ne of the main objectives of these pages has been to explore the sheer mass of direct and indirect references linking Arnold to Newman. Arnold's interest in Newman the man and the thinker is intense at every period of his life. There is no other relationship quite like it in Arnold's career: no other man of the nineteenth century — [152/153] neither Goethe, nor Sainte-Beuve, nor Emerson, nor Carlyle, nor Wordsworth — evoked from Arnold such a continuous and detailed intellectual response combined with such an intense personal veneration. Yet the reaction is often curiously mixed and inconclusive — especially from the period of the religious writings onward. Stephen Coleridge caught one side of the response when he spoke of Arnold's attitude in the interview with Newman in the eighties as that of "a favourite pupil discoursing playfully with an honoured master." Of course the reverence could often be mixed with disappointment and impatience, too.
It is not the purpose of these pages to treat the similarities of "style" which link the two men, except in so far as Arnold can be said to borrow recognizable phrases and argumentative strategies and in so far as style indicates similarities of outlook and temperament. Richard Holt Hutton long ago established the major terms of this comparison when he spoke of the "curious 'distinction' " that marked both styles, their delight in irony, their ability to indulge in extravagance and ridicule without arousing displeasure. "Both styles are styles of white light rather than of the lurid or glowing, or even rainbow order," and "Both have something in them of the older Oxford suavity, though in very different forms" (Hutton, pp. 55-56). See also his comparison: "Both are luminous, but Arnold's prose is luminous like a steel mirror, Newman's like a clear atmosphere or lake Arnold's prose style is crystal, Newman's liquid" (p. 61).
John Holloway more recently has extended the similarities to matters of general strategy:
Arnold's chief purpose is to recommend one temper of mind, and condemn another, and such things are more readily sensed through contact than understood through description. No author, of course, can give a favourable impression of his own temper of mind, except obliquely and discreetly. When Arnold writes of himself at length, it is usually in a deprecatory vein; but he causes us to glimpse his personality through various devices, and of these as with Newman, perhaps the most conspicuous is tone. Indeed he adopts a tone not unlike Newman's, save that it is usually less grave and calm, more whimsical and apologetic. Newman, after all, thought he had a powerful silent ally as Arnold did not. [pp. 207-208] [153/154]
It should be added that Arnold sees the "temper of mind," which his critical career was designed to recommend, as embodied to a great extent in Newman the man and controversialist. As Essays in Criticism and Culture and Anarchy had abundantly revealed, the ideal was that of highest development of the older Oxford manner, which Arnold tended habitually to identify with Newman. As Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote to Coventry Patmore in 1887: "Newman does not follow the common tradition — of writing. His tradition is that of cultured, the most highly educated, conversation; the flower of the best Oxford life." (Letters, p. 380.)
In that shared Oxford tradition lies, I believe, the corrective to the still commonly accepted belief that Newman affected only Arnold's ideal of criticism and culture in the sixties and that the influence did not extend to the religious concerns of the seventies. (J. D. Jump, p. 24; and William Robbins, The Ethical Idealism of Matthew Arnold, discussed in Chapter 8, note 7.) The fact is that Arnold's developing vision of human perfection, though always under the watchful eye of the suave humanistic intellectualism of the sixties, extended along an unbroken continuum into social and religious problems. Equally important is the fact that Arnold's vision is not detachable from the theologically oriented classicism of his Oxford inheritance. At issue is Arnold's essentially "mediatorial" position in nineteenth-century thought. Whatever his skepticism as to the alleged metaphysical basis of the traditional classical-Christian synthesis of European civilization, Arnold's chief concern was to provide a means by which men in future might keep the imaginative and emotional supports and safeguards of inherited patterns of thought, feeling, and morality. Put negatively, this was the view that Jacobinism, or even "liberalism" after the pattern of the younger Mill — with their optimistic and secularist faith in reason and their systematic programs of reform — were insufficiently equipped to provide the fullness of life which Arnold increasingly predicted for the masses.
As a first basis for questioning the received opinion, one should note that Newman was, as Arnold feelingly acknowledged, his model in his attacks on both Liberalism and Dissent. The juxtaposition of [154/155] society and religion is significant; and Newman's own practice had to a large extent justified the extension of the term "Liberalism." Moreover, attacks on both "modern liberalism" and "revolutionary Deism" were as characteristic of Arnold's religious works as of the social writings before and after. In defending both "culture" and his "religion of the Bible" Arnold was countering the demand of nineteenth-century radicalism for a total revision of human character and human destiny. Second, Arnold's use of Newman in the religious works is far more complicated than has been assumed. For all the ultimate incompatibility of the two men's positions, Newman is cited as an authority almost as often as he is cited as an adversary. In St. Paul and Protestantism, for example, Arnold can quote long passages from Newman on the development of doctrine and find them applicable to his own sense of the term, while refusing to follow Newman's arguments on the need for an external interpreter. More incidentally, he can in one place dismiss Newman's sense of securus judicat orbis terrarum and yet within a few pages cite Newman on the need for inference and collection in interpreting the Bible. The process in Literature and Dogma is, admittedly, more consistently negative. Arnold flatly rejects Newman's view on the opposition between faith and reason, as well as on an allegorical sense in Scripture. More ambivalently, Arnold concedes Newman's complex Catholic argument for the "systematic" character of the Christian religion, only to scuttle the whole by denying the first premise out of hand. Even more strangely, Arnold at one point scoffs at Newman's argument that Catholics can separate dogma from "errors and absurdities," and yet within a year he calmly admits that "serious and intelligent Catholics" can and should separate "accretions and superstitions" from the essence of their religion. Twice, moreover, Arnold approvingly cites Newman's authority on the Bible as the record of the whole revealed faith. Further, in Last Essays on Church and Religion Newman is introduced with relish as having exposed with "exquisite raillery" the British Philistine's combined patriotic and anti-Catholic prejudices. It should be added that Newman himself, "this exquisite and delicate genius," an "incomparable" and "sagacious" formulator of religious truths, is almost invariably handled with great tact. Even in disagreeing, Arnold speaks "with all deference" and refers to Newman [156/157] as "a writer whom we can never name but with respect." The effect of all this is, at the very least, complex. Certainly, Newman seems almost half an ally in the religious writings — as the attacker of Liberal and Dissenting pretensions, as the fully adequate expositor of certain important religious ideas, and as a spokesman for certain acceptable Christian views of the Bible; and over all there hovers the image of the "exquisite and delicate genius," the very embodiment of Arnold's ideals of the sixties, who should have been — and might have been, Arnold feels, but for an accident of history — Arnold's natural partner and model in every aspect of his wide-ranging scrutiny of English civilization.
The customary view is too simple, finally, because it does not take into account Newman's focal position in the totality of Arnold's humanism. Arnold's characteristic mode of thought is dialectical, and history itself he saw as a long series of often violent oscillations between man's polarized impulses — all of them necessary to the total man. What Arnold projected in Culture and Anarchy, and again after the deepening of his thought in the religious writings, was the vision of a possible permanent future reconciliation of the warring impulses within societies and within individual men. This increasingly optimistic and purposive vision was of course deeply Platonic; it is well summed up in words that Arnold admiringly quotes from Benjamin Jowett: "The moral and intellectual are always dividing, yet they must be reunited, and in the highest conception of them are inseparable" (LECR, p. 179). The question for Arnold, then, as for a whole line of critics of culture from whom he stemmed, was how much of man's past was available to the new man of the future and how much of it was desirable. In defining what of the past was essential for man's future, Newman's example was of central importance. For Arnold the mediator, Newman is perhaps the most adequate and acceptable representative of conservative thought after Burke. The review of de Maistre (1879) sets the precise terms of Arnold's acceptance and rejection of Newman's testimony. Arnold is perfectly dear that the main positions" of Burke, de Maistre, and Newman are unacceptable — especially "the old, sterile, impossible assumption" of an infallible Church on the part of the latter two. But equally clear is Arnold's [156/157] approval of Newman's "antipathy to 'liberalism'": "in a serious man a strong sense of the insufficiency of Liberal nostrums, of the charlatanism of Liberal practitioners, as also of the real truth, beauty, power, and conformity to nature of much in the past of which these practitioners are intolerant, is abundantly permissible." For all his disappointment at the "Tory" positions of these three men, Arnold repeats a judgment he had applied in Culture and Anarchy to the Oxford Movement which suggests that conservatism may not be entirely incompatible with a vision of future possibility: "the resoluteness with which they withstand the prevailing ideas of their time, the certainty with which they predict the apparition of something different, are often a proof of their insight." Above all, I would stress that Newman's "impossible" dogmatic stance did not disqualify him, in Arnold's mind, for the deepest sort of religious insight:, "Whatever we may think of Ritualism, its growth and power prove Cardinal Newman's insight in perceiving that what he called Liberalism ... was in general, and in the sphere of religion more particularly, quite inadequate, and was not destined to have things for ever its own way" (ELR, p. 218).
Ultimately, Arnold took Newman for a teacher and model in both crucial areas of his religiously colored humanism — in the establishment of a high, complex ideal of intellectual culture and in a central and religious orientation in life in which man's historical experience would be both his burden and his glory, and a norm by which he could continue to seek his definition of himself. Dwight Culler has remarked that Arnold's ideal of culture in the sixties and Newman's in the Idea both sought to establish a "source of value, larger than the self and perfectly distinct from it"; and he extends the remark to say that Arnold's effort "is of the same character in the field of humanism as Newman's was in the more decisive sphere of religion" (The Imperial Intellect, p. 235; Apologia (ed. Culler), p. xviii. On the previous page Culler mentions that Arnold's objective ideal "would serve as 'a power not ourselves which makes for righteousness'," but does not explore the idea. I would correct this by extending the analogy further to the quest for "detachment" and "catholicity" in the religious efforts of both men. R. H. Hutton long ago provided the terms for this analogy: "both, with all [157/158] their richness of insight, have had that strong desire to rest on something beyond that insight, something they can regard as independent of themselves, which led Newman first to preach against the principle of private judgment, and to yearn after an infallible Church, while it led Matthew Arnold to preach what he calls his doctrine of verification — namely, that no religious or moral instinct is to be trusted unless it can obtain the endorsement on a large scale of the common consent of the best human experience." (Essays, pp. 50-51.) Nor should one forget Arnold's characteristic hankering after the absolute, in his positing an "Eternal Power, not ourselves, by which all things fulfil the law of their being," "The Eternal who makes for righteousness." For the ground of Arnold's persistent attention to Newman was his conviction that his own critical and religious career was "an attempt conservative, and an attempt religious" (GB, p. xli).
This analysis has been unable so far to consider the large residue of intense, virtually unparalleled "feeling" that permeates both Arnold's correspondence and his public references to Newman and that energizes the entire course of what is surely one of the most complex and important relationships of the nineteenth century. The letters, for example, are suffused with "an inexpressible sense of gratitude and attachment," "a deep sense of esteem and obligation" (January 20, 1868; January 10, 1876). The intensity is only comparable to Arnold's almost Hamlet-like affection for his dead father, revealed continually in the letters to his mother. It is almost as if Arnold thought of Newman as a kind of second — and perhaps even more adequate — spiritual father. If Dr. Arnold can be seen as one of the authors of Arnold's latitudinarianism and of his historical sense, Newman is clearly Arnold's model for delicate intellectual and spiritual perception, and for the correct mode of public dispute. Certainly the Oxford tutor-student relationship, which Newman described as "a bond of union" or "inter-communion" built on "mutual sympathies" (Idea, p. 130), is one of the paradigms of their friendship.
Perhaps the best way to suggest both the emotional ambivalence of Arnold's attitudes toward Newman and some of the possible causes of [158/159] it, is to note that Newman is habitually conceived in terms that parallel Arnold's conception of Jesus. A duality runs through both images. Jesus is both the sponsor of a certain "temper," and a tragic failure. In Literature and Dogma, for example, Arnold claims that the "charm and power" of Jesus lay in "the mild, uncontentious, winning, inward mode of working ... which was his true characteristic" (LD, p. xiv). And at the very end of his life Arnold repeats: "Not less important than the teachings given by Jesus is the temper of their giver, his temper of sweetness and reasonableness, of epieikeia" (EC-2, p. 296). But the world was not ready then to accept the full meaning of Jesus. As Arnold put it in 1876, he is unwilling to reject "the poetry of popular religion," because "it is an aim which may well indeed be pursued with enthusiasm, to make the true meaning of Jesus, in using that poetry, emerge and prevail. For the immense pathos, so perpetually enlarged upon, of his life and death, does really culminate here: that Christians have so profoundly misunderstood him" (LECR, p. 228). And at the very end of God and the Bible, Arnold solemnly repeats the Biblical phrase he more than once had associated with Newman, "Many are called, few chosen," and comments: "In the severity of this sentence, Jesus marks how utterly those who are gathered to his feast may fail to know him" (GB, p. 342).
That Newman was similarly both the exemplar of a subtle "temper" and a tragic failure was a view not unknown in Arnold's time. Oscar Wilde, for example, who picked up many of his critical notions from Arnold, expressed the duality in his letters. In 1876 he writes: "His [Newman's] life is a terrible tragedy. I fear he is a very unhappy man"; and on the occasion of Newman's death in 1890, he remarks: "In what a fine 'temper' Newman always wrote! the temper of a scholar. But how subtle was his simple mind!" (The Letters of Oscar Wilde, pp. 20, 274.) Evidence of Arnold's idea of Newman's Christ-like "temper" is abundant: the "charm," "mildness," "sweetness," and "reasonableness" he attributes to Jesus are paralleled in the words Arnold again and again associates with Newman — "charm," "genius," "delicacy," and the adjective "exquisite" (used three times) — and in his identification of Newman with "the- [159/160] sentiment of Oxford for beauty and sweetness." Presumably Jesus' "uncontentious" manner is paralleled in Newman's acclaimed "urbanity"; likewise, Jesus' characteristic "inward mode of working" strongly recalls the "inward qualities and excellences" Arnold found in Newman's "influence and writings" (letter of January 1868). As for the pathos of Newman's life, the precise tone of the "sympathy" with which Arnold bade "any son of Oxford" to look on Newman in 1864 (CPW, III, 244) became clear two years later in the first of the Celtic lectures, when Arnold, no doubt thinking of Newman's Catholic allegiances, spoke of him as "the champion of a cause more interesting than prosperous, — one of those causes which please noble spirits, but do not please destiny, which have Cato's adherence, but not Heaven's" (CPW, III, 305). In considering Newman in the farewell lecture of 1867 Arnold speaks of the failure of the Oxford Movement and the Oxford "attachment to so many beaten causes" (CPW, V, 106). Literature and Dogma presents Newman, "this exquisite and delicate genius," as a man born sadly out of his time, twenty years too early to be "touched with the breath of the 'Zeit-Geist'" (LD, pp. 303-304). The Emerson lecture of 1883, finally, dearly presents Newman as old, personally isolated ("in the Oratory at Birmingham"), and deprived of intellectual influence and power by a commitment irrelevant to the "doubts and difficulties" of the day. The hope men attached to him in earlier years that he would "transform and renew ... the Church of England" was dashed and, I think it is implied, Newman's career made pointless. Through all of this runs Arnold's slight condescension and the self-consciously picturesque and literary effect of portraying Newman as a man of consummate imaginative and spiritual power whose influence was frustrated and made ineffectual by accidents of history and failures of understanding.
Nevertheless, because Arnold's portrait of Newman is very close to his highly aesthetic reading of the character of Jesus, Newman comes to occupy a startlingly central position in Arnold's idea of human perfection; he is at once the embodiment of intellectual refinement and a model for the conduct of public debate, as well as perhaps the clearest exemplar Arnold knew of the temper of Jesus, which he recommended, and the tragedy of Jesus, which he found so affecting. Newman could [160/161] be all of these for Arnold because the intellectual ideal of the sixties was so closely allied with the spiritual temper recommended centrally in the religious writings. Almost all aspects of Arnold's mature thought can be seen as derived from his deeply felt role as continuator of the line of Oxford humanism, while many of his major themes center in the person of Newman, the supreme Oxford humanist. No other figure in Arnold's development — not Goethe, or Wordsworth — is so frequently found at the center of Arnold's total humanistic vision.
Last modified 29 August 2007