ith the inauguration in the early eighteen-sixties of Arnold's public role as critic -- and it must be remembered that a very heavy proportion of Arnold's first essays were as much religious as literary -- begins a complex of interrelated allusions to Newman, Oxford, and the Tractarian [26/27] Movement. Moreover, it becomes clear that Arnold, always tortuously conscious of his public stance and tone, looked to Newman above all others for the qualities of mind and the tone of public discourse which he not only sought to emulate but which were, to a large extent, the very substance of his message in the sixties. Also during this period begins a regular exchange of volumes leading to a surprising frequency of correspondence between the two men. Above all, the implicit reliance in certain crucial matters on key ideas and attitudes of Newman's is so voluminous and so central to the Arnoldian view of life that a reassessment of the relations of the two men is in order.
Arnold himself was to acknowledge in 1868, while in the midst of writing Culture and Anarchy, that Newman's influence was "mixed up with all that is most essential in what I do and say." (Tristram, p. 311.) In November 1871 Arnold, now deep into Literature and Dogma, specified that Newman's effect "consists in a general disposition of mind rather than in a particular set of ideas" (UL, p. 56). This is made even clearer in the following May when Newman is said to be one of the figures from whom Arnold had "learnt habits, methods, ruling ideas, which are constantly with me" (UL, pp. 65-66). Moreover, Arnold added, "I am sure in details you must recognize your own influence often" (UL, p. 66). Neither the habits and ruling ideas on the one hand, nor the details on the other, have been sufficiently identified and defined. Without a knowledge of them, several central informing strands in the texture of Arnold's thought cannot be recognized in their precise strength and color.
Arnold's notebooks for 1863 reveal him, apparently late in the year, reading widely in Roman Catholic sources like Lacordaire, Wiseman, Manning, and the Dublin Review (NB, pp. 22-23). (References to Francis of Assisi seem to point ahead to "Pagan and Mediaeval Religious Sentiment," published in April 1864.) Among the citations are two from Jules Gondon, Notice biographique sur le R. P. Newman, a work published ten years earlier. One sentence, which Arnold took down, suggests some of the reasons for his continuing [27/28] interest in Newman and the Catholic Church: "Newman in his letter to Jelf. Le siècle tend vers je ne sais quel inconnu--and the Church of Rome appears alone in possession of this inconnu--giving, elle seule, un essor libre et régulier aux sentiments intimes d'adoration, de mysticisme, de tendresse, et à tant d'autres sentiments qui peuvent s'appeler plus spécialement catholiques" (NB, p. 23). As E. K. Brown remarks, Arnold's interest in Roman Catholic history, doctrine, and practice was part of his campaign to broaden the range of operative ideas and sympathies of his High Victorian audience. (Matthew Arnold: A Study in Conflict, pp. 92-93.)
Even earlier, in January 1863, Arnold was publicly using Newman's testimony in a highly suggestive context. In condemning Bishop Colenso's egregious treatise on the accuracy of the Pentateuch, Arnold argues that the book does not advance "the culture of England and Europe, ... either by edifying the little-instructed, or by further informing the much-instructed' " (CPW, III, 43). The reason he gives is that "The highly-instructed few, and not the scantily-instructed many, wilt ever be the organ to the human race of knowledge and truth," and among the several "great teachers, divine and human," he brings forward is Newman: " 'The few (those who can have a saving knowledge) can never mean the many,' says, in one of his noblest sermons, Dr. Newman" (CPW, III, 43-44; the sermon, entitled "Many Called, Few Chosen" and preached in 1837, appears in PPS, V, 254-269; the phrase quoted appears on p. 268.). Moreover this phrase, to be recalled twenty years later in "Numbers" (DA, p. 6), seems to have suggested the flourish at the end of "Heinrich Heine" (August 1863) concerning the latter's "want of moral balance": "there is so much power, so many seem able to run well, so many give promise of running well;-so few reach the goal, so few are chosen. Many are called, few chosen" (CPW, III, 132).
Two of Newman's most characteristic teachings — on the existence of a privileged spiritual elite and on the sharp discrimination of moral from intellectual truth — are suggested by this citation and are two ideas that absorb a great deal of Arnold's attention during these crucial first years of the formation of his critical doctrine. Newman, perhaps reflecting the Calvinism of his own background, used the text of the [28/29] Many called, Few chosen, again and again. (See two sermons of 1836: "The Individuality of the Soul" and "The Visible Church for the Sake of the Elect" [PPS, IV, 80-93, p. 150-167.]) Newman's early poems, which Arnold in 1868 claimed to know already, (Tristram, p. 311.) are likewise strewn with references to God's hidden saints: "These are the chosen few,/ The remnant fruit of largely-scatter'd grace"; "The chosen are few, few the deeds well done, / For scantness is still Heaven's might" (Verses, pp. 43, 81). After his visit to Greece in 1833 Newman asked of the sages and poets of the ancient world:
But is their being's history spent and run,
Whose spirits live in awful singleness,
Each in its self-form'd sphere of light or gloom?
[Verses, p. 109]
The last stanza of Newman's "The Course of Truth" would have been very congenial to Arnold:
Still is the might of Truth, as it has been:
Lodged in the few, obey'd, and yet unseen.
Rear'd on lone heights, and rare,
His saints their watch-flame bear,
And the mad world sees the wide-cirding blaze,
Vain searching whence it streams, and how to quench its rays. [Verses, p. 97]
And in 1840, in his sermon on "Implicit and Explicit Reason," Newman said: "It is not too much to say that the stepping by which great geniuses scale the mountains of truth is as unsafe and precarious to men in general, as the ascent of a skilful mountaineer up a literal crag. It is a way which they alone can take; and its justification lies in their success. And such mainly is the way in which all men, gifted or not gifted, commonly reason,-not by rule, but by an inward faculty" (OUS p. 257). About this passage William Robbins comments: "We find Newman here speaking of the 'great geniuses' in the same way that Arnold speaks of the 'sublime solitaries'." (The Ethical Idealism of Matthew Arnold, p. 235, n. 10.) The Arnold who was painfully beginning to define the role of criticism would undoubtedly [29/30] be interested in that "inward faculty," which Newman in the same sermon described as "a living spontaneous energy within us, not an art," as opposed to the merely reflective or analytical intellect. Further, a look backward to Arnold's earliest poems shows that intellectual vision and insight are frequently associated with mountain imagery whereas a look ahead to a passage in Culture and Anarchy reveals that one of Arnold's chief objects is "inculcating the belief that excellence dwells among high and steep rocks, and can only be reached by those who sweat blood to reach her" (CPW, V, 152).
More specifically, these passages from Newman's work recall the running theme in Arnold's writings little noticed by most critics, his concern for the special role in history of a small elite fraternity who possess a privileged insight into truth. In the poetry the elite was composed of Arnold's admired solitary sages, such as Senancour, who claims place with "The Children of the Second Birth," the "small transfigured band" (PW, pp. 310-311). In a poem of 1860, "The Lord's Messengers," Arnold speaks pessimistically of the "men of genius" sent by the Lord to "carry my peace upon earth":
Hardly, hardly shall one
Come, with countenance bright,
At the close of day, from the plain. [PW, pp. 216-17]
"Rugby Chapel," first published in 1867, takes up the theme again; Dr. Arnold is one with "the noble and great who are gone," "souls temper'd with fire, / Fervent, heroic, and good" (PW, pp. 290, 291). But it was with "The Bishop and the Philosopher" (January 1863) that Arnold began a notable attempt to define the historical role of the "individual genius," the "superior man," an important variant of the nineteenth-century cult of genius. Arguing against the hyperdemocratic idea that destructive religious books like Bishop Colenso's are suitable even for "the little-instructed," Arnold insists: "Knowledge and truth, in the full sense of the words, are not attainable by the great mass of the human race at all.... Old moral ideas leaven and humanise the multitude: new intellectual ideas filter slowly down to them from the thinking few; and only when they reach them in this manner do [30/31] they adjust themselves to their practice without convulsing it" (CWP, 111, 44). As a witness to this truth Newman's testimony was invoked.
The theme was continued the following month in "Dr. Stanley's Lectures on the Jewish Church," where Arnold, calling upon the lofty but ill-defined privileges of "criticism," proceeds to describe four attitudes toward the "religious life." Stanley's book, unlike Colenso's, satisfies two classes, "those who prosecute the religious, life, or those who need to prosecute it"; but there is a third class: "There remain a few of mankind who do not come to him [Stanley] with these demands, or acknowledge these needs." Arnold does not deny that these last men have such needs ("this is a matter which literary criticism does not try"), but
a very few of mankind aspire after a life which is not the life after which the vast majority aspire, and to help them to which the vast majority seek the aid of religion... . the ideal life — the summum bonum for a born thinker, for a philosopher like Parmenides, or Spinoza, or Hegel — is an eternal series of intellectual acts.... this life treats all things, religion included, with entire freedom as subject-matter for thought, as elements in a vast movement of speculation. The few who live this life stand apart, and have an existence separate from that of the mass of mankind; ... the region which they inhabit is a laboratory wherein are fashioned the new intellectual ideas which, from time to time, take their place in the world. [CPW, III 65-66]
These are also the few individuals who live the "purely intellectual life.... whose life, whose ideal, whose demand, is thought, and thought only" (CPW, III, 66). Literary criticism regards these few as "exempt from all concern with edification"; they have "the right of treating religion with absolute freedom" (CPW, III, 79-80).
This line of thought represents a major effort on Arnold's part to mark out a realm of lofty pure intellectualism inhabited by a few great sages like Parmenides, Spinoza, and Hegel; implicit here also is the second important matter, that of the sharp discrimination between intellectual and moral truth. That Arnold was not perfectly happy with the result is suggested both by his failure to reprint his review of Stanley's Lectures or to include the relevant passages from "The Bishop [31/32] and the Philosopher" in the later essay, "Spinoza and the Bible" (December 1863), and by a significant distinction made in that second Spinoza essay. There he insists that, to be great, the remarkable philosopher "must have something in him which can influence character, which is edifying; he must, in short, have a noble and lofty character himself, a character ... in the grand style" (CPW, III, 181). This elite of privileged sages appears rather steadily in Arnold's writings for several years -- for example, in the essays on "Joubert" (January 1864) and "The Function of Criticism" (November 1864). Theirs are the very qualities that Arnold, in his farewell lecture at Oxford, was to attribute to that history-making elite of "the men of Oxford" of Newman's and Dr. Arnold's generation, who "prepared currents of feeling" and "kept up ... communications with the future" (CPW, V, 106). The truly "great men of culture," says Arnold, are able to "humanise" the best thought, "to make it efficient outside the clique of the cultivated and learned, yet still remaining the best knowledge and thought of the time, and a true source, therefore, of sweetness and light" (CPW, V, 113).
Newman was, then, deeply involved, both in the substance of Arnold's teaching and as a sage himself, in these two essential and interrelated ideas of Arnold's early criticism — the historical role of an elite and the mutual exclusiveness, of the moral and intellectual spheres. Even the phrasing is very close at times. For example, when Arnold says, in "The Bishop and the Philosopher," "The great mass of the human race have to be softened and humanised through their heart and imagination, before any soil can be found in them where knowledge may strike living roots" (CPW, III, 44), he echoes the characteristic assertions in Newman's "Tamworth Reading Room" (1841). "The heart," says Newman, "is commonly reached, not through the reason, [32/33] but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description" (D&A, p. 293). He adds: "After all, man is not a reasoning animal; he is a seeing, feeling, contemplating, acting animal" (D&A, p. 294). And finally, "Instances and patterns, not logical reasonings, are the living conclusions which alone have a hold over the affections, or can form the character" (D&A, p. 297). (Remarkably, this last sentence of Newman's appears four times in Arnold's own notebooks, beginning in 1879: NB, pp. 326, 335, 350, 515.) These statements reveal a distinctive view of man's nature and the modes of human apprehension in which the temperament and the teaching of the two men coincide. Both men were, in a certain mood, acutely aware of the distinction between intellect and morality. Newman, relying ultimately on a theology of nature and grace and attacking the Liberal assumption that knowledge is a means of moral improvement, had flatly stated in "The Tarnworth Reading Room": "To know is one thing, to do is another; the two things are altogether distinct" (D&A, p. 262; see Idea, p. 106: "Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another; good sense is not conscience, refinement is not humility, nor is largeness and justness faith.") Arnold, within a naturalistic frame and attempting dialectically to work out an alternative fusion of these two aspects of man's life, almost impatiently admits that, although Hebraism and Hellenism "are profound and admirable manifestations," nevertheless
we can hardly insist too strongly on the divergence of line and of operation with which they proceed.... The difference whether it is by doing or by knowing that we set most store, and the practical consequences which follow from this difference, leave their mark on all the history of our race and its development.... They are, truly, borne towards the same goal; but the currents which bear them are infinitely different.... underneath the superficial agreement the fundamental divergence still subsists. [CPW, V, 166-67]
Part of the similarity between Newman and Arnold is derived from a shared skepticism concerning the efficacy and validity of metaphysical propositions, especially as regards the religious life. For example, in "Tract 85 of Tracts for the Times (1838), Newman attacks "free inquiry" [33/34] in religious matters, pursued for its own sake, as leading to skepticism. He denies that reason is dangerous to faith, or that argument will not "advance the cause of truth"; yet
after all, if a man does nothing more than argue, if he has nothing deeper at bottom, if he does not seek God by some truer means, by obedience, by faith prior to demonstration, he will either not attain truth, or attain a shallow, unreal view of it, and have a weak grasp of it. Reason will prepare for the reception, will spread the news and secure the outward recognition of the truth; but in all we do we ought to seek edification, not mere knowledge. [D&A, p. 201]
There are a number of places in Arnold's 1863 essays — "The Bishop and the Philosopher," "Dr. Stanley's Lectures," "Marcus Aurelius," "Spinoza and the Bible — in which Arnold, in very similar terms, seeks to protect religious life from the corrosive effects of the merely rational intellect operating without a due regard for edification. Stanley's book is praised for fulfilling "the indispensable duty of edifying at the same time that it informs" (CPW, III, 65). In defining the elevated sphere of intellect where the solitary sages dwell, Arnold had been "reproached with wishing to make free-thinking an aristocratic privilege, while a false religion is thrown to the multitude to keep it quiet" (CPW, III, 79). To this, Arnold replies: "those on whose behalf I demand from a religious speaker edification are more than this multitude; and their cause and that of the multitude are one. They are all those who acknowledge the need of the religious life. The few whom literary criticism regards as exempt from all concern with edification, are far fewer than is commonly supposed" (CPW, III, 79). Even "the educated minority" for the most part still "retain their demand upon the religious life"; they must realize that their advanced intellectual culture "is not without its dangers to the religious life... . the moment they enter the sphere of religion, they too ask and need to be edified, not informed only" (CPW, III, 80).
Arnold's point here, against men like Bishop Colenso, is that a clergyman, "speaking to the religious life.... may honestly be silent about matters which he cannot yet use to edification" (CPW, III, 80).Arnold's characteristically hopeful prediction is that "Some day the [34/35] religious life will have harmonised all the new thought with itself, will be able to use it freely"; but he immediately adds, "it cannot use it yet" (CPW, III, 81). Religious life and the "free inquiry" of the modem skeptical intellect were not then reconciled, as indeed they were not to be twenty years later at the time of Arnold's Rede lecture ("Literature and Science"). Arnold's practical prescription in the circumstances is both traditional and typically Newmanesque:
Certainly, Christianity has not two doctrines, one for the few, another for the many; but as certainly, Christ adapted His teaching to the different stages of growth in His hearers, and for all of them adapted it to the needs of the religious life. He came to preach moral and spiritual truths; and for His purpose moral genius was of more avail than intellectual genius, St. Peter than Solomon. [CPW, III, 80-81]
This "adaptation" of a religious message to the state of its hearers is the "economy" of faith, or "accommodation," which engaged Newman's close attention during his Anglican years and was to figure centrally in 1864 in the Apologia.
In an important sermon of 1843 which Arnold may very well have heard, Newman explained that there are many cases
in which we are obliged to receive information needful to us, through the medium of our existing ideas, and consequently with but a vague apprehension of its subject-matter. Children, who are made our pattern in Scripture, are taught, by an accommodation, on the part of their teachers, to their immature faculties and their scanty vocabulary. To answer their questions in the language which we should use towards grown men, would be simply to mislead them, if they could construe it at all. We must dispense and "divide" the word of truth, if we would not have it changed, as far as they are concerned, into a word of falsehood; for what is short of truth in the letter may be to them the most perfect truth, that is, the nearest approach to truth, compatible with their condition. (OUS, pp. 340-341)
Significantly, perhaps, at this very point in the sermon occurs the note ("Hence it is not more than an hyperbole to say that, in certain cases, a lie is the nearest approach to truth") which Kingsley used as the motto of his pamphlet, "What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean?" [Apologia, p. 373n. For Newman's discussion of the Economy, see Apologia, pp. 245 ff., and Note F, pp. 310 ff.]
Newman maintained that "economies" — mythical representations," [35/36] "certain narratives of martyrdoms," and "alleged miracles" — are necessary because of the great gap between "supernatural and eternal laws" and our difficulty in understanding and representing them. He frankly expresses his fear "of employing Reason, not in carrying out what is told us, but in impugning it; not in support, but in prejudice of Faith.... Reason can but ascertain the profound difficulties of our condition, it cannot remove them" (OUS, pp. 342-343, 344, 351). So dubious was Newman at times concerning the role of reason in religious life, that he could say, as he did in "The Tamworth Reading Room," that "physics, taken by themselves, tend to infidelity," and that "the study of Nature, when religious feeling is away, leads the mind, rightly or wrongly, to acquiesce in the atheistic theory as the simplest and the easiest" (D&A, pp. 299, 300). In his analysis, the following year in the Apologia, of the role of "the wild living intellect of man" — "the power of that universal solvent, which is so successfully acting upon religious establishments," "the all-corroding, all-dissolving scepticism of the intellect in religious inquiries" — Newman was to declare: "considering the faculty of reason actually and historically ... its tendency is towards a simple unbelief in matters of religion" (Apologia 9a, PP. 221-222). In the Apologia, Newman defines the principle of the economy: "that out of various courses, in religious conduct or statement, all and each allowable antecedently and in themselves, that ought to be taken which is most expedient and most suitable at the time for the object in hand" (Apologia, p. 311; also pp. 245 ff., 310 ff. See also GA, p. 37).
Arnold thus followed Newman in this crucial matter of the division between Reason and what may be called, broadly, Faith. Of course there were strong counterpulls in both men which sought to assert a unified ideal above duality and division. Even in "The Tamworth Reading Room" Newman insists, "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). The precise structure of Newman's Christian humanist ideal was suggested in 1852 in his Idea of a University: [36/37] "We attain to heaven by using this world well, though it is to pass away; we perfect our nature, not by undoing it, but by adding to it what is more than nature, and directing it towards aims higher than its own" (Idea, p. 109). See also the Apologia: "She [the Church] does not teach that human nature is irreclaimable, else wherefore should she be sent? not, that it is to be shattered and reversed, but to be extricated, purified, and restored; not, that it is a mere mass of hopeless evil, but that it has the promise upon it of great things, and even now, in its present state of disorder and excess, has a virtue and a praise proper to itself" (pp. 224-225).
Similarly, in Arnold a search for a holistic ideal harmonizing all of man's instincts marks his entire critical career. In fact, as Lionel Trilling asserts, Arnold's criticism, at least in intention, "is the reconciliation of the two traditions whose warfare had so disturbed his youth — rationalism and faith." (Matthew Arnold, pp. 176-177.) It is in this light that the ideal of the "imaginative reason" as it is introduced suddenly at the end of "Pagan and Mediaeval Religious Sentiment" (April 1864) should be placed. The imaginative reason, the characteristic demand of "the modern spirit," which is best conveyed in the greatest Greek poets, somehow reconciles the senses and the understanding, the heart and the imagination; it strikes a balance between "the thinking-power" and "the religious sense" (CPW, III, 230-231). Similarly, the central intention of Culture and Anarchy is surely the definition of an ideal which will cancel the historical oscillation of Hebraism and Hellenism, the extremes of moralism and intellectualism, by somehow combining them in a higher synthesis.
Yet, for all their shared drive toward "harmonizing" man's impulses, the numerous citations indicate that both Newman and Arnold remain, for complex reasons, remarkably alike in their sense of the strong division between Faith and Reason. Much of the cause, for both men, lies in their Oxford experience. Newman throughout his life was subject, without question unfairly, to the accusation of being (in Owen Chadwick's words) "a sceptic, not an honest doubter, not even a man with a fides quaerens intellectum, but a sceptic who held his scepticism about the rational intellect in a dual harness with religious credulity." As Chadwick says, "His teaching encouraged Ward to, make the absolute division between the conscience and the metaphysical intellect, [37/38] even though he rejected Ward's conclusions." (The Mind of the Oxford Movement, p. 42.; the classical statement of the charge is in Thomas Mozley's Reminiscences, Chiefly of Oriel College and the Oxford Movement, II, 434 ff. Mozley, like Chadwick, rejects the imputation.) In all the Tractarians, Chadwick notes "a streak of scepticism about the metaphysical realm": "The whole Movement was fighting the aridity (as it believed) of Paley and Whately and the school of religious philosophers, was engaged in showing the lack of value, for religious purposes, of the logical intellect." Newman's marked division sprang from his habitual use of Reason as the analytical reason, and of Faith as "more a principle of action than of intellectual assent." (Ibid, p. 43.) Newman hesitates to affirm that evidence is a source of faith: "for faith, though confirmed by evidence, has another source — in the moral judgment and the religious feelings, acted upon by the grace of God." (Ibid, p. 44.)
The peculiar relevance to Arnold of this emphasis is clear in Newman's 1843 sermon on the "economy," in which one of the main difficulties he takes up is the objection that "The words 'Person,' 'Substance,' 'Consubstantial,' 'Generation,' 'Procession,' 'Incarnation,' 'Taking of the manhood into God,' and the like, have either a very abject and human meaning, or none at all" (OUS, p. 338). It is precisely to meet that objection that the doctrine of the economy, as Newman explains it, was developed. With great frankness Newman admits that in this world we see in a glass darkly; here "we are allowed such an approximation to the truth as earthly images and figures may supply to us" (OUS, p. 340). He simply admits "a profound sense of our ignorance of Divine Verities" (0US, p. 349). Whole chapters of Arnold's religious books like Literature and Dogma and God and the Bible are devoted to ridiculing "metaphysical theology," embodied in the Christian creeds, as utter "blunder." Arnold's streak of skepticism about the metaphysical realm was very broad indeed, and it would not do to exaggerate Newman's skepticism or to underplay the profound religious differences separating him from Arnold. But it remains that Arnold very likely acquired his suspicion of the metaphysical intellect, especially in religious matters, at Oxford. If the liberal school of Dr. Arnold [38/39] would have contributed greatly to the tendency, so would the deeply antimetaphysical bias of the Tractarian movement, above all represented in the works of John Henry Newman.
Last modified November 2000