decorated initial  'P'ater's most sustained engagement with Newman's thought occurs in Marius the Epicurean (1885), which Pater claimed to have written "to show the necessity of religion." (Thomas Wright, p. 87.) The large number of direct and indirect references to Newman's characteristic ideas — especially as found in Loss and Gain, the Idea of a University, and the Grammar of Assent — suggests that a rereading of Newman played an important role in Pater's own partial reconciliation with Christianity during the five or six years of the composition of Marius. Indeed, it is now known that, probably sometime in the eighties, Pater read deeply enough in Newman's major works to make extensive notes toward in uncompleted essay to be called "The Writings of Cardinal Newman."2

The idea of an historical novel set in early Christian times and designed to illuminate the nineteenth-century religious dilemma may well have been derived from Newman, whose Callista, subtitled A Tale of the Third Century, bad appeared in 1855. Though both Wiseman's Fabiola and Kingsley's Hypatia had provided examples of the type, Newman's altogether more subtle exploration of the stages of conversion is far closer to Pater's analytical method. Moreover, both works culminate in "conversion" and martyrdom; and the plague leading to an outbreak of violence against the Christians in Marius is paralleled by the plague of locusts and the resulting persecution in Callista. (This is not to overlook or exclude a further, more immediate source in Lemaitre's Sérénus. See Louise M. Rosenblatt, [pp. 242-260.] Chapter 19.) There are positive signs that Newman's earlier novel of religious controversy, Loss and Gain (1848), was in Pater's thoughts while composing Marius and may have provided at least a remote pattern for its dialectical structure. Loss and Gain seeks to capture, in faintly novelistic form, the climate of religious debate at Oxford during the Tractarian period and to systematize and recapitulate in relatively popular terms the arguments of the various contending parties. Like Marius, Charles Reding struggles through alternative positions; he ends, as Newman himself had, in the camp of Roman Catholic orthodoxy.

Pater used the phrase "loss and gain" pointedly on four occasions in Marius (ME, 11, 14-15, 28, 189, 219). Though one cannot argue any strong case from Pater's various, but obviously calculated, use of Newman's phrase, it is nevertheless hard to shake off the impression that Newman's fictionalized and partly autobiographical presentation of the various religious possibilities open to a sensitive young man of the eighteen-forties was somehow part of the matrix of Pater's similarly dialectical and autobiographical marking out of philosophical and religious avenues open to an aesthetic youth of forty years later.4 Marius, [315/316] the sadly reflective, morally upright, and emotionally withdrawn pagan, though not entirely unlike certain other heroes of Victorian conversion and anticonversion novels, sections to have a special affinity with Newman's Oxford hero, who "was naturally timid and retiring, oversensitive, and, though lively and cheerful, yet not without a tinge of melancholy in his character" (LG, pp. 2-3). Moreover, a tutor at Eton "gave his mind a religious impression, which secured him against the allurement of bad company, whether at the school itself, or afterwards at Oxford" (LG, p. 3). The Marius who to the end of his life was accompanied by "the sense ... of a living person at his side" (ME, II, 218) was not unlike Charles, whose "characteristic, perhaps above everything else, was an habitual sense of the Divine Presence" (LG, 230-231).

Pater's novel is deeply and primarily indebted to Newman, however, because the central argument of Marius' "conversion" is taken almost bodily from the Grammar of Assent (1870) and other writings of Newman. The issue is that of the grounds of religious - assent," which both men place in a convergence of "probabilities." And both are concerned in strikingly similar ways with the role of the "will" and "personality" in the act of faith. At each stage of Marius' dialectical advance, the conflicts are expressed in Newman's terms. Early in his career, when in process of giving up the religion of his childhood, the "visionary idealism of the villa," in favor of his new Cyrenaicism, Marius reflects that the new comprehensive ideal "demAnded entire liberty of heart and brain," whereas

that old, staid, conservative religion of his childhood certainly had its being in a world of somewhat narrow restrictions. But then, the one was absolutely real, with nothing less than the reality of seeing and hearing — the other, how vague, shadowy, problematical! Could its so limited probabilities be worth taking into account in any practical question as to the rejecting or receiving of what was indeed so real, and, on the face of it, so desirable? [ME, 1, 48-49]

The passage is doubly indebted to Newman. First, as we shall see in [316/317] detail, there is the problem that religious belief seems grounded on 11 so limited probabiLities." But Newman had also developed at length the conflict in modes of vision between "the old Theology" and "the great Sciences which are the characteristics of this era." Putting words into the mouths of his opponents, Newman argued, in "A Form of Infidelity of the Day," that the aggressive new brandies of positive knowledge are the

indirect but effectual means of overturning Religion! They do but need to be seen in order to be pursued; you will put an end, in the Schools of learning, to the long reign of the unseen shadowy world, by the mere exhibition of the visible. This was impossible heretofore, for the visible world was so little known itself; but now, thinks to the New Philosophy, sight is able to contest the field with faith. [Idea, p. 301]

Later, on the brink of accepting Cyrenaicism, Pater's hero muses on the "sentimental or ethical equivalent" of metaphysical principles, and on how "a rich and genial nature" can transform even "the most depressing of theories":

in the reception of metaphysical formulae, all depends, as regards their actual and ulterior result, on the pre-existent qualities of that soil of human nature into which they fall — the company they find already present there, on their admission into the house of thought; there being at least so much truth as this involves in the theological maxim, that the reception of this or that speculative conclusion is really a matter of the will. [ME, 1, 135-36]

But it is not until Volume II that Marius, under the influence now of the Stoic Cornelius Fronto, considers (in a passage already strongly reminiscent of Newman for other reasons) the possibility of and the need for "moral assents" and "a place for duty and righteousness in his house of thought" (ME, II, 7). The Newmanesque flavor is strengthened by Pater's twice emphatically setting off "assent" in quotation marks. Speculating on an inherited, almost unconscious, code embodied in the "observances, customs, usages" of the "old morality," Cornelius hinted at "a remnant of right conduct, what he does, still more what he abstains from doing, not so much through his own free election, as from a deference, an 'assent,' entire, habitual, unconscious, [317/318] to custom — to the actual habit or fashion of others" (ME, II, 9). So critical had Marius become of the failure of the "old Cyrenaics" to take account of "that whole complex system of manners or morals" embodied in hereditary Greek religion, that he can now complain: "A little more of such 'walking by faith,' a little more of such not unreasonable 'assent,' and they might have profited by a hundred services to their culture, from Greek religion and Greek morality, as they actually were" (ME, II, 24).

The argument shifts slightly in Chapter XIX, "Ihe Will as Vision," perhaps theologically the center of the whole work, by emphasizing the role of appetency — choice, volition, hope, will — in achieving "certitude of intellect" in matters of belief. Concerning the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Marius inquires:

And were the cheerful, sociable, restorative beliefs, of which he had there read so much, that bold adhesion, for instance, to the hypothesis of an eternal friend to man, just hidden behind the veil of a mechanical and material order, but only just behind it, ready perhaps even now to break through:were they, after all, redly a matter of choice, dependent on some deliberate act of volition on his part? Were they doctrines one might take for granted, generously take for granted, and led on by them, at first as but well-defined objects of hope, come at last into the region of a corresponding certitude of the intellect? [ME, II, 63-64]

About Cornelius' remarks "concerning the practicability of a methodical and self-forced assent to certain principles or presuppositions 'one could not do without,' " Marius asks, "Were there, as the expression 'one could not do without' seemed to hint, beliefs, without which life itself must be almost impossible, principles which had their sufficient ground of evidence in that very fact?" (ME, II, 64.) Similarly, if by an act of will one could attend to this or that color or sound,

Might it be not otherwise with those various and competing hypotheses, the permissible hypotheses, which, in that open field for hypothesis — one's own actual ignorance of the origin and tendency of our being — present themselves so importunately, some of them with so emphatic a reiteration, through all the mental changes of successive ages? Might the will itself be an organ of knowledge, of vision? [ME, II, 64-65]


In Chapter XX Marius, now deeply immersed in the early Christian culture, receives further impetus in his quest through a discourse of the "Platonist" Apuleius expounding a "boldly mystical . . . view of man and his position in the world" (ME, 11, 90). Even in frivolous surroundings Apuleius' conviction was evident. "Yes!" Marius concurs, "the reception of theory, of hypothesis, of beliefs, did depend a great deal on temperament. "

The notion that assent or belief is arrived at by "the whole man — "mind, feelings, imagination, etc. — is evident throughout Newman's career. For example, in Loss and Gain Pater would have found the Roman Catholic priest whom Reding conveniently meets on the train discussing the role of the will in the act of faith: " 'Certainty, in its highest sense, is the reward of those who, by an act of the will, and at the dictate of reason and prudence, embrace the truth, when nature, like a coward, shrinks' " (LG, p. 385). And again: "They will not be blessed, they will effect nothing in religious matters, till they begin by an act of unreserved faith in the word of God, whatever it be; till they go out of themselves; till they cease to make something within them their standard; till they oblige their will to perfect what reason leaves sufficient, indeed, but incomplete" (LG, p. 386). However, it was in the Grammar of Assent, now little more than a decade old, that Newman had developed at length the "personal" and "subjective" quality of the apprehension of truth. Only a few of the many relevant passages need be indicated. Newman's fascinating exploration of the complexities of Shakespearean textual study suggests "how little syllogisms have to do with the formation of opinion; ... and how much upon those pre-existing beliefs and views, in which men either already agree with each other of hopelessly differ, before they begin in dispute, and which are hidden deep in our nature, or, it may be, in our personal peculiarities" (GA, p. 210). Moreover, "thought is too keen and manifold, its sources are too remote and hidden, its path too personal, delicate, and circuitous, its subject matter too various and intricate, to admit of the trammels of any language, of whatever subtlety and of whatever compass" (GA, p. 216). Similarly, the "cumulation of probabilities" in the process of concrete inference varies "according to the particular intellect which is employed upon it" (GA, p. 223).


This is the "personal element" in proof, the "living organon" or the "supra-logical judgment" of the prudent man (GA, pp. 240-241). nis Prudential "personal endowment" ensures that the discovery of truth is a moral as well as an intellectual activity: "truth there is, and attainable it is, but ... its rays stream in upon us through the medium of our moral as well as our intellectual being; and ... in consequence that perception of its first principles which is natural to us is enfeebled, obstructed, perverted, by allurements of sense and the supremacy of self, and, on the other hand, quickened by aspirations after the supernatural" (GA, p. 237). Put differently, a characteristic of the argumentative process is "the moral state of the parties inquiring or disputing"; that is, "the personality (so to speak) of the parties reasoning is an important element in proving propositions in concrete matter" (GA, p. 243).

The echoes of thought and phrasing from the Grammar are too full to be accidental or casual, and they extend well beyond the role of will and personality in the act of faith. For example, Pater's insistence on a deference to an authoritative "tradition" in religious matters, "a system of order ... in possession," reflects a central preoccupation of Newman's, as in this passage in the Grammar: "tradition, though unauthenticated, being (what is called) in possession, has a prescription in its favour, and may, prima facie, or provisionally, be received" (GA, p. 286).5 But, as Newman's Victorian critics saw, there was a joker in his argument. For all his agreement as to the psychological conditions of belief, Pater was evidently unprepared to accept in its entirety Newman's conclusion that the differences discernible in men's religious and moral perceptions, far from casting doubt on objective truth, suggest that "there is something deeper in our differences than the accident of external circumstances; and that we need the interposition of a Power, greater than human teaching and human argument, [320/321] to make our beliefs true and our minds one" (GA, p. 285). Marius' and his creator, seem more willing to exist in a kind of negative capability, content with religious "possibilities."6

Newman's voice reerhoes, in important contexts, in many other places in Marius. Not surprisingly, Marius, Pater's supreme elite soul, is intrigued by Heraclitus' emphasis on "the difference between the many and the few"; throughout much is heard of the mingled aesthetic and moral superiorities of "the select few," "the rare minority of elite intelligences," "certain elect souls" (ME, 1, 128, 133, 242; 11, 7, 57). Though Pater may have discovered the Calvinistically tinged doctrine of the few and the many in Newman's sermons, and as mediated and transformed by Matthew Arnold, he could have found it more immediately in the Grammar itself. Newman cites as an example of informal inference a certain writer's driving at a conclusion about the [321/322] authorship of a book, not "by mere argumentation" but by "delicate, I and "intricate" processes, "invisible, except to those who from circumstances have an intellectual perception of what does not appear to the many" (GA, p. 250). Even more explicitly, Newman had devoted a long paragraph to the text, "Many are called, few are chosen" (GA, pp. 346-47). The process of Marius' conversion also draws upon Newman's Idea of a University — for example, Marius' growing apprehension that the fragments of human speculation form a great "whole," a "supreme system of knowledge and doctrine" (ME, 1119, Idea, pp. 24, 44, 45, 46, 64; ME, 11, 134, Idea, pp. 40, 41).

Pater drew even more substantively from the Idea in the first two chapters of Volume II of Marius, the crucial period when Marius contemplates the basis for a broader and deeper morality than his Cyrenaicism had provided. In Chapter XV, "Stoicism at Court," in which Newman's emphasis on an elite and on "an 'assent' ... to custom" has already been noted, Marius, under the sway of the aged Stoic moralist, Fronto, sees the glimmering possibility of "an adjustment between his own elaborately thought-out intellectual scheme and the 'old morality' " (ME, 11, 6). To a young Epicurean seeking "moral assents," Fronto offered "the key to this problem in the purely aesthetic beauty of the old morality, as an element in things, fascinating to the imagination, to good taste in its most highly developed form, through association — a system or order, as a matter of fact, in possession, not only of the larger world, but of the rare minority of elite intelligences" (ME, 11, 7). This lowest level of motivation, highly "aesthetic" as it might seem, at least presupposed a sincere

search after some principle of conduct ... which might give unity of motive to an actual rectitude, a cleanness and probity of life, determined partly by natural affection, partly by enlightened self-interest or the feeling of honour, due in paft even to the mere fear of penalties; no element of which, however, was distinctively moral in the agent himself as such, and providing him, therefore, no common ground with a really moral being like Cornelius, or even like the philosophic emperor. Performing the same offices; actually satisfying, even as they, the external claims of others; rendering to an their dues — one thus circumstanced would be wanting, nevertheless, in the secret of inward adjustment to the moral agents around him. How tenderly — more [322/323] tenderly than many stricter souls — he might yield himself to kindly instinct! what fineness of charity in passing judgment on others! what an exquisite conscience of other men's susceptibilities! He knows for how much the manner, because the heart itself, counts, in doing a kindness. He goes beyond most people in his care for all weakly creatures; judging, instinctively, that to be but sentient is to possess rights. He conceives a hundred duties, though he may not call them by that name, of the existence of which purely duteous souls may have no suspicion. He has a kind of pride in doing more than they, in a way of his own. Sometimes, he may think that those men of line and rule do not really understand their own business. How narrow, inflexible, unintelligent! what poor guardians (he may reason) of the inward spirit of righteousness, are some supposed careful walkers according to its letter and form. And yet all the while he admits, as such, no moral world at all: no theoretic equivalent to so large a proportion of the facts of life. [ME, II, 7-9]

This excerpt seems dearly to show the influence of Newman's famous double-edged description of the "gentleman" in the Idea — double-edged, because while the gentleman is the characteristic product of a liberal education, his qualities make him the dangerous simulacrum of a true Christian. Those qualities — "a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life" — "may attach to the man of the world, to the profligate, to the heartless.... Taken by themselves, they do but seem to be what they are not; they look like virtue at a distance, but they are detected by close observers, and on the long run" (Idea, P. 107). The ethics of the mere gentleman are those endorsed by what Newman in Discourse VIII scathingly describes as the Religion of Philosophy. This standard, "the ethical temperament of a civilized age," makes virtue a mere point of good taste, and vice vulgar and ungentlemanlike. ... To seem becomes to be; what looks fair wil be good, what causes offense will be evil; virtue will be what pleases, vice what pains" (Idea, p. 178). He goes on:

And from this shallowness of philosophical Religion it comes to pass that its disciples seem able to fulfil certain precepts of Christianity more readily and exactly than Christians themselves. St. Paul ... gives us a pattern of evangelical perfection; he draws the Christian character in its most graceful [323/324] form, and its most beautiful hues. He discourses of that charity which is patient and meek, humble and single-minded, disinterested, contented, and persevering. He tells us to prefer eadi the other before himself, to give way to each other, to abstain from rude words and evil speech, to avoid self~ conceit, to be calm and grave, to be cheerful and happy, to observe peace with all men, truth and justice, courtesy and gentleness, all that is modest, amiable, virtuous, md of good repute.... The school of the world seems to send out living copies of this typical excellence with greater success than the Church. [Idea, p. 180]

Pater has, it is evident, not only reproduced the substance of Newman's argument, but has retained much of the openly disparaging tone.7 It is dear that Marius, whatever the ambiguities of his final state, is not to stop short in a pseudo ethic based on "the purely aesthetic beauty of the old morality."

From Fronto, too, Marius learns that, beyond this motive of "natural affection or self-love or fear," there is a further spring of morality in that " 'assent,' entire, habitual, unconscious, to custom" (ME, 11, 50). This conformity to precedent is associated with the Stoic principle of "Humanity-of a universal commonwealth of mind," embodied in an elite whose observances and customs have now become a "weighty tradition" and are indeed the sum of the "old morality." Marius' thoughts go beyond the speaker's intention, not toward a theory of the ideal commonwealth, "but rather as if in search of its visible locality and abiding-place" (ME, 11, ii)-presumably the Christian Church he will increasingly turn toward. In the following chapter, Marius now worries that in broadening and deepening the admittedly narrow perfection of his present philosophy by turning to inherited moral standards, he would be forced to forego his claim to "an entire personal liberty, liberty of health and mind" (ME, 11, 26). But he sees that in attaching oneself to this "venerable system of sentiment and idea, [324/325] widely extended in time and place" (which he compares with membership in the "catholic church" or the old Roman citizenship), one makes one's own a great tide of human experience. This "wonderful order, actually in possession of human life," has penetrated law, language, and habit; the authority of the elect spirits is "like that of classic taste" (ME, 11, 26-27). Marius adopts this ideal of Humanity (in a sense "beyond the actual intention of the speaker") and is now prepared for his final engagement with Christianity.

There can be little doubt that Pater's "universal commonwealth of mind," that "venerable system of sentiment and idea, widely extended in time and place," a "wonderful order, actually in possession of human life," is a version of the "great association of nations" or "social commonwealth ... .. from time immemorial" and with "visible continuity" the seat of a unique "association of intellect and mind," described by Newman in "Christianity and Letters." This is undoubtedly a more authentic version than the one detected in Pater's "Winckehmann" nearly twenty years earlier. The later version is, for one thing, noticeably less fixed on "the supreme tradition of beauty" which so absorbed the younger Pater and at least makes an obeisance toward a "universal commonwealth of mind," which was Newman's central concern. Most significant, perhaps, is the strongly ethical complexion of Pater's revised version of the great tradition in the West. For an important extension of Newman's argument was the implication that, among the numerous analogies between "Civilization" and Christianity, classical studies had providentially been maintained as the instrument of education in Christian countries. In a kind of polemical pun, Newman had declared, "Rome has inherited both sacred and profane learning" (Idea, p. 231). By 1885 that notion would probably have seemed more acceptable to Pater than it had in 1867. although his hero does not follow out their full implications, a number of the central arguments of Pater's theology in Marius — on the nature of religious "assent" and the role of will and personality in belief; on the inadequacy of a religion of mere "taste"; on the authority of a great religious-humanistic tradition "in possession" of the Western mind — are those he had found in Newman's writings. The conclusion to be drawn is that Pater by the eighties had moved well beyond the vision of life embodied in the [325/326] Renaissance and that Newman had played a crucial part in the focusing of the new vision, for all of Marius' concern to the end with an aesthetic "receptivity."

The extent of that shift of spiritual focus and the degree to which Newman can be seen as its agent are strikingly evident in Pater's review, a year after the publication of Marius, of Amiel's Journal Intime. Pater shows impatience with a kind of spiritual pusillanimity he detects in Amiel with regard to the historic Catholic Church:

And as that abstract condition of Maia, to the kind md quantity of concrete literary production we hold to have been originally possible for him; so was the religion he actually attained, to what might have been the development of his profoundly religious spirit, had he been able to see that the old-fashioned Christianity is itself but the proper historic development of the true "essence" of the New Testament. There, again, is the constitutional shrinking, through a kind of metaphysical prejudice, from the concrete — that fear of the actual — in this case, of the Church of history.... Assenting, on probable evidence, to so many of the judgements of the religious sense, he failed to see the equally probable evidence there is for the beliefs, the peculiar directions of men's hopes, which complete those judgements harmoniously, and bring them into connection with the facts, the venerable institutions of the past — with the lives of the saints. By failure, as we think, of that historic sense, of which be could speak so well, he got no further in this direction than the glacial condition of rationalistic Geneva... "I miss something," he himself confesses, "common worship, a positive religion, shared with other people. Ah! when will the Church to which I belong in heart rise into being?" To many at least of those who can detect the ideal through the disturbing circumstances which belong to all actual institutions in the world, it was already there. Pascal, from considerations to which Amiel was no stranger, came to the larger hopes of the Catholic Church: Amiel stopped short at a faith almost hopeless; and by stopping short just there he really failed, as we think, of intellectual consistency, and missed that appeasing influence which his nature demanded as the condition of its full activity, as a force, an intellectual force, in the world — in the special business of his life. [EG, pp. 33-34]8

The historic Catholic Church as "the proper historic development" of the New Testament, and "assenting" to Catholic doctrine on "probable evidence": these phrases neatly summarize the drift of Newman's most original defenses of orthodoxy in works like the Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent. The tone of the conscious polemicist, the impatience with religious hesitancy, the appeal to "intellectual consistency," and the yearning for a higher "appeasing influence"-these mark stages beyond the careful irresolutions of Marius and are, I think, unmistakably autobiographical.

Newman's was thus a decisive role, perhaps intellectually the most decisive, in that rather enigmatic High Churchmanship Pater practiced in the final years of his life. Pater's theological arguments, in Marius and elsewhere, are unquestionably less subtle and less precise than Newman's, primarily because he was unwilling to follow out Newman's logic in its entirety. Pater, for whom Newman's concatenated proofs remained more suggestive than cogent, characteristically emphasizes the elements of Newman's arguments which opened the latter to persistent charges of "scepticism." Pater found the Grammar especially suited to his purposes: he chose to stress the "personal" and relative quality in religious apprehension (rather than the commitment to which Newman's arguments inherently led) and assimilated Newman's subtle exploration of the modes of assent to his own preoccupation with ratified states of religious-aesthetic perception (to the neglect of the fact that Newman claimed to be describing processes employed by all men). Similarly, tbough Newman is very penetrating on the role of will and personality in religious assent, Pater's major emphasis is on the religious "possibility" this line of argument opens up, instead of on Newman's emphasis on will acting "at the dictate of reason and prudence. " For Pater, as much as for Arnold, post-Kantian religion was to [327/328] be incapable of receiving a coherent intellectual formulation: his version of Christianity, almost as much as Arnold's, was to lie beyond the assault of logic or reason because, as he wrote in 1886, "The supposed facts on which Christianity rests, utterly incapable as they have become of any ordinary test, seem to me matters of very much the same sort of assent we give to any assumptions, in the strict and ultimate sense, moral."9 Nevertheless, Pater's use of Newman's chief arguments in favor of orthodox belief is notably straightforward in the Amiel review, and even in Marius there is an essentially serious concern with Newman's views on the psychology of belief and on the credentials of the historic Church. This is quite the reverse of Matthew Arnold's annoyed rejection, in his writings of the seventies, of Newman's characteristic reasoning as either self-defeating or prima facie "impossible." While Pater drew heavily on Arnold's theological writings for his own "natural" Christianity, under Newman's tutelage he had, by the mid-eighties, entered a country beyond the boundaries of Arnold's ethical idealism — though Pater probably did not take up full citizenship there. In a special sense of his own, Pater could say in his later years that the Roman Catholic Church "is what we are all tending to."10

Last modified 29 August 2007