it is a sort of night battle, where each fights for himself, and friend and foe stand together. When men understand each other's meaning, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless."37
During the eighteen-fifties the shape of Newman's long-term influence [22/23] on Arnold — both in Arnold's view of Newman's significance as a man, as well as in certain substantive intellectual debts — becomes clear. In March 1853, Arnold writes his wife from Cambridge: "Yet I feel that the Middle Ages and all their poetry and impressiveness are in Oxford and not here" (L, I, 30). This feeling anticipates the Preface to Essays in Criticism, written twelve years later, where Arnold describes Oxford and "her ineffable charm . . . .. whispering from her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Ages" — words that Arnold later explicitly referred to Newman. In October 1854 Arnold writes again, this time from Oxford:
[I] felt the peculiar sentiment of this country and neighbourhood as deeply as ever. But I am much struck with the apathy and poorness of the people here, as they now strike me, and their petty pottering habits compared with the students of Paris, or Germany, or even of London. Animation and interest and the power of work seem so sadly wanting in them. And I think this is so; and the place, in losing Newman and his followers, has lost its religious movement, which after all kept it from stagnating, and has not yet, so far as I see, got anything better. (L, I, 44-45)
Arnold's intense interest in Newman's activities continued, as a letter of 1855, written to his brother Tom in New Zealand, reveals:
As to Church matters, I think people in general concern themselves less with them than they did when you left England. Certainly religion is not, to all appearance at least, losing ground here: but since the great people of Newman's party went over, the disputes among the comparatively unimportant remains of them do not excite much interest. I am going to hear Manning at the Spanish Chapel next Sunday. Newman gives himself up almost entirely to organising and educating the Roman Catholics, and is gone off greatly, they say, as a preacher. [Recollections, p. 53] [23/24]
Tom was received into the Roman Catholic Church in January 1856, in Tasmania, and returned to England in October, his post of school inspector having been made untenable by reason of his conversion. At this time he saw Matthew once again but left almost at once to take up, at Newman's, invitation, his duties as Professor of English Literature at the Catholic University in Dublin. (Passages, p. 159) In May 1857, having just won election to the Poetry Professorship at Oxford, Matthew Arnold wrote to Dublin, in answer to Tom's congratulations, a letter filled with references to the Oxford of "The Scholar-Gipsy," and remarked that "the sentiment of the place is overpowering to me when I have leisure to feel it." (Recollections, p. 54.) Arnold's letters also reveal, interestingly, that the High Church party at Oxford had put up an opposition candidate; Arnold was plainly elated when it turned out that "Keble voted for me after all. (Ibid, pp. 54-56.)
Arnold's enduring interest, then, in Newman and in a peculiar version of the Oxford "sentiment" with which he was henceforth habitually to link Newman is evident as early as the eighteen-fifties. The intellectual debt is more difficult to trace, but is seems entirely likely that Arnold would read with great interest Newman's Discourses on the Scope and Nature of University Education, Addressed to the Catholics of Dublin, published late in 1852. These lectures almost certainly played an important role in the formation of Arnold's teaching on "criticism" and "culture" in the following decade. But the direct influence may perhaps have begun much earlier with the Preface to the Poems of 1853, dated October 1. Certainly in one essential matter Arnold's views of poetry did not accord with Newman's. If in 1852 Arnold knew Newman's much earlier essay on "Poetry, with Reference to Aristotle's Poetics" (1829), he would have known that Newman in that discussion treated Aristotle's conception of tragedy in a highly Romantic manner, deprecating plot and emphasizing the power of "the characters, sentiments, and diction" (ECH, I, 1-2). As Charles Harrold puts it, Newman was at one with Wordsworth and Coleridge "in preferring suggestiveness, irregularity, vagueness above Greek [24/25] clarity and form." (John Henry Newman, p. 248.) Though Arnold had other critics in mind, he could almost be thinking of Newman's essay when he complains: "We have critics who seem to direct their attention merely to detached expressions, to the language about the actions, not to the action itself" (PW, p. xxiii). And of course Arnold goes on to praise Goethe's ideal of Architectonice in the highest sense; that power of execution, which creates, forms, and constitutes: not the profoundness of single thoughts, not the richness of imagery, not the abundance of illustration" (PW, p. xxv).
On two key points treated by Newman in 1852, however, Arnold and Newman coincide. First, in Arnold's emphasis on "disinterested objectivity," in his refusal to acknowledge that the poet owes his age "service," and in his insistence that poets, wishing "neither to applaud nor to revile their age," want instead "to educe and cultivate what is best and noblest in themselves" — in all of these matters Arnold is giving a first statement of the "disinterested" half of his later doctrine of "criticism" and "culture." This doctrine may have been partially derived from Newman's extended emphasis, in the Dublin discourses, on knowledge as "an end in itself" and of only limited service to society at large. In the second place, and more important for the moment, is the precise quality of mind which Arnold recommends to the poet amid "the bewildering confusion of our times" (PW, p. xxx). Anxious to escape the modern tendency toward "the dialogue of the mind with itself," with its accompaniment of "doubts" and "discouragement," Arnold seeks an antidote for "an age of spiritual discomfort" (PW, pp. xvii, xxix). He omits Empedocles from the 1853 collection precisely on the grounds that it exhibits "suffering" that "finds no vent in action" and "a continuous state of mental distress" (PW, p. xviii). Above all, the poet must strive to banish "from his mind all feelings of contradiction, and irritation, and impatience" (PW, p. xxx). Arnold's suggested means for achieving "the calm, the cheerfulness, the disinterested objectivity" of the early Greeks is that "commerce with the ancients" which produces "a steadying and composing effect" upon the judgment (PW, pp. xvii, xxviii). This quality of the mind [25/26] is of course similar to the one Arnold ten years later ascribed to Goethe, whom Spinoza "calmed" and "composed" (CPW, 111, 182, 177); it is also akin to that "true grace and serenity . . . of which Greece and Greek art suggest the admirable ideals of perfection," as Arnold was to describe it in Culture and Anarchy (CPW, V, 125). Newman had described, even if with less emphasis on the spiritual climate of the age, the effects of "this illuminative reason and true philosophy," which was the goal of a university education, in terms strikingly similar to those Arnold used a year later. Such a quality, Newman explains, "puts the mind above the influences of chance and necessity, above anxiety, suspense, unsettlement, and superstition, which is the lot of the many." Such a mind cannot be "partial," "exclusive," "impetuous": instead, it is ever "patient, collected, and majestically calm" (Idea, P. 122). The man of such disciplined powers has "the repose of a mind which lives in itself, while it lives in the world" (Idea, p. 158). Newman might almost be speaking for Arnold when he says that a liberal education creates a "habit of mind . . . of which the attributes are, freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom" (Idea, p. 90). Finally it should be recalled that Newman openly defends his Oxonian and "classical" cast of mind against the "modem disciples" of Lockean utilitarianism, the point of whose famous Edinburgh article of 1810 was the charge that "The study of the Classics had been made the basis of the Oxford education" (Idea, pp. 142 ff.).
Last modified 27 November 2000