[The following extract retains the original spelling and punctuation. The numbers in brackets indicate page breaks in the print edition in order to enable users of VW to cite or locate the original page numbers. The decorated "A" that begins the first paragraph below derives from Thackeray's illustrations for Vanity Fair. GPL].

Thackeray's initial 'A' friend of mine, who has just come from Italy, says that he has there left Messrs. Sp — — r, P — — l [S. Perceval], and W. Dr — — d [Drummond], who were the lights of the great church in Newman Street, who [210/211] were themselves apostles, and declared and believed that every word of nonsense which fell from their lips was a direct spiritual intervention. These gentlemen have become Puseyites already, and are, my friend states, in the high way to Catholicism. . . . .

I think the fate of our English Newman Street apostles, and of M. de la M — — , the mad priest, and his congregation of mad converts, should be a warning to such of us as are inclined to dabble in religious speculations ; for, in them, as in all others, our flighty brains soon lose themselves, and we find our reason speedily lying prostrated at the mercy of our passions; and I think that Madame Sand's novel of Spiridion may do a vast deal of good, and bears a good moral with it; though not such an one, perhaps, as our fair philosopher intended. For any- thing he learned, Samuel-Peter-Spiridion-Hebronius might have remained a Jew from the beginning to the end. Wherefore be in such a hurry to set up new faiths? Wherefore, Madame Sand, try and be so preternaturally wise? Wherefore be so eager to jump out of one religion, for the purpose of jumping into another? See what good this philosophical friskiness has done you, and on what sort of ground you are come at last. You are so wonderfully sagacious, that you flounder in mud at every step; so amazingly clear-sighted, that your eyes cannot see an inch before you, having put out, with that extinguishing genius of yours, every one of the lights that are sufficient for the conduct of common men. And for what? . . . [211/212]

It is a pity that this hapless Spiridion, so eager in his passage from one creed to another, and so loud in his profession of the truth, wherever he fancied that he had found it, had not waited a little, before he avowed himself either Catholic or Protestant, and implicated others in errors and follies which might, at least, have been confined to his own bosom, and there have lain comparatively harmless. In what a pretty state, for instance, will Messrs. Dr — — d and P — — l have left their Newman Street congregation, who are still plunged in their old superstitions, from which their spiritual pastors and masters have been set free! In what a state, too, do Mrs. Sand and her brother and sister philosophers, Templars, Saint Simonians, Fourierites, Lerouxites, or whatever the sect may be, leave the unfortunate people who have listened to their doctrines, and who have not the opportunity, or the fiery versatility of belief, which carries their teachers from one creed to another, leaving only exploded lies and useless recantations behind them!

[Professor Robert H. Ellison of East Texas Baptist University, whose materials on the Victorian sermon appear in VW, informs me that "The Newman Street Church is associated with Edward Irving's circle and the Catholic Apostolic Church. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library mentions a Henry Drummond and an S. Perceval."]

Other Thackeray Comments about British Religion and Taste


Thackeray, William Makepeace. "Madame Sand and the New Apocalypse." The Paris Sketch-Book. Eastern Sketches. The Irish Sketch-Book. (Unnumbered volume in the "Illustrated Sterling Edition" of Works.) Boston: Estes and Co., nd. 198-220.

"The Catholic Apostolic Church" (The Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Calvin College).

Last modified 11 March 2005