Richard Simpson and the "Rambler", 1854-1858

Josef L. Altholz


Chapter two of the author's The Liberal Catholic Movement in England: The "Rambler" and its Contributors, 1848-1864, which Burns and Oates (London) published in 1962. It has been included in the Victorian Web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

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decorated initial 'T' he circumstances under which the "Rambler" had to be conducted in the mid-1850s were different from those of its founding in 1848. In the years of the "second spring," when the energies of the Catholic body were absorbed by the tasks of receiving converts and immigrants and organizing the new hierarchy, there had been, despite occasional differences, a consciousness of a common purpose and a spirit of unity. This did not last. The Catholic revival lost its original inspiration and direction and turned inwards on itself.

In the middle and late 1850s, the English Catholic community was racked by internal dissensions. The reconciliation of old Catholics and converts did not take place; instead, controversy continued and became more bitter. Cardinal Wiseman, who favoured the converts, was meanwhile embroiled in difficulties with some of his bishops, including his own coadjutor, Archbishop Errington. The converts themselves were divided. One party, of which Faber, Ward and the future Cardinal Manning were the leading spirits, was noted for its extravagance of devotion, its thoroughly ecclesiastical spirit, and its emphasis on the role of church authorities, especially the authority of Rome. Another party, less numerous, for which Newman provided the inspiration if not the leadership, sought to meet the intellectual needs of the day, relying upon the work of the laity, combining respect for Catholic authorities with freedom of inquiry and consideration towards Protestants and unbelievers. This divergence between the temperaments of Faber and Newman was symbolized in the break between the Oratories of London and Birmingham.

The Rambler sought to stand aloof from party struggles [25/26] among Catholics. Nonetheless, as the divergence became evident, it found itself more in sympathy with the spirit of Birmingham than with that of London. The tendency of the early Rambler towards bolder inquiry and criticism now became more pronounced. At the same time, Newman's personal influence, which had always been exercised in the direction of caution, was diminished because of his preoccupation with the Catholic University in Dublin.

The position of the Rambler in the field of Catholic journalism was also changing. A new weekly had come on the scene: the Catholic Standard, founded in 1849, which was published from 1855 under the title of the Weekly Register. In 1854 this journal had been acquired by Henry Wilberforce, a convert and friend of Newman. The Weekly Register took the Whig position in politics; it was hoped that it would counteract the Irish politics of Lucas' Tablet, which had come into conflict with the Irish bishops. But in 1855 Lucas died. The Tablet was acquired by John Wallis, who brought it back to England and reversed its politics, conducting it in the Tory interest. Wiseman, who was himself inclined to conservatism in politics, now showed The Tablet some favour, second, of course, to his own Dublin Review.

As a result of these developments, even without any deliberate intention on the part of its conductors, the Rambler was to be cast in the role of what David Matthews terms the organ of "the Catholic Left" (p. 222). This tendency was accentuated by the presence of a new member on the staff of the Rambler, Richard Simpson. Capes, in April of 1854, had asked Simpson to become his assistant editor. Simpson declined this offer, but agreed to contribute substantially to each issue. Though, according to a memorandum in the Downside MSS, he was not an editor but merely a regular contributor, Simpson's influence was soon felt in the conduct of the magazine (see also Gasquet, p. xxi).

Simpson, born in 1820, was a graduate of Newman's college, Oriel. He took orders, married, and was presented to the family living of Mitcham, Surrey. This he held for [26/27] one year, resigning it on his conversion in 1845. He had independent means, and travelled on the continent for some years after his conversion, acquiring an unusual command of languages. On his return to England he devoted himself to literary pursuits. His interests ranged over philosophy, literature, history and music. He was well regarded as a Shakespearian scholar, and was one of the earliest advocates of the theory that Shakespeare was a Catholic. In history he specialized in the Elizabethan period; his life of Edmund Campion was long the standard biography.

Simpson's intellectual ability is unquestioned. According to an artic le about him in the 1876 Academy, "In private life his genial disposition, sunny temper, and brilliant social gifts made him a general favourite. . . . No one could be more free from any tinge of the odium theologicum.114 Those who knew him recognized the reality of his religious belief and his fervent though unobtrusive piety. Nonetheless, there have been those who have questioned the genuineness of his Catholicism, and his character has appeared an enigma to many observers. Part of the misunderstanding arises from the inability of some of his critics to comprehend how his liberalism could be reconciled with true submission to the Catholic Church. His posthumous reputation has suffered from an exaggerated assertion that he assisted Gladstone in that statesman's attack on the Vatican Decrees. This story may be found in most of the biographical notices. It is impossible to discuss it adequately here; a full discussion will be found in the Appendix. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that much of the misunderstanding was the result of Simpson's own methods.

It was his literary creed that "the desire to know and tell the truth may be as religious a motive as the desire to give [27/28] edification (Simpson to T. W. Marshall, n.d. [1862-4], Woodruff MSS). This fierce integrity, which gave the appearance of pugnacity, led him to inquire and speculate fearlessly in history and philosophy, without concern for the effect of his writings on his more timid co-religionists. His intolerance of dishonesty and concealment was unmixed with malice or bitterness towards his opponents, with many of whom he was on the friendliest terms in personal intercourse. But it was overshadowed by what David Woodruff calls "a certain Puckish spirit" (p. 8), a sharp wit, which he never hesitated to employ, regardless of the character or position of its target. Lord Acton, who became a close friend, described him as "a man of rare gifts and deep religion, but possessed with an incorrigible irreverence and sense of the comic" (CUL Add. MSS. 4988). Many things were attributed to him for which he was not responsible, and he was frequently misinterpreted; but he took no steps to avoid such misinterpretation. To Simpson, therefore, the faults of the Rambler were generally ascribed, even when they were the responsibility of others; and he never attempted to shift the burden from his shoulders. Indeed, he deliberately assumed the character of the impudent and reckless troublemaker, partly for the fun of it, but in large measure as a purposeful attempt to take on himself the odium which properly belonged to his party.

Simpson first came to public attention as a Catholic by defending the practice of invocation of saints in a debate with the Presbyterian Dr. Cumming. Characteristically, Simpson argued on his adversary's own ground, proving his case "from the Bible alone" (Invocation). "All that I have attempted to show," Simpson said, "is that we are not the fools which the adversaries of the Catholic faith would make you believe; that we have some reason to give for the faith that is in us" (p. 29). In 1851, Simpson was recommended by Newman to Capes as a possible participant in the latter's scheme for lecturers to [28/29] defend the Church against the "papal aggression" agitation (Newman to Capes, 21 Feb. 1851, in Gasquet, p. xxx). Simpson, who was Frederick Capes' neighbour at Clapham, began to contribute to the Rambler in 1850. The draft of his article on "Religion and Modern Philosophy" "startled" both Capes and Newman, but a revised version was accepted for publication (Capes to Newman, 18 July 1850, and Newman to Capes, 17 Aug. 1850, Newman MSS). in "Religion and Modern Philosophy," which begin in September 1850 and continued in the next three issues, Simpson argued that the Church need not fear the results of modern science. "In such cases it is not enough for a man to run away from doubts . . . a rational doubt must be met on rational grounds" (VI, 189). He dealt boldly with Biblical criticism and scientific objections to the Mosaic account of creation, pointing out that a Catholic is not bound to any particular theory concerning the mode or duration of the creation. "Hence in certain subjects a Catholic is quite free in his interpretation of Scripture, so that he need feel no anxiety though he find his scientific theories opposed to the commonly received and traditional interpretation, provided that he has satisfied himself by a rigid scrutiny that they are not subversive of any principle either of faith or morals" (194). Simpson adopted a figurative interpretation of the language of Genesis, treating the "days" of creation not as units of time but as operative principles of the divine purpose. He later justified this, and other such interpretations, by citing patristic authorities in a letter to the Rambler, VII (Feb. 1851), 177-9. He compared the Mosaic account, thus interpreted, with the conclusions of modern science, as represented by Humboldt's Cosmos, and concluded that the Bible was remarkably accurate. This safe conclusion no doubt redeemed the daring speculation of this article, which is remarkable for its anticipation of the difficulties with which religious thought was to be beset in future years.

Simpson's instinct for "touchy" subjects was next shown in a discussion of the condemnation of Galileo, which had brought upon the Church the reproach of being opposed to science. Again his boldness alarmed Newman, although the [29/30] article passed his censorship. Newman told Capes that Simpson "is the only one of your writers who puzzles me" (Newman to Capes, 17 Dec. 1851; Newman MSS.) Newman wanted Simpson to secure the "imprimatur" of his friends among the Redemptorists at Clapham. Simpson justified the decree in the case of Galileo, but pointed out that it did not bind the conscience of Catholics. In "Galileo and his Condemnation," Simpson argued that Copernicanism had been condemned for a time, not as false in itself, but "simply as being accidentally contrary to the dignity and. estimation of Scripture, and as being false in the sense of unproved" (IX (Jan. 1852), 18).The decree of the Index in 1616 was disciplinary, not doctrinal: Galileo was condemned for advancing the Copernican theory as positive truth when it was as yet an unproved hypothesis, and thereby creating doubts of the accuracy of Scripture without sufficient cause. "This office of the Church, as the vindicator of the outraged feelings of the public, is never to be confounded with her perfectly distinct office of teacher and infallible expounder of doctrines of faith and morals" (22; this argument was followed by Newman in The Idea of a University, pp. 219-220.) It was always permissible to advance the Copernican theory simply as a hypothesis; Galileo was too impatient to have it accepted as truth. Simpson argued that the Church was justified in requiring prudence and reserve in imparting knowledge to the public ' in order to protect the faith of her weaker children. "If in pure matters of religion mere prematureness and unseasonableness in the things propounded is enough to mark them with the note of heresy, the same thing may take place in a lower degree with regard to scientific theories" (23). [This notion that heresy is the impatient and premature anticipation of truth is a favourite one of Newman's: see the Apologia, pp. 350-51.] But this restraint, Simpson asserted, was not ultimately unfavourable to the true advance of science. Thus he managed once more to come to a safe an d even conservative conclusion after having dealt freely with an awkward topic [30/31].

Simpson's entry into the ranks of the regular contributors of the Rambler coincided with a greater boldness in the conduct of the periodical. An article on magic, in October of 1854, criticized the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas. This provoked a letter by W. G. Ward in the next issue, vindicating the authority of Aquinas. In printing Ward's letter, Capes inserted an editorial note justifying the publication of a free criticism of scholastic philosophy.

We think that no greater injury can be done to the cause of those who would promote the study of St. Thomas and the schoolmen, as theologians, than any attempt to identify their philosophical speculations with the truth of Catholicism, or to claim for their modes of reasoning on religious topics any thing more than an historical, as distinguished from a logical and necessary connection.... it is of great practical importance that the difference between the authority of the scholastic philosophy and that of the scholastic theology should.be fully appreciated and distinctly brought out. [II (Nov. 1854), 450-51.

This remark is typical of Capes, who never accepted scholastic metaphysics-a fact which was to be significant when he came to question certain of the doctrines of the Church. In subsequent letters the writer of the offending article defended his statements, and asserted that "it would be almost impossible to teach St. Thomas now-a-days in the sense in which he was taught of old" (Rambler, 2nd ser., III (March 1855), 251).

In another article, the Rambler asserted that charity, not polemics, was the true principle of religious controversy, and that Catholics must attract the attention and agreement of Protestants by conciliatory means.

The first step, therefore, to be taken by every man who would take part in the great controversy of our day, is the gaining of a thorough mastery of the actual condition of mind of the non-Catholics whom he would influence. . * * If we were asked to name the most urgent controversial need of our age, we should say that it was an application of the Baconian method of induction to the phenomena of religious error. Its interminable varieties ... cannot be ascertained by [31/32] any a priori reading, constructed on a purely theological basis. ["The True Principle of Religious Controversy," Rambler, 2nd ser., III (April 1855), 256.]

The article decried the Catholic practice of questioning the sincerity of one's opponents, and suggested that theological science was inadequate to deal with the actual condition of the Protestant mind.

These articles were indicative of a new and more aggressive spirit in the Rambler; but it was not until a year later that the periodical came to be regarded with suspicion by the hierarchy. The occasion was provided by some writings of Simpson. Converts like Simpson were aware, as born Catholics were not, that much of the tendency towards unbelief among Protestants was due to an ethical revulsion from the Calvinistic doctrines of original sin and damnation which had overshadowed their education;26 they saw in this an opportunity for Catholicism, with its milder theology, to win new adherents. The definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 gave an occasion for a discussion of the nature of that original sin from which Mary was held to be exempt -- a discussion which would at once remove Protestant prejudices against the dogma and afford an opportunity for a restatement of the Catholic doctrines on original sin and the destiny of the unregenerate. Simpson wrote on this subject in July of 1855, in the form of a letter to the editor, signed "R.P.S." -- "The Immaculate Conception viewed in connection with the Doctrine of Original Sin" (IV (July 1855), 25-37). The form of a letter was necessary in order to avoid editorial responsibility: a prefatory note (p. 25) stated that the doctrines asserted were those of the author only. The Rambler had earlier (May 1855) hailed the definition as a vindication of Newman's theory of the development of dogma. This was followed by two other letters in May and July of 1856 on the same topic.

Simpson held that original sin was a degradation from the supernatural state of original justice to a state which was simply natural, rather than being a positive defilement or [32/33] evil residing in the flesh. Thus the Immaculate Conception was simply a miracle of grace, by which Mary, alone among mortals, was restored to Adam's original state. For the rest of mankind, God had provided instead, an economy of penance by which salvation was possible. This led Simpson to a discussion of the destiny of the unregenerate, whom Calvinists consigned indiscriminately to hellfire. Simpson argued that natural virtue among the unregenerate received its reward, even though the state of bliss was reserved for Christians; hell was not simply a state of punishment, but rather consisted of several states, including the limbo of Dante. In the course of this discussion Simpson found occasion to assert that the modern theory that man had evolved from the ape was not inconsistent with Catholic doctrine.

In attempting his theodicy, Simpson had used language which suggested that original sin was the result of a deliberate plan of God rather than a fault of man: "original sin comes not by propagation ... but is caused by the decree of the allmerciful God, who places us on a level, because we should infallibly break our necks on the heights" (V (May 1856), 340). This was a clear theological error, though the fault lay more in Simpson's language than in his doctrines. Even where Simpson was on safe ground in theology he used language and introduced notions which seemed startling, if not actually dangerous, to Catholic readers. He cited reputable theologians to demonstrate that his opinions were at least admissible, but this did not prevent his letters from being denounced to the ecclesiastical authorities. Even the usually sympathetic Newman thought Simpson's letters "very unjustifiable" (Newman to Capes, 19 Jan. 1857, quoted by Gasquet, xxiii). Newman's objection was to self-taught laymen writing theology, rather than to the theology itself. In this he was reflecting the sentiments of his bishop, Ullathorne, who saw in Simpson's writings a manifestation of a "latitudinarian spirit" (Butler, I, 310). When Ullathorne publicly denounced the Rambler in 1862, Simpson's letters were severely criticized.

Cardinal Wiseman appointed a commission of three [33/34] theologians in June 1856 to examine Simpsons doctrines. Simpson and Capes promptly declared their readiness to submit to whatever censures might result from this inquiry. A formal censure, however, was averted. Through a friend, Dr. Todd, Simpson proposed to Wiseman to insert a notice in the next Ramblerto the effect that the writer of the letters, feeling that certain statements in them appear to require revision, desired to discontinue the discussion, and that His Eminence in consequence did not consider it necessary to continue the examination of his doctrines. Wiseman agreed to terminate the proceedings but required two changes in the notice: an expression of regret, and a statement that the writer "withdraws from" rather than merely "desires to discontinue" the discussion (W. G. Todd to Wiseman, 17 July 1856, Westminster Archives). This was done, the statement appearing in the Rambler for September 1856 (Gasquet, pp. xxxi-xxxii).

As Wiseman acknowledged, Simpson's withdrawal statement contains no retraction" (Wiseman to Todd, 22 July 1856, Downside MSS); the "certain statements" requiring revision are not identified. Simpson was fully aware of this, and felt free to reassert many of his propositions in subsequent articles, although he never again dealt directly with the subject of original sin. When Ullathorne publicly criticized the letters in 1862, Simpson defended his position. He did not consider that he had been condemned. He added that all three letters had been read through by ecclesiastics before being published (See Simpson's Bishop Ullathorne, p. 41). The result of this affair was that in later years Simpson came to be held responsible for all the objectionable features of the Rambler, even when he was not at fault.

The incident did not, however, lower Capes' opinion of Simpson. In the very month in which the withdrawal statement appeared, Simpson became assistant editor of the Rambler. Capes' poor health had made it necessary to secure an assistant; and, in fact, Simpson served as acting editor for the next four issues. It was during this period that the Rambler came into direct conflict with Cardinal Wiseman.

The Rambler for October 1856 contained a short notice of the American Catholic journal, Brownson's Quarterly Review, [34/35] which it praised as "the deepest, most solid, and most consistent periodical in our language.' 136 This was returning the compliment which Brownson had paid the Rambler in July, when he had described it as

after our own heart. It has a freedom and freshness about it, a boldness and independence, a force and earnestness, which we like, and from which we augur much good.... In a word, its editors seem to us to be more anxious to be living men than to be merely safe men, and more bent on quickening the thought and activity of the Catholic body than they are to obtain the negative merit of giving no offence, or of disturbing no one's tranquillity. [VI (Oct. 1856), 315]

Brownson made a few criticisms, however, on the Rambler's style and language. To these Simpson thought it desirable to make a reply, in which he sought to explain why the Rambler was unable to meet the standards Brownson set for it:

. . . England, and especially the little remnant of Catholic England, lives very much on tradition.... We have to write for those who consider that a periodical appearing three times a quarter has no business to enter into serious questions, which must be reserved for the more measured roll of the Quarterly. Our part, it seems, is to provide milk and water and sugar, insipid "amusement and instruction," from which all that might suggest and excite real thought has been carefully weeded. . . . any serious investigation of these sciences, made independently of the unauthoritative interpretations of Scripture that have hitherto been controlled and confined in the Catholic schools, would be discouraged as tending to infuse doubts into the minds of innocent Catholics, and to suggest speculation where faith now reigns. People, forsooth, to whom the pages of The Times, the Athenaeum, and the Weekly Dispatch, with all their masterly infidelity, lie open, will be exposed to the danger of losing their faith if a Catholic writer speculates a little on questions of moral, intellectual, social, or physical philosophy-if he directs his mind to any thing above writing nice stories in illustration of the pleasantness and peace of the Catholic religion . . . to any thing more honest than defending through thick and thin the governments of all tyrants that profess our religion, and proving . . . that the [35/36] interior of a Neapolitan prison is rather preferable to that of an English gaol. We only wish we saw our way clearly to be safe in speaking out in a manner still more completely after Dr. Brownson's heart. [VI (Oct. 1856), 316]

This article gave considerable offence: it seemed to be an unwarranted reflection on the intellectual shortcomings of the old Catholics, the "little remnant of Catholic England." What was worse, it appeared to be a direct hit at Cardinal Wiseman and his Dublin Review, part of it being a parody of a sentence from an article, attributed to Wiseman, in that journal (Gasquet, p. xxxii). There was a certain amount of petulance evident in the article, probably resulting from Simpson's recent encounter with Church authority over his letters on original sin.

This was followed in the next issue of the Rambler by an article on "The Rising Generation: Our Poor-Schools," by J. G. Wenham, a priest. [Gasquet (ibid., p. xxvi) says this article was generally ascribed to Simpson. This is improbable, as it was prefaced by a note stating that it was written by a priest]. In other circumstances the article would not have given offence: it was a careful and sensible study of the weaknesses of Catholic poor-schools, with suggestions for their improvement. There were some clever paragraphs on two sorts of Catholics: the "croakers" who saw no good in what was being done, and the "couleur-de-rose" man who "lives in a poetical atmosphere of his own" in which all was "enchanting, hopeful, and glorious (VI (Nov. 1856), 321). Both tendencies were gently satirized.

Cardinal Wiseman, who felt that the whole subject of education should be reserved to the bishops, was offended by the references to the "couleur-de-rose" tendency, which he interpreted, rather unjustly, as a personal criticism of himself. He connected Wenham's article with Simpson's, and wrote against both in "The Present Catholic Dangers," which appeared in the Dublin Review for December 1856. Wiseman complained that the conductors of the Rambler sought to set themselves apart from other Catholics, asserting the intellectual superiority of converts. "Its writers [36/37] do not attempt to throw themselves into the true position of Catholics. They stand aloof, and do not share the real burthen of Catholic labour ... they address us rather as a speaker does from the hustings, from without and above the crowd addressed" (XLI (Dec. 1856), 450). He charged that "this intellectual separation" from the main body of Catholics was "the creation of party, upon the very worst ground, that of a distinction of old, and new, Catholics" (XLI (Dec. 1856), 450). He freely acknowledged his own preference for the rosy view: "This Review was founded upon a couleur-de-rose principle. It was started simply in hopefulness, in buoyant bounding confidence that there was a 'good time coming" (465). Wiseman denied that Catholics resisted the progress of scientific investigation, but said that they "could not allow any doctrine of physiology to be taught which led to a pre-Adamite theory, or one of plurality of races, inconsistent with the doctrine of the fall, original sin, and redemption" (448. This may have been a reference to Simpson's articles). Deploring the fact that dissensions had arisen among Catholics, Wiseman ended with a plea for unity.

Wiseman's distress at the "cynical remarks" (Wiseman to Henry Bagshawe, 20 June 1857, Westminster Archives) of the Rambler was sincere, although there was in his article a trace of the wounded pride of an author and editor. He was wrong in interpreting the Rambler's articles as an attack on the old Catholics, but he had correctly sensed in Simpson's criticism of intellectual timidity an attack on his own policy. Wiseman's primary concern, throughout his career, had been to bring together the old and the new Catholics into one harmonious community. He was therefore opposed to anything savouring of a party spirit within the Catholic body. Wiseman was at this time beginning the great struggle of his primacy against the "anti-Roman" and anti-convert old Catholic clergy, led by his own coadjutor, Archbishop Errington. It was therefore necessary for him to demonstrate to the old Catholics that he was still one of them, that he had [37/38] not become the party leader of the converts. This was the reason for his sharp criticism of the Rambler.

The Rambler replied in a February 1857 article entitled "The Rambler and the Dublin Review," protesting against "the unjust and uncharitable misrepresentations" of the Dublin Review as a "very indefensible piece of false criticism (VII (Feb. 1857), 140-41). It denied that its articles were directed against the old Catholics. Admitting that the author of the article on Brownson might have been imprudent, it complained that the education article had been unfairly attacked. It pretended to be aggrieved by the criticism that the Rambler's writers "do not share the burden of Catholic labour"; this, it cried, was an unwarranted personal attack. This last charge was denied by Wiseman in the next Dublin Review, in which he sought to put an end to the discussion (XLII (March 1857), 245-8).

The Rambler was not appeased. In March appeared an article criticizing the tendency among Catholics to evade the difficulties presented by history and science. In "Literary Cookery," it called upon them to meet Protestant criticism by a greater honesty, rather than by the "shirking and cooking system" (VII [March 1857], 181) of some Catholic apologists. "It is useless to proclaim that history and science are in harmony with our religion, unless we show that we think so by being ourselves foremost in telling the whole truth about the Church and her enemies" (168; Gasquet, pp. xxxiii-xxxiv.). It ridiculed the obsolete Mosaic geology of some Catholic writers; and, although it praised Wiseman's own lectures on "Science and Revealed Religion," his arguments were by implication included in this censure.

This new aggressive attitude of the Rambler -- of which another sample was a letter in December 1856 criticizing the use of false etymologies by fathers and doctors of the Church in B. M.[orris]'s "Theologia Male Ferrata," Rambler, (VI [Dec. 1856] 40) began to alarm some of its friends, notably Brownson and Newman. The latter, who was "pained, and almost [38/39] frightened," by the successive blows it was striking, communicated his fears to Capes; See Newman to Ambrose St. John, 7 May 1857, Ward, Life of Newman, 1, 437. See also Newman to Capes, 19 Jan. 1857, quoted by Gasquet, pp. xxiii-xxiv (with some omissions). Meanwhile Manning, who was then beginning his rise in the hierarchy, advised Wiseman to handle the Rambler "after the manner of the Holy Office." (Manning to Wiseman, 18 Feb. 1857, cited (but wrongly dated) by Purcell, II, 67). Capes did not regard the matter in so serious a light; but, having somewhat recovered his health, he resumed the editorship with the number for February 1857, and announced that fact to the public; VII (Feb. 1857), 162. The name of the editor was not mentioned in conformity with the practice of anonymous writing. This implied no lack of confidence in Simpson, who continued as assistant editor.

In some matters, during this year 1857, the Rambler proceeded along approved paths. To make some amends for having offended the old Catholics, Simpson began a series,of historical articles on the Catholic martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which contained some of his most solid work. The Rambler supported Wiseman against the old Catholic opposition and proposed "Ultramontanism for England" in a leading article in July (VIII (July 1857), 1-12). Capes was always anxious to maintain friendly relations with Wiseman, who had promised to write for the Rambler, and with whom he was personally on good terms (Capes to Wiseman, I Sept. 1857, Westminster Archives).

In large measure, the controversies of the Rambler had resulted from misunderstandings, and could have been avoided had the parties been able to look at matters from each other's standpoint. But no amount of sympathy could conceal the fact that there was a fundamental opposition between the principles on which the Rambler, even in the cc safe" hands of Capes, was conducted, and those which Wiseman represented. Wiseman subordinated the laity to the clergy in all matters in which religion was concerned including education and politics; the very idea of differences among Catholics on these matters was abhorrent to him. The [39/40] Rambler, on the other hand, exulted in the variety and freedom of Catholic thought on all things beyond matters of faith; it affirmed its right to speak on all matters not defined by the Church, and to proclaim the truth regardless of the inconvenience that might be caused or the reputations that might be damaged. Thus it came to be regarded by the hierarchy, ever fearful of anything that might disrupt the delicate balance of English Catholicism, as an enfant terrible.

The Rambler continued on its independent course. It asserted its right to "ridicule what is ridiculous," even when it happens to be found among the writings of Popes and saints: "once protect the absurdities of the theologian from ridicule by the sanctity of his character, and you make his sanctity responsible for his absurdities; that is, you make sanctity itself ridiculous" (VII [Feb. 1857], 159-161). Urging Catholic writers to pay more attention to the works of non-Catholic authors, it argued that "error bears witness to the truth.... we believe that the materials for perfecting the system of Catholic philosophy are being prepared, even by the labours of men without the communion of the Church" (VII [April 1857], 303). It continued the controversy on education with Scott Nasmyth Stokes' "The Controversy on the Poor-School Grant," despite Wiseman's express desire that the subject should be left to the bishops (VII [May 1857], 338-348. Signed "S.N.S."). And it laid stress on the inordinate role of the clergy in the government of the Papal States, thereby contradicting the statements of Wiseman's spokesman in the House of Commons, Sir George Bowyer ("Mr. Bowyer on the Papal States," VII [May 1857], 401-2.).

This increasing boldness coincided with a remarkable improvement in the quality of the magazine in the years 1856 and 1857, for much of which Simpson was responsible. One sign of this was the disappearance of novels, or "tales," from its pages; these had been a feature of the early Rambler, and were not distinguished for any considerable literary merit. Since 1854 it had had a regular department of literary criticism. These years also saw a further development of its policy, which brought it closer to a position that can be described as "liberal Catholic." [40/41]

The Rambler's home politics remained unchanged: in the breakdown of the two-party system during the 1850s, it could find no reason to prefer one party above another. However, it now condemned all proposals to form a distinct Catholic party, urging that Catholics should work within the existing groups for their special ends. It was in foreign politics that a change was most apparent. Hitherto the Rambler had. shared the general Catholic sentiment that Napoleon III ought to be supported because he had restored order and favoured the Church. Now, however, "The French Emperor" condemned his government as "a hollow and vicious system, for which no present tranquillity can permanently compensate" (VIII [Aug. 1857], 87).The occasion for this outburst was the Emperor's harassment of the Liberal Catholic leader Montalembert and his organ, the Correspondant.

The Rambler had always been sympathetic to Montalembert and other continental Liberal Catholics, without subscribing to their entire policy. Now it moved into closer alignment with them, giving a particularly favourable notice to the Correspondant, with whose "tone and principles" it felt "the liveliest sympathy": "Altogether the Correspondant is a journal which Catholics must regard with pride, as being conducted with talent, honour, liberality, and freedom, and in an excellent Catholic spirit" (VIII [Dec. 1857], 456). The Rambler denied that Catholics were committed to the support of despotism and expressed the hope that Catholics would develop a love for political and social freedom.

It was, however, intellectual freedom which was the chief concern of the Rambler, particularly the freedom of the scientific historian. As early as 1854, in "English and Foreign Historians: the Massacre of St. Bartholomew" it had taken favourable notice of the German historians, particularly Ranke, who, disregarding the interests of religious bodies, simply ascertained and candidly stated the facts" (I [Feb. 1854], 168-69). Among Catholic historians, its model, whom it praised in extravagant terms, was Professor Döllinger of Munich. It expressed a preference, which it shaxed with Döllinger, for the methods of scientific [41/42] history over those of theology, as more appropriate to the. modern age: "It is our firm belief that in these days the Catholic cause will be best subserved by the study of facts. ... Theology is no longer the dominant science that it was during the middle ages; and the authority of the syllogism of Aristotle has received a counterpoise in the inductive method laid down by Bacon" (VIII [July 1857], 76. This was in a review of Ozanam's work on the fifth century.). The Rambler severely criticized those Catholic historians who shirked manuscript research or concealed embarrassing facts. On this account Simpson gave an unfavourable review to Canon Flanagan's church history of England, giving an example of his own fearless style of criticism by asserting that the attempted deposition of Elizabeth by St. Pius V had "sealed the loss of England to the Church" (VIII [Nov. 1857], 353). A similar statement in Simpson's Life of Campion later' aroused much controversy.

It was a sign of this more detached attitude that the Rambler was now inclined to question the reputed miracle of La Salette, which it had earlier accepted. Suspending its own judgment, in "The Edinburgh Review on La Salette," it deplored the credulous "morbid passion for modern miracles" as unsound both in history and in theology: "Surely it is a serious error to confound the consideration of what is 'pious' with the consideration of what is 'true'" (VIII [Sept. 1857], 197). This caused some sensation, and brought the Rambler once again into conflict with Ullathorne, who had proclaimed his own faith in the miracle. In "On Belief in Reputed Miracles," the Rambler defended its position as strictly theological and commonsense, urging the necessity of investigation before miracles are accepted, and arguing that all the facts of Christianity rest ultimately on some historical evidence (VIII [Oct. 1857], 290-301). This was a favourite philosophical position of Capes, who probably wrote these articles. Simpson did not share in the criticism of the miracle of La Salette, which he accepted with his surprisingly simple faith.

The bolder and more aggressive position which the Rambler had assumed in these last years had considerably altered its position in the Catholic body. It had commenced as the organ of the converts generally; it now found itself [42/43] the organ only of a section of them, that smaller, more liberal section which held that Catholicism should keep pace with the progress of reason and science in an atmosphere of freedom. It stood now in direct collision with Wiseman and his Dublin Review. By the end of 1857, the Rambler had ceased to be the convert organ and had become the organ of a Liberal Catholic movement.

It was at this point that Capes ceased to be its editor. His health had not improved, and he had a blind and invalid wife. He had continued to lose money by the Rambler and had now come to the end of his financial resources. Finally, he had simply become weary of his editorial duties after a decade of apparently unfruitful endeavour. "I have long felt that I have had quite enough of it in the editorial way, and at last it was plain that if I did not altogether cease from everything which involved the anxieties of responsibility I should myself be speedily finished altogether.' 169

On 5 October 1857, Capes resigned the editorship, which was temporarily assumed by Simpson. Capes soon found it necessary to withdraw completely, selling the proprietorship of the magazine. It was divided into six fifty-pound shares; one each was taken by Simpson and Frederick Capes, and two by the young Sir John Acton, who became the first nonconvert to take part in the conduct of the Rambler. The other two shares could find no takers, and were ultimately suppressed. Thus Capes' reward for ten years of journalistic effort was only two hundred pounds and the praise of Newman, who felt that

the Catholic body in this country owes you much gratitude, for the animus and object of your undertaking, the devotion you have shown to it for so long a [43/44] time, and the various important benefits it has done us.

Simpson now became the regular editor of the Rambler, with Acton as his chief contributor and associate. The new arrangements took effect in February 1858.

References

Butler, Dom Cuthbert . The Life and Times of Bishop Ullathorne, 2 vols. London and New York, 1926.

Gasquet, Abbot. Lord Acton and his Circle. London, 1906.

Mathew, David. Catholicism in England, 1535-1935. London, 1936.

Newman, John Henry. Apologia pro vita sua ed. Wilfrid Ward. London, 1931.

Purcell, Edmund Sheridan. Life of Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster. 2 vols. New York, 1896.

Simpson, Robert. Bishop Ullathorne and the "Rambler". London, 1862.

Simpson, Robert. Invocation of Saints proved from the Bible alone: Substance of an Address delivered by R. Simpson, Esq., B.A., at a discussion between him and Dr. Cumming, at Clapham, Tuesday, July 3d, 1849. London, 1849.

"Richard Simpson," Academy, IX (22 April 1876), 381.

Woodruff, Douglas. "Introduction" to Lord Acton, Essays on Church and State. London, 1952.


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Last modified: 8 September 2001