The Oxford Movement by R.W. ChurchTwelve Years 1833-1845

Produced by PG Distributed Proofreaders. Produced from images provided by the Million Book Project. THE OXFORD MOVEMENT TWELVE YEARS 1833-1845 R.W. CHURCH, M.A., D.C.L. SOMETIME DEAN OF ST. PAUL’S AND FELLOW OF ORIEL COLLEGE, OXFORD ADVERTISEMENT The revision of these papers was a task to which the late Dean of St. Paul’s gave all the
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  • 1891
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Produced by PG Distributed Proofreaders. Produced from images provided by the Million Book Project.


TWELVE YEARS 1833-1845




The revision of these papers was a task to which the late Dean of St. Paul’s gave all the work he could during the last months of his life. At the time of his death, fourteen of the papers had, so far as can be judged, received the form in which he wished them to be published; and these, of course, are printed here exactly as he left them. One more he had all but prepared for publication; the last four were mainly in the condition in which, six years ago, he had them privately put into type, for the convenience of his own further work upon them, and for the reading of two or three intimate friends. Those into whose care his work has now come have tried, with the help of his pencilled notes, to bring these four papers as nearly as they can into the form which they believe he would have had them take. But it has seemed better to leave unaltered a sentence here and there to which he might have given a more perfect shape, rather than to run the risk of swerving from the thought which was in his mind.

It is possible that the Dean would have made considerable changes in the preface which is here printed; for only that which seems the first draft of it has been found. But even thus it serves to show his wish and purpose for the work he had in hand; and it has therefore been thought best to publish it. Leave has been obtained to add here some fragments from a letter which, three years ago, he wrote to Lord Acton about these papers:

“If I ever publish them, I must say distinctly what I want to do, which is, not to pretend to write a history of the movement, or to account for it or adequately to judge it and put it in its due place in relation to the religious and philosophical history of the time, but simply to preserve a contemporary memorial of what seems to me to have been a true and noble effort which passed before my eyes, a short scene of religious earnestness and aspiration, with all that was in it of self-devotion, affectionateness, and high and refined and varied character, displayed under circumstances which are scarcely intelligible to men of the present time; so enormous have been the changes in what was assumed and acted upon, and thought practicable and reasonable, ‘fifty years since.’ For their time and opportunities, the men of the movement, with all their imperfect equipment and their mistakes, still seem to me the salt of their generation…. I wish to leave behind me a record that one who lived with them, and lived long beyond most of them, believed in the reality of their goodness and height of character, and still looks back with deepest reverence to those forgotten men as the companions to whose teaching and example he owes an infinite debt, and not he only, but religious society in England of all kinds.”

_January_ 31st, 1891.


The following pages relate to that stage in the Church revival of this century which is familiarly known as the Oxford Movement, or, to use its nickname, the Tractarian Movement. Various side influences and conditions affected it at its beginning and in its course; but the impelling and governing force was, throughout the years with which these pages are concerned, at Oxford. It was naturally and justly associated with Oxford, from which it received some of its most marked characteristics. Oxford men started it and guided it. At Oxford were raised its first hopes, and Oxford was the scene of its first successes. At Oxford were its deep disappointments, and its apparently fatal defeat. And it won and lost, as a champion of English theology and religion, a man of genius, whose name is among the illustrious names of his age, a name which will always be connected with modern Oxford, and is likely to be long remembered wherever the English language is studied.

We are sometimes told that enough has been written about the Oxford Movement, and that the world is rather tired of the subject. A good deal has certainly been both said and written about it, and more is probably still to come; and it is true that other interests, more immediate or more attractive, have thrown into the background what is severed from us by the interval of half a century. Still that movement had a good deal to do with what is going on in everyday life among us now; and feelings both of hostility to it, and of sympathy with it, are still lively and keen among those to whom religion is a serious subject, and even among some who are neutral in the questions which it raised, but who find in it a study of thought and character. I myself doubt whether the interest of it is so exhausted as is sometimes assumed. If it is, these pages will soon find their appropriate resting-place. But I venture to present them, because, though a good many judgments upon the movement have been put forth, they have come mostly from those who have been more or less avowedly opposed to it.[1] The men of most account among those who were attracted by it and represented it have, with one illustrious exception, passed away. A survivor of the generation which it stirred so deeply may not have much that is new to tell about it. He may not be able to affect much the judgment which will finally be accepted about it. But the fact is not unimportant, that a number of able and earnest men, men who both intellectually and morally would have been counted at the moment as part of the promise of the coming time, were fascinated and absorbed by it. It turned and governed their lives, lifting them out of custom and convention to efforts after something higher, something worthier of what they were. It seemed worth while to exhibit the course of the movement as it looked to these men–as it seemed to them viewed from the inside. My excuse for adding to so much that has been already written is, that I was familiar with many of the chief actors in the movement. And I do not like that the remembrance of friends and associates, men of singular purity of life and purpose, who raised the tone of living round them, and by their example, if not by their ideas, recalled both Oxford and the Church to a truer sense of their responsibilities, should, because no one would take the trouble to put things on record, “pass away like a dream.”

The following pages were, for the most part, written, and put into printed shape, in 1884 and 1885. Since they were written, books have appeared, some of them important ones, going over most of the same ground; while yet more volumes may be expected. We have had ingenious theories of the genesis of the movement, and the filiation of its ideas. Attempts have been made to alter the proportions of the scene and of the several parts played upon it, and to reduce the common estimate of the weight and influence of some of the most prominent personages. The point of view of those who have thus written is not mine, and they tell their story (with a full right so to do) as I tell mine. But I do not purpose to compare and adjust our respective accounts–to attack theirs, or to defend my own. I have not gone through their books to find statements to except to, or to qualify. The task would be a tiresome and unprofitable one. I understand their point of view, though I do not accept it. I do not doubt their good faith, and I hope that they will allow mine.


[1] It is hardly necessary to say that these and the following words were written before Dr. Newman’s death, and the publication of his letters.















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What is called the Oxford or Tractarian movement began, without doubt, in a vigorous effort for the immediate defence of the Church against serious dangers, arising from the violent and threatening temper of the days of the Reform Bill. It was one of several and widely differing efforts. Viewed superficially it had its origin in the accident of an urgent necessity.[2] The Church was really at the moment imperilled amid the crude revolutionary projects of the Reform epoch;[3] and something bolder and more effective than the ordinary apologies for the Church was the call of the hour. The official leaders of the Church were almost stunned and bewildered by the fierce outbreak of popular hostility. The answers put forth on its behalf to the clamour for extensive and even destructive change were the work of men surprised in a moment of security. They scarcely recognised the difference between what was indefensible and what must be fought for to the death; they mistook subordinate or unimportant points for the key of their position: in their compromises or in their resistance they wanted the guidance of clear and adequate principles, and they were vacillating and ineffective. But stronger and far-seeing minds perceived the need of a broad and intelligible basis on which to maintain the cause of the Church. For the air was full of new ideas; the temper of the time was bold and enterprising. It was felt by men who looked forward, that to hold their own they must have something more to show than custom or alleged expediency–they must sound the depths of their own convictions, and not be afraid to assert the claims of these convictions on men’s reason and imagination as well as on their associations and feelings. The same dangers and necessities acted differently on different minds; but among those who were awakened by them to the presence of a great crisis were the first movers in what came to be known as the Tractarian movement. The stir around them, the perils which seemed to threaten, were a call to them to examine afresh the meaning of their familiar words and professions.

For the Church, as it had been in the quiet days of the eighteenth century, was scarcely adapted to the needs of more stirring times. The idea of clerical life had certainly sunk, both in fact and in the popular estimate of it. The disproportion between the purposes for which the Church with its ministry was founded and the actual tone of feeling among those responsible for its service had become too great. Men were afraid of principles; the one thing they most shrank from was the suspicion of enthusiasm. Bishop Lavington wrote a book to hold up to scorn the enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists; and what would have seemed reasonable and natural in matters of religion and worship in the age of Cranmer, in the age of Hooker, in the age of Andrewes, or in the age of Ken, seemed extravagant in the age which reflected the spirit of Tillotson and Secker, and even Porteus. The typical clergyman in English pictures of the manners of the day, in the _Vicar of Wakefield,_ in Miss Austen’s novels, in Crabbe’s _Parish Register,_ is represented, often quite unsuspiciously, as a kindly and respectable person, but certainly not alive to the greatness of his calling. He was often much, very much, to the society round him. When communication was so difficult and infrequent, he filled a place in the country life of England which no one else could fill. He was often the patriarch of his parish, its ruler, its doctor, its lawyer, its magistrate, as well as its teacher, before whom vice trembled and rebellion dared not show itself. The idea of the priest was not quite forgotten; but there was much–much even of what was good and useful–to obscure it. The beauty of the English Church in this time was its family life of purity and simplicity; its blot was quiet worldliness. It has sometimes been the fashion in later days of strife and disquiet to regret that unpretending estimate of clerical duty and those easy-going days; as it has sometimes been the fashion to regret the pomp and dignity with which well-born or scholarly bishops, furnished with ample leisure and splendid revenues, presided in unapproachable state over their clergy and held their own among the great county families. Most things have a side for which something can be said; and we may truthfully and thankfully recall that among the clergy of those days there were not a few but many instances, not only of gentle manners, and warm benevolence, and cultivated intelligence, but of simple piety and holy life.[4] But the fortunes of the Church are not safe in the hands of a clergy, of which a great part take their obligations easily. It was slumbering and sleeping when the visitation of days of change and trouble came upon it.

Against this state of things the Oxford movement was a determined revolt; but, as has been said, it was not the only one, nor the first. A profound discontent at the state of religion in England had taken possession of many powerful and serious minds in the generation which was rising into manhood at the close of the first quarter of the century; and others besides the leaders of the movement were feeling their way to firmer ground. Other writers of very different principles, and with different objects, had become alive, among other things, to the importance of true ideas about the Church, impatient at the ignorance and shallowness of the current views of it, and alarmed at the dangers which menaced it. Two Oxford teachers who commanded much attention by their force and boldness–Dr. Whately and Dr. Arnold–had developed their theories about the nature, constitution, and functions of the Church. They were dissatisfied with the general stagnation of religious opinion, on this as on other subjects. They agreed in resenting the unintelligent shortsightedness which relegated such a matter to a third or fourth rank in the scale of religious teaching. They agreed also in seizing the spiritual aspect of the Church, and in raising the idea of it above the level of the poor and worldly conceptions on the assumption of which questions relating to it were popularly discussed. But in their fundamental principles they were far apart. I assume, on the authority of Cardinal Newman, what was widely believed in Oxford, and never apparently denied, that the volume entitled _Letters of an Episcopalian_,[5] 1826, was, in some sense at least, the work of Dr. Whately. In it is sketched forth the conception of an organised body, introduced into the world by Christ Himself, endowed with definite spiritual powers and with no other, and, whether connected with the State or not, having an independent existence and inalienable claims, with its own objects and laws, with its own moral standard and spirit and character. From this book Cardinal Newman tells us that he learnt his theory of the Church, though it was, after all, but the theory received from the first appearance of Christian history; and he records also the deep impression which it made on others. Dr. Arnold’s view was a much simpler one. He divided the world into Christians and non-Christians: Christians were all who professed to believe in Christ as a Divine Person and to worship Him,[6] and the brotherhood, the “Societas” of Christians, was all that was meant by “the Church” in the New Testament. It mattered, of course, to the conscience of each Christian what he had made up his mind to believe, but to no one else. Church organisation was, according to circumstances, partly inevitable or expedient, partly mischievous, but in no case of divine authority. Teaching, ministering the word, was a thing of divine appointment, but not so the mode of exercising it, either as to persons, forms, or methods. Sacraments there were, signs and pledges of divine love and help, in every action of life, in every sight of nature, and eminently two most touching ones, recommended to Christians by the Redeemer Himself; but except as a matter of mere order, one man might deal with these as lawfully as another. Church history there was, fruitful in interest, instruction, and warning; for it was the record of the long struggle of the true idea of the Church against the false, and of the fatal disappearance of the true before the forces of blindness and wickedness.[7] Dr. Arnold’s was a passionate attempt to place the true idea in the light. Of the difficulties of his theory he made light account. There was the vivid central truth which glowed through his soul and quickened all his thoughts. He became its champion and militant apostle. These doctrines, combined with his strong political liberalism, made the Midlands hot for Dr. Arnold. But he liked the fighting, as he thought, against the narrow and frightened orthodoxy round him. And he was in the thick of this fighting when another set of ideas about the Church–the ideas on which alone it seemed to a number of earnest and anxious minds that the cause of the Church could be maintained–the ideas which were the beginning of the Oxford movement, crossed his path. It was the old orthodox tradition of the Church, with fresh life put into it, which he flattered himself that he had so triumphantly demolished. This intrusion of a despised rival to his own teaching about the Church–teaching in which he believed with deep and fervent conviction–profoundly irritated him; all the more that it came from men who had been among his friends, and who, he thought, should have known better.[8]

But neither Dr. Whately’s nor Dr. Arnold’s attempts to put the old subject of the Church in a new light gained much hold on the public mind. One was too abstract; the other too unhistorical and revolutionary. Both in Oxford and in the country were men whose hearts burned within them for something less speculative and vague, something more reverent and less individual, more in sympathy with the inherited spirit of the Church. It did not need much searching to find in the facts and history of the Church ample evidence of principles distinct and inspiring, which, however long latent, or overlaid by superficial accretions, were as well fitted as they ever were to animate its defenders in the struggle with the unfriendly opinion of the day. They could not open their Prayer-Books, and think of what they read there, without seeing that on the face of it the Church claimed to be something very different from what it was assumed to be in the current controversies of the time, very different from a mere institution of the State, from a vague collection of Christian professions from one form or denomination of religion among many, distinguished by larger privileges and larger revenues. They could not help seeing that it claimed an origin not short of the Apostles of Christ, and took for granted that it was to speak and teach with their authority and that of their Master. These were theological commonplaces; but now, the pressure of events and of competing ideas made them to be felt as real and momentous truths. Amid the confusions and inconsistencies of the semi-political controversy on Church reform, and on the defects and rights of the Church, which was going on in Parliament, in the press, and in pamphlets, the deeper thoughts of those who were interested in its fortunes were turned to what was intrinsic and characteristic in its constitution: and while these thoughts in some instances only issued in theory and argument, in others they led to practical resolves to act upon them and enforce them.

At the end of the first quarter of the century, say about 1825-30, two characteristic forms of Church of England Christianity were popularly recognised. One inherited the traditions of a learned and sober Anglicanism, claiming as the authorities for its theology the great line of English divines from Hooker to Waterland, finding its patterns of devotion in Bishop Wilson, Bishop Horne, and the “Whole Duty of Man,” but not forgetful of Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, and Ken,–preaching, without passion or excitement, scholarlike, careful, wise, often vigorously reasoned discourses on the capital points of faith and morals, and exhibiting in its adherents, who were many and important, all the varieties of a great and far-descended school, which claimed for itself rightful possession of the ground which it held. There was nothing effeminate about it, as there was nothing fanatical; there was nothing extreme or foolish about it; it was a manly school, distrustful of high-wrought feelings and professions, cultivating self-command and shy of display, and setting up as its mark, in contrast to what seemed to it sentimental weakness, a reasonable and serious idea of duty. The divinity which it propounded, though it rested on learning, was rather that of strong common sense than of the schools of erudition. Its better members were highly cultivated, benevolent men, intolerant of irregularities both of doctrine and life, whose lives were governed by an unostentatious but solid and unfaltering piety, ready to burst forth on occasion into fervid devotion. Its worse members were jobbers and hunters after preferment, pluralists who built fortunes and endowed families out of the Church, or country gentlemen in orders, who rode to hounds and shot and danced and farmed, and often did worse things. Its average was what naturally in England would be the average, in a state of things in which great religious institutions have been for a long time settled and unmolested–kindly, helpful, respectable, sociable persons of good sense and character, workers rather in a fashion of routine which no one thought of breaking, sometimes keeping up their University learning, and apt to employ it in odd and not very profitable inquiries; apt, too, to value themselves on their cheerfulness and quick wit; but often dull and dogmatic and quarrelsome, often insufferably pompous. The custom of daily service and even of fasting was kept up more widely than is commonly supposed. The Eucharist, though sparingly administered, and though it had been profaned by the operation of the Test Acts, was approached by religious people with deep reverence. But besides the better, and the worse, and the average members of this, which called itself the Church party, there stood out a number of men of active and original minds, who, starting from the traditions of the party, were in advance of it in thought and knowledge, or in the desire to carry principles into action. At the Universities learning was still represented by distinguished names. At Oxford, Dr. Routh was still living and at work, and Van Mildert was not forgotten. Bishop Lloyd, if he had lived, would have played a considerable part; and a young man of vast industry and great Oriental learning, Mr. Pusey, was coming on the scene. Davison, in an age which had gone mad about the study of prophecy, had taught a more intelligent and sober way of regarding it; and Mr. John Miller’s Bampton Lectures, now probably only remembered by a striking sentence, quoted in a note to the _Christian Year,_[9] had impressed his readers with a deeper sense of the uses of Scripture. Cambridge, besides scholars like Bishop Kaye, and accomplished writers like Mr. Le Bas and Mr. Lyall, could boast of Mr. Hugh James Rose, the most eminent person of his generation as a divine. But the influence of this learned theology was at the time not equal to its value. Sound requires atmosphere; and there was as yet no atmosphere in the public mind in which the voice of this theology could be heard. The person who first gave body and force to Church theology, not to be mistaken or ignored, was Dr. Hook. His massive and thorough Churchmanship was the independent growth of his own thoughts and reading. Resolute, through good report and evil report, rough but very generous, stern both against Popery and Puritanism, he had become a power in the Midlands and the North, and first Coventry, then Leeds, were the centres of a new influence. He was the apostle of the Church to the great middle class.

These were the orthodox Churchmen, whom their rivals, and not their rivals only,[10] denounced as dry, unspiritual, formal, unevangelical, self-righteous; teachers of mere morality at their best, allies and servants of the world at their worst. In the party which at this time had come to be looked upon popularly as best entitled to be the _religious_ party, whether they were admired as Evangelicals, or abused as Calvinists, or laughed at as the Saints, were inheritors not of Anglican traditions, but of those which had grown up among the zealous clergymen and laymen who had sympathised with the great Methodist revival, and whose theology and life had been profoundly affected by it. It was the second or third generation of those whose religious ideas had been formed and governed by the influence of teachers like Hervey, Romaine, Cecil, Venn, Fletcher, Newton, and Thomas Scott. The fathers of the Evangelical school were men of naturally strong and vigorous understandings, robust and rugged, and sometimes eccentric, but quite able to cope with the controversialists, like Bishop Tomline, who attacked them. These High Church controversialists were too half-hearted and too shallow, and understood their own principles too imperfectly, to be a match for antagonists who were in deadly earnest, and put them to shame by their zeal and courage. But Newton and Romaine and the Milners were too limited and narrow in their compass of ideas to found a powerful theology. They undoubtedly often quickened conscience. But their system was a one-sided and unnatural one, indeed in the hands of some of its expounders threatening morality and soundness of character.[11] It had none of the sweep which carried the justification doctrines of Luther, or the systematic predestinarianism of Calvin, or the “platform of discipline” of John Knox and the Puritans. It had to deal with a society which laid stress on what was “reasonable,” or “polite,” or “ingenious,” or “genteel,” and unconsciously it had come to have respect to these requirements. The one thing by which its preachers carried disciples with them was their undoubted and serious piety, and their brave, though often fantastic and inconsistent, protest against the world. They won consideration and belief by the mild persecution which this protest brought on them–by being proscribed as enthusiasts by comfortable dignitaries, and mocked as “Methodists” and “Saints” by wits and worldlings. But the austere spirit of Newton and Thomas Scott had, between 1820 and 1830, given way a good deal to the influence of increasing popularity. The profession of Evangelical religion had been made more than respectable by the adhesion of men of position and weight. Preached in the pulpits of fashionable chapels, this religion proved to be no more exacting than its “High and Dry” rival. It gave a gentle stimulus to tempers which required to be excited by novelty. It recommended itself by gifts of flowing words or high-pitched rhetoric to those who expected _some_ demands to be made on them, so that these demands were not too strict. Yet Evangelical religion had not been unfruitful, especially in public results. It had led Howard and Elizabeth Fry to assail the brutalities of the prisons. It had led Clarkson and Wilberforce to overthrow the slave trade, and ultimately slavery itself. It had created great Missionary Societies. It had given motive and impetus to countless philanthropic schemes. What it failed in was the education and development of character; and this was the result of the increasing meagreness of its writing and preaching. There were still Evangelical preachers of force and eloquence–Robert Hall, Edward Irving, Chalmers, Jay of Bath–but they were not Churchmen. The circle of themes dwelt on by this school in the Church was a contracted one, and no one had found the way of enlarging it. It shrank, in its fear of mere moralising, in its horror of the idea of merit or of the value of good works, from coming into contact with the manifold realities of the spirit of man: it never seemed to get beyond the “first beginnings” of Christian teaching, the call to repent, the assurance of forgiveness: it had nothing to say to the long and varied process of building up the new life of truth and goodness: it was nervously afraid of departing from the consecrated phrases of its school, and in the perpetual iteration of them it lost hold of the meaning they may once have had. It too often found its guarantee for faithfulness in jealous suspicions, and in fierce bigotries, and at length it presented all the characteristics of an exhausted teaching and a spent enthusiasm. Claiming to be exclusively spiritual, fervent, unworldly, the sole announcer of the free grace of God amid self-righteousness and sin, it had come, in fact, to be on very easy terms with the world. Yet it kept its hold on numbers of spiritually-minded persons, for in truth there seemed to be nothing better for those who saw in the affections the main field of religion. But even of these good men, the monotonous language sounded to all but themselves inconceivably hollow and wearisome; and in the hands of the average teachers of the school, the idea of religion was becoming poor and thin and unreal.

But besides these two great parties, each of them claiming to represent the authentic and unchanging mind of the Church, there were independent thinkers who took their place with neither and criticised both. Paley had still his disciples at Cambridge, or if not disciples, yet representatives of his masculine but not very profound and reverent way of thinking; and a critical school, represented by names afterwards famous, Connop Thirlwall and Julius Hare, strongly influenced by German speculation, both in theology and history, began to attract attention. And at Cambridge was growing, slowly and out of sight, a mind and an influence which were to be at once the counterpart and the rival of the Oxford movement, its ally for a short moment, and then its earnest and often bitter enemy. In spite of the dominant teaching identified with the name of Mr. Simeon, Frederic Maurice, with John Sterling and other members of the Apostles’ Club, was feeling for something truer and nobler than the conventionalities of the religious world.[12] In Oxford, mostly in a different way, more dry, more dialectical, and, perhaps it may be said, more sober, definite, and ambitious of clearness, the same spirit was at work. There was a certain drift towards Dissent among the warmer spirits. Under the leading of Whately, questions were asked about what was supposed to be beyond dispute with both Churchmen and Evangelicals. Current phrases, the keynotes of many a sermon, were fearlessly taken to pieces. Men were challenged to examine the meaning of their words. They were cautioned or ridiculed as the case might be, on the score of “confusion of thought” and “inaccuracy of mind”; they were convicted of great logical sins, _ignoratio elenchi,_ or _undistributed middle terms;_ and bold theories began to make their appearance about religious principles and teaching, which did not easily accommodate themselves to popular conceptions. In very different ways and degrees, Davison, Copleston, Whately, Hawkins, Milman, and not least, a brilliant naturalised Spaniard who sowed the seeds of doubt around him, Blanco White, had broken through a number of accepted opinions, and had presented some startling ideas to men who had thought that all religious questions lay between the orthodoxy of Lambeth and the orthodoxy of Clapham and Islington. And thus the foundation was laid, at least, at Oxford of what was then called the Liberal School of Theology. Its theories and paradoxes, then commonly associated with the “_Noetic_” character of one college, Oriel, were thought startling and venturesome when discussed in steady-going common-rooms and country parsonages; but they were still cautious and old-fashioned compared with what was to come after them. The distance is indeed great between those early disturbers of lecture-rooms and University pulpits, and their successors.

While this was going on within the Church, there was a great movement of thought going on in the country. It was the time when Bentham’s utilitarianism had at length made its way into prominence and importance. It had gained a hold on a number of powerful minds in society and political life. It was threatening to become the dominant and popular philosophy. It began, in some ways beneficially, to affect and even control legislation. It made desperate attempts to take possession of the whole province of morals. It forced those who saw through its mischief, who hated and feared it, to seek a reason, and a solid and strong one, for the faith which was in them as to the reality of conscience and the mysterious distinction between right and wrong. And it entered into a close alliance with science, which was beginning to assert its claims, since then risen so high, to a new and undefined supremacy, not only in the general concerns of the world, but specially in education. It was the day of Holland House. It was the time when a Society of which Lord Brougham was the soul, and which comprised a great number of important political and important scientific names, was definitely formed for the _Diffusion of Useful Knowledge_. Their labours are hardly remembered now in the great changes for which they paved the way; but the Society was the means of getting written and of publishing at a cheap rate a number of original and excellent books on science, biography, and history. It was the time of the _Library of Useful Knowledge,_ and its companion, the _Library of Entertaining Knowledge;_ of the _Penny Magazine,_ and its Church rival, the _Saturday Magazine,_ of the _Penny Cyclopaedia,_ and _Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia,_ and _Murray’s Family Library_: popular series, which contained much of the work of the ablest men of the day, and which, though for the most part superseded now, were full of interest then. Another creation of this epoch, and an unmistakable indication of its tendencies, was the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which met for the first time at Oxford in June 1832, not without a good deal of jealousy and misgiving, partly unreasonable, partly not unfounded, among men in whose hearts the cause and fortunes of religion were supreme.

Thus the time was ripe for great collisions of principles and aims; for the decomposition of elements which had been hitherto united; for sifting them out of their old combinations, and regrouping them according to their more natural affinities. It was a time for the formation and development of unexpected novelties in teaching and practical effort. There was a great historic Church party, imperfectly conscious of its position and responsibilities;[13] there was an active but declining pietistic school, resting on a feeble intellectual basis and narrow and meagre interpretations of Scripture, and strong only in its circle of philanthropic work; there was, confronting both, a rising body of inquisitive and, in some ways, menacing thought. To men deeply interested in religion, the ground seemed confused and treacherous. There was room, and there was a call, for new effort; but to find the resources for it, it seemed necessary to cut down deep below the level of what even good men accepted as the adequate expression of Christianity, and its fit application to the conditions of the nineteenth century. It came to pass that there were men who had the heart to make this attempt. As was said at starting, the actual movement began in the conviction that a great and sudden danger to the Church was at hand, and that an unusual effort must be made to meet it. But if the occasion was in a measure accidental, there was nothing haphazard or tentative in the line chosen to encounter the danger. From the first it was deliberately and distinctly taken. The choice of it was the result of convictions which had been forming before the occasion came which called on them. The religious ideas which governed the minds of those who led the movement had been traced, in outline at least, firmly and without faltering.

The movement had its spring in the consciences and character of its leaders. To these men religion really meant the most awful and most seriously personal thing on earth. It had not only a theological basis; it had still more deeply a moral one. What that basis was is shown in a variety of indications of ethical temper and habits, before the movement, in those who afterwards directed it. The _Christian Year_ was published in 1827, and tells us distinctly by what kind of standard Mr. Keble moulded his judgment and aims. What Mr. Keble’s influence and teaching did, in training an apt pupil to deep and severe views of truth and duty, is to be seen in the records of purpose and self-discipline, often so painful, but always so lofty and sincere, of Mr. Hurrell Froude’s journal. But these indications are most forcibly given in Mr. Newman’s earliest preaching. As tutor at Oriel, Mr. Newman had made what efforts he could, sometimes disturbing to the authorities, to raise the standard of conduct and feeling among his pupils. When he became a parish priest, his preaching took a singularly practical and plain-spoken character. The first sermon of the series, a typical sermon, “Holiness necessary for future Blessedness,” a sermon which has made many readers grave when they laid it down, was written in 1826, before he came to St. Mary’s; and as he began he continued. No sermons, except those which his great opposite, Dr. Arnold, was preaching at Rugby, had appealed to conscience with such directness and force. A passionate and sustained earnestness after a high moral rule, seriously realised in conduct, is the dominant character of these sermons. They showed the strong reaction against slackness of fibre in the religious life; against the poverty, softness; restlessness, worldliness, the blunted and impaired sense of truth, which reigned with little check in the recognised fashions of professing Christianity; the want of depth both of thought and feeling; the strange blindness to the real sternness, nay the austerity, of the New Testament. Out of this ground the movement grew. Even more than a theological reform, it was a protest against the loose unreality of ordinary religious morality. In the first stage of the movement, moral earnestness and enthusiasm gave its impulse to theological interest and zeal.


[2] The suppression of the Irish bishoprics. Palmer, _Narrative_ (1883), pp. 44, 101. Maurice, _Life_, i. 180.

[3] “The Church, as it now stands, no human power can save” (Arnold to Tyler, June 1832. _Life,_ i. 326). “Nothing, as it seems to me, can save the Church but an union with the Dissenters; now they are leagued with the antichristian party, and no merely internal reforms will satisfy them” (Arnold to Whately, January 1833, i. 348). He afterwards thought this exaggerated (_Life,_ i. 336). “The Church has been for one hundred years without any government, and in such a stormy season it will not go on much longer without a rudder” (Whately to Bp. Copleston, July 1832. _Life_, i, 167). “If such an arrangement of the Executive Government is completed, it will be a difficult, but great and glorious feat for your Lordship’s ministry to preserve the establishment from utter overthrow” (Whately to Lord Grey, May 1832. _Life_, i. 156). It is remarkable that Dean Stanley should have been satisfied with ascribing to the movement an “origin _entirely political_” and should have seen a proof of this “thoroughly political origin” in Newman’s observing the date of Mr. Keble’s sermon “National Apostasy” as the birthday of the movement, _Edin. Rev._ April 1880, pp. 309, 310.

[4] Readers of Wordsworth will remember the account of Mr. R. Walker (Notes to the “River Duddon”).

[5] Compare _Life of Whately_ (ed. 1866), i. 52, 68.

[6] Arnold to W. Smith, _Life_, i. 356-358; ii. 32.

[7] _Life_, i. 225 _sqq_.

[8] “I am vexed to find how much hopeless bigotry lingers in minds, οἶς ἥκιστα ἕχρη” (Arnold to Whately, Sept. 1832. _Life,_ i. 331; ii. 3-7).

[9] St. Bartholomew’s Day

[10] “The mere barren orthodoxy which, from all that I can hear, is characteristic of Oxford.” Maurice in 1829 (_Life,_ i. 103). In 1832 he speaks of his “high endeavours to rouse Oxford from its lethargy having so signally failed” (i. 143).

[11] Abbey and Overton, _English Church in the Eighteenth Century,_ ii. 180, 204.

[12] _V._ Maurice, _Life,_ i. 108-111; Trench’s _Letters;_ Carlyle’s _Sterling_.

[13] “In what concerns the Established Church, the House of Commons seems to feel no other principle than that of vulgar policy. The old High Church race is worn out.” Alex. Knox (June 1816), i. 54.



Long before the Oxford movement was thought of, or had any definite shape, a number of its characteristic principles and ideas had taken strong hold of the mind of a man of great ability and great seriousness, who, after a brilliant career at Oxford as student and tutor, had exchanged the University for a humble country cure. John Keble, by some years the senior, but the college friend and intimate of Arnold, was the son of a Gloucestershire country clergyman of strong character and considerable scholarship. He taught and educated his two sons at home, and then sent them to Oxford, where both of them made their mark, and the elder, John, a mere boy when he first appeared at his college, Corpus, carried off almost everything that the University could give in the way of distinction. He won a double first; he won the Latin and English Essays in the same year; and he won what was the still greater honour of an Oriel Fellowship. His honours were borne with meekness and simplicity; to his attainments he joined a temper of singular sweetness and modesty, capable at the same time, when necessary, of austere strength and strictness of principle. He had become one of the most distinguished men in Oxford, when about the year 1823 he felt himself bound to give himself more exclusively to the work of a clergyman, and left Oxford to be his father’s curate. There was nothing very unusual in his way of life, or singular and showy in his work as a clergyman; he went in and out among the poor, he was not averse to society, he preached plain, unpretending, earnest sermons; he kept up his literary interests. But he was a deeply convinced Churchman, finding his standard and pattern of doctrine and devotion in the sober earnestness and dignity of the Prayer Book, and looking with great and intelligent dislike at the teaching and practical working of the more popular system which, under the name of Evangelical Christianity, was aspiring to dominate religious opinion, and which, often combining some of the most questionable features of Methodism and Calvinism, denounced with fierce intolerance everything that deviated from its formulas and watchwords. And as his loyalty to the Church of England was profound and intense, all who had shared her fortunes, good or bad, or who professed to serve her, had a place in his affections; and any policy which threatened to injure or oppress her, and any principles which were hostile to her influence and teaching, roused his indignation and resistance. He was a strong Tory, and by conviction and religious temper a thorough High Churchman.

But there was nothing in him to foreshadow the leader in a bold and wide-reaching movement. He was absolutely without ambition. He hated show and mistrusted excitement. The thought of preferment was steadily put aside both from temper and definite principle. He had no popular aptitudes, and was very suspicious of them. He had no care for the possession of influence; he had deliberately chosen the _fallentis semita vitae,_ and to be what his father had been, a faithful and contented country parson, was all that he desired. But idleness was not in his nature. Born a poet, steeped in all that is noblest and tenderest and most beautiful in Greek and Roman literature, with the keenest sympathy with that new school of poetry which, with Wordsworth as its representative, was searching out the deeper relations between nature and the human soul, he found in poetical composition a vent and relief for feelings stirred by the marvels of glory and of awfulness, and by the sorrows and blessings, amid which human life is passed. But his poetry was for a long time only for himself and his intimate friends; his indulgence in poetical composition was partly playful, and it was not till after much hesitation on his own part and also on theirs, and with a contemptuous undervaluing of his work, which continued to the end of his life, that the anonymous little book of poems was published which has since become familiar wherever English is read, as the _Christian year_. His serious interests were public ones. Though living in the shade, he followed with anxiety and increasing disquiet the changes which went on so rapidly and so formidably, during the end of the first quarter of this century, in opinion and in the possession of political power. It became more and more plain that great changes were at hand, though not so plain what they would be. It seemed likely that power would come into the hands of men and parties hostile to the Church in their principles, and ready to use to its prejudice the advantages which its position as an establishment gave them; and the anticipation grew in Keble’s mind, that in the struggles which seemed likely, not only for the legal rights but for the faith of the Church, the Church might have both to claim more, and to suffer more, at the hands of Government. Yet though these thoughts filled his mind, and strong things were said in the intercourse with friends about what was going on about them, no definite course of action had been even contemplated when Keble went into the country in 1823. There was nothing to distinguish him from numbers of able clergymen all over England, who were looking on with interest, with anxiety, often with indignation, at what was going on. Mr. Keble had not many friends and was no party chief. He was a brilliant university scholar overlaying the plain, unworldly country parson; an old-fashioned English Churchman, with great veneration for the Church and its bishops, and a great dislike of Rome, Dissent, and Methodism, but with a quick heart; with a frank, gay humility of soul, with great contempt of appearances, great enjoyment of nature, great unselfishness, strict and severe principles of morals and duty.

What was it that turned him by degrees into so prominent and so influential a person? It was the result of the action of his convictions and ideas, and still more of his character, on the energetic and fearless mind of a pupil and disciple, Richard Hurrell Froude. Froude was Keble’s pupil at Oriel, and when Keble left Oriel for his curacy at the beginning of the Long Vacation of 1823, he took Froude with him to read for his degree. He took with him ultimately two other pupils, Robert Wilberforce and Isaac Williams of Trinity. One of them, Isaac Williams, has left some reminiscences of the time, and of the terms on which the young men were with their tutor, then one of the most famous men at Oxford. They were on terms of the utmost freedom. “Master is the greatest boy of them all,” was the judgment of the rustic who was gardener, groom, and parish clerk to Mr. Keble. Froude’s was a keen logical mind, not easily satisfied, contemptuous of compromises and evasions, and disposed on occasion to be mischievous and aggressive; and with Keble, as with anybody else, he was ready to dispute and try every form of dialectical experiment. But he was open to higher influences than those of logic, and in Keble he saw what subdued and won him to boundless veneration and affection. Keble won the love of the whole little society; but in Froude he had gained a disciple who was to be the mouthpiece and champion of his ideas, and who was to react on himself and carry him forward to larger enterprises and bolder resolutions than by himself he would have thought of. Froude took in from Keble all he had to communicate–principles, convictions, moral rules and standards of life, hopes, fears, antipathies. And his keenly-tempered intellect, and his determination and high courage, gave a point and an impulse of their own to Keble’s views and purposes. As things came to look darker, and dangers seemed more serious to the Church, its faith or its rights, the interchange of thought between master and disciple, in talk and in letter, pointed more and more to the coming necessity of action; and Froude at least had no objections to the business of an agitator. But all this was very gradual; things did not yet go beyond discussion; ideas, views, arguments were examined and compared; and Froude, with all his dash, felt as Keble felt, that he had much to learn about himself, as well as about books and things. In his respect for antiquity, in his dislike of the novelties which were invading Church rules and sentiments, as well as its creeds, in his jealousy of the State, as well as in his seriousness of self-discipline, he accepted Keble’s guidance and influence more and more; and from Keble he had more than one lesson of self-distrust, more than one warning against the temptations of intellect. “Froude told me many years after,” writes one of his friends, “that Keble once, before parting with him, seemed to have something on his mind which he wished to say, but shrank from saying, while waiting, I think, for a coach. At last he said, just before parting, ‘Froude, you thought Law’s _Serious Call_ was a clever book; it seemed to me as if you had said the Day of Judgment will be a pretty sight.’ This speech, Froude told me, had a great effect on his after life.”[14]

At Easter 1826 Froude was elected Fellow of Oriel. He came back to Oxford, charged with Keble’s thoughts and feelings, and from his more eager and impatient temper, more on the look-out for ways of giving them effect. The next year he became tutor, and he held the tutorship till 1830. But he found at Oriel a colleague, a little his senior in age and standing, of whom Froude and his friends as yet knew little except that he was a man of great ability, that he had been a favourite of Whately’s, and that in a loose and rough way he was counted among the few Liberals and Evangelicals in Oxford. This was Mr. Newman. Keble had been shy of him, and Froude would at first judge him by Keble’s standard. But Newman was just at this time “moving,” as he expresses it, “out of the shadow of Liberalism.” Living not apart like Keble, but in the same college, and meeting every day, Froude and Newman could not but be either strongly and permanently repelled, or strongly attracted. They were attracted; attracted with a force which at last united them in the deepest and most unreserved friendship. Of the steps of this great change in the mind and fortunes of each of them we have no record: intimacies of this kind grow in college out of unnoticed and unremembered talks, agreeing or differing, out of unconscious disclosures of temper and purpose, out of walks and rides and quiet breakfasts and common-room arguments, out of admirations and dislikes, out of letters and criticisms and questions; and nobody can tell afterwards how they have come about. The change was gradual and deliberate. Froude’s friends in Gloucestershire, the Keble family, had their misgivings about Newman’s supposed liberalism; they did not much want to have to do with him. His subtle and speculative temper did not always square with Froude’s theology. “N. is a fellow that I like more, the more I think of him,” Froude wrote in 1828; “only I would give a few odd pence if he were not a heretic.”[15] But Froude, who saw him every day, and was soon associated with him in the tutorship, found a spirit more akin to his own in depth and freedom and daring, than he had yet encountered. And Froude found Newman just in that maturing state of religious opinion in which a powerful mind like Froude’s would be likely to act decisively. Each acted on the other. Froude represented Keble’s ideas, Keble’s enthusiasm. Newman gave shape, foundation, consistency, elevation to the Anglican theology, when he accepted it, which Froude had learned from Keble. “I knew him first,” we read in the _Apologia_, “in 1826, and was in the closest and most affectionate friendship with him from about 1829 till his death in 1836.”[16] But this was not all. Through Froude, Newman came to know and to be intimate with Keble; and a sort of _camaraderie_ arose, of very independent and outspoken people, who acknowledged Keble as their master and counsellor.

“The true and primary author of it” (the Tractarian movement), we read in the _Apologia_, “as is usual with great motive powers, was out of sight…. Need I say that I am speaking of John Keble?” The statement is strictly true. Froude never would have been the man he was but for his daily and hourly intercourse with Keble; and Froude brought to bear upon Newman’s mind, at a critical period of its development, Keble’s ideas and feelings about religion and the Church, Keble’s reality of thought and purpose, Keble’s transparent and saintly simplicity. And Froude, as we know from a well-known saying of his,[17] brought Keble and Newman to understand one another, when the elder man was shy and suspicious of the younger, and the younger, though full of veneration for the elder, was hardly yet in full sympathy with what was most characteristic and most cherished in the elder’s religious convictions. Keble attracted and moulded Froude: he impressed Froude with his strong Churchmanship, his severity and reality of life, his poetry and high standard of scholarly excellence. Froude learned from him to be anti-Erastian, anti-methodistical, anti-sentimental, and as strong in his hatred of the world, as contemptuous of popular approval, as any Methodist. Yet all this might merely have made a strong impression, or formed one more marked school of doctrine, without the fierce energy which received it and which it inspired. But Froude, in accepting Keble’s ideas, resolved to make them active, public, aggressive; and he found in Newman a colleague whose bold originality responded to his own. Together they worked as tutors; together they worked when their tutorships came to an end; together they worked when thrown into companionship in their Mediterranean voyage in the winter of 1832 and the spring of 1833. They came back, full of aspirations and anxieties which spurred them on; their thoughts had broken out in papers sent home from time to time to Rose’s _British Magazine_–“Home Thoughts Abroad,” and the “Lyra Apostolica.” Then came the meeting at Hadleigh, and the beginning of the Tracts. Keble had given the inspiration, Froude had given the impulse; then Newman took up the work, and the impulse henceforward, and the direction, were his.

Doubtless, many thought and felt like them about the perils which beset the Church and religion. Loyalty to the Church, belief in her divine mission, allegiance to her authority, readiness to do battle for her claims, were anything but extinct in her ministers and laity. The elements were all about of sound and devoted Churchmanship. Higher ideas of the Church than the popular and political notion of it, higher conceptions of Christian doctrine than those of the ordinary evangelical theology–echoes of the meditations of a remarkable Irishman, Mr. Alexander Knox–had in many quarters attracted attention in the works and sermons of his disciple. Bishop Jebb, though it was not till the movement had taken shape that their full significance was realised. Others besides Keble and Froude and Newman were seriously considering what could best be done to arrest the current which was running strong against the Church, and discussing schemes of resistance and defence. Others were stirring up themselves and their brethren to meet the new emergencies, to respond to the new call. Some of these were in communication with the Oriel men, and ultimately took part with them in organising vigorous measures. But it was not till Mr. Newman made up his mind to force on the public mind, in a way which could not be evaded, the great article of the Creed–“I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church”–that the movement began. And for the first part of its course, it was concentrated at Oxford. It was the direct result of the searchings of heart and the communings for seven years, from 1826 to 1833, of the three men who have been the subject of this chapter.


[14] Isaac Williams’s MS. Memoir.

[15] _Rem._ i. 232, 233. In 1828, Newman had preferred Hawkins to Keble, for Provost.

[16] _Apol._ p. 84.

[17] _Remains_, i. 438; _Apol._ p. 77. “Do you know the story of the murderer who had done one good thing in his life? Well, if I was asked what good deed I have ever done, I should say I had brought Keble and Newman to understand each other.”



The names of those who took the lead in this movement are familiar–Keble, Newman, Pusey, Hugh James Rose, William Palmer. Much has been written about them by friends and enemies, and also by one of themselves, and any special notice of them is not to the purpose of the present narrative. But besides these, there were men who are now almost forgotten, but who at the time interested their contemporaries, because they were supposed to represent in a marked way the spirit and character of the movement, or to have exercised influence upon it. They ought not to be overlooked in an account of it. One of them has been already mentioned, Mr. Hurrell Froude. Two others were Mr. Isaac Williams and Mr. Charles Marriott. They were all three of them men whom those who knew them could never forget–could never cease to admire and love.

Hurrell Froude soon passed away before the brunt of the fighting came. His name is associated with Mr. Newman and Mr. Keble, but it is little more than a name to those who now talk of the origin of the movement. Yet all who remember him agree in assigning to him an importance as great as that of any, in that little knot of men whose thoughts and whose courage gave birth to it.

Richard Hurrell Froude was born in 1803, and was thus two years younger than Mr. Newman, who was born in 1801. He went to Eton, and in 1821 to Oriel, where he was a pupil of Mr. Keble, and where he was elected Fellow, along with Robert Wilberforce, at Easter 1826. He was College Tutor from 1827 to 1830, having Mr. Newman and R. Wilberforce for colleagues. His health failed in 1831 and led to much absence in warm climates. He went with Mr. Newman to the south of Europe in 1832-33, and was with him at Rome. The next two winters, with the intervening year, he spent in the West Indies. Early in 1836 he died at Dartington–his birthplace. He was at the Hadleigh meeting, in July 1833, when the foundations of the movement were laid; he went abroad that winter, and was not much in England afterwards. It was through correspondence that he kept up his intercourse with his friends.

Thus he was early cut off from direct and personal action on the course which things took. But it would be a great mistake to suppose that his influence on the line taken and on the minds of others was inconsiderable. It would be more true to say that with one exception no one was more responsible for the impulse which led to the movement; no one had more to do with shaping its distinct aims and its moral spirit and character in its first stage; no one was more daring and more clear, as far as he saw, in what he was prepared for. There was no one to whom his friends so much looked up with admiration and enthusiasm. There was no “wasted shade”[19] in Hurrell Froude’s disabled, prematurely shortened life.

Like Henry Martyn he was made by strong and even merciless self-discipline over a strong and for a long time refractory nature. He was a man of great gifts, with much that was most attractive and noble; but joined with this them was originally in his character a vein of perversity and mischief, always in danger of breaking out, and with which he kept up a long and painful struggle. His inmost thought and knowledge of himself have been laid bare in the papers which his friends published after his death. He was in the habit of probing his motives to the bottom, and of recording without mercy what he thought his self-deceits and affectations. The religious world of the day made merry over his methods of self-discipline; but whatever may be said of them, and such things are not easy to judge of, one thing is manifest, that they were true and sincere efforts to conquer what he thought evil in himself, to keep himself in order, to bring his inmost self into subjection to the law and will of God. The self-chastening, which his private papers show, is no passion or value for asceticism, but a purely moral effort after self-command and honesty of character; and what makes the struggle so touching is its perfect reality and truth. He “turned his thoughts on that desolate wilderness, his own conscience, and said what he saw there.”[20] A man who has had a good deal to conquer in himself, and has gone a good way to conquer it, is not apt to be indulgent to self-deceit or indolence, or even weakness. The basis of Froude’s character was a demand which would not be put off for what was real and thorough; an implacable scorn and hatred for what he counted shams and pretences. “His highest ambition,” he used to say, “was to be a humdrum.”[21] The intellectual and the moral parts of his character were of a piece. The tricks and flimsinesses of a bad argument provoked him as much as the imposture and “flash” of insincere sentiment and fine talking; he might be conscious of “flash” in himself and his friends, and he would admit it unequivocally; but it was as unbearable to him to pretend not to see a fallacy as soon as it was detected, as it would have been to him to arrive at the right answer of a sum or a problem by tampering with the processes. Such a man, with strong affections and keen perception of all forms of beauty, and with the deepest desire to be reverent towards all that had a right to reverence, would find himself in the most irritating state of opposition and impatience with much that passed as religion round him. Principles not attempted to be understood and carried into practice, smooth self-complacency among those who looked down on a blind and unspiritual world, the continual provocation of worthless reasoning and ignorant platitudes, the dull unconscious stupidity of people who could not see that the times were critical–that truth had to be defended, and that it was no easy or light-hearted business to defend it–threw him into an habitual attitude of defiance, and half-amused, half-earnest contradiction, which made him feared by loose reasoners and pretentious talkers, and even by quiet easy-going friends, who unexpectedly found themselves led on blindfold, with the utmost gravity, into traps and absurdities by the wiles of his mischievous dialectic. This was the outside look of his relentless earnestness. People who did not like him, or his views, and who, perhaps, had winced under his irony, naturally put down his strong language, which on occasion could certainly be unceremonious, to flippancy and arrogance. But within the circle of those whom he trusted, or of those who needed at anytime his help, another side disclosed itself–a side of the most genuine warmth of affection, an awful reality of devoutness, which it was his great and habitual effort to keep hidden, a high simplicity of unworldliness and generosity, and in spite of his daring mockeries of what was commonplace or showy, the most sincere and deeply felt humility with himself. Dangerous as he was often thought to be in conversation, one of the features of his character which has impressed itself on the memory of one who knew him well, was his “patient, winning considerateness in discussion, which, with other qualities, endeared him to those to whom he opened his heart.”[22] “It is impossible,” writes James Mozley in 1833, with a mixture of amusement, speaking of the views about celibacy which were beginning to be current, “to talk with Froude without committing one’s self on such subjects as these, so that by and by I expect the tergiversants will be a considerable party.” His letters, with their affectionately playful addresses, δαιμόνιε, αἰνότατε, πέπον, _Carissime, “Sir, my dear friend”_ or “Ἀργείων ὄχ’ ἄριστε, have you not been a spoon?” are full of the most delightful ease and _verve_ and sympathy.

With a keen sense of English faults he was, as Cardinal Newman has said, “an Englishman to the backbone”; and he was, further, a fastidious, high-tempered English gentleman, in spite of his declaiming about “pampered aristocrats” and the “gentleman heresy.” His friends thought of him as of the “young Achilles,” with his high courage, and noble form, and “eagle eye,” made for such great things, but appointed so soon to die. “Who can refrain from tears at the thought of that bright and beautiful Froude?” is the expression of one of them shortly before his death, and when it was quite certain that the doom which had so long hung over him was at hand.[23] He had the love of doing, for the mere sake of doing, what was difficult or even dangerous to do, which is the mainspring of characteristic English sports and games. He loved the sea; he liked to sail his own boat, and enjoyed rough weather, and took interest in the niceties of seamanship and shipcraft. He was a bold rider across country. With a powerful grasp on mathematical truths and principles, he entered with whole-hearted zest into inviting problems, or into practical details of mechanical or hydrostatic or astronomical science. His letters are full of such observations, put in a way which he thought would interest his friends, and marked by his strong habit of getting into touch with what was real and of the substance of questions. He applied his thoughts to architecture with a power and originality which at the time were not common. No one who only cared for this world could be more attracted and interested than he was by the wonder and beauty of its facts and appearances. With the deepest allegiance to his home and reverence for its ties and authority, a home of the old-fashioned ecclesiastical sort, sober, manly, religious, orderly, he carried into his wider life the feelings with which he had been brought up; bold as he was, his reason and his character craved for authority, but authority which morally and reasonably he could respect. Mr. Keble’s goodness and purity subdued him, and disposed him to accept without reserve his master’s teaching: and towards Mr. Keble, along with an outside show of playful criticism and privileged impertinence, there was a reverence which governed Froude’s whole nature. In the wild and rough heyday of reform, he was a Tory of the Tories. But when authority failed him, from cowardice or stupidity or self-interest, he could not easily pardon it; and he was ready to startle his friends by proclaiming himself a Radical, prepared for the sake of the highest and greatest interests to sacrifice all second-rate and subordinate ones.

When his friends, after his death, published selections from his journals and letters, the world was shocked by what seemed his amazing audacity both of thought and expression about a number of things and persons which it was customary to regard as almost beyond the reach of criticism. The _Remains_ lent themselves admirably to the controversial process of culling choice phrases and sentences and epithets surprisingly at variance with conventional and popular estimates. Friends were pained and disturbed; foes naturally enough could not hold in their overflowing exultation at such a disclosure of the spirit of the movement. Sermons and newspapers drew attention to Froude’s extravagances with horror and disgust. The truth is that if the off-hand sayings in conversation or letters of any man of force and wit and strong convictions about the things and persons that he condemns, were made known to the world, they would by themselves have much the same look of flippancy, injustice, impertinence to those who disagreed in opinion with the speaker or writer they are allowed for, or they are not allowed for by others, according to what is known of his general character. The friends who published Froude’s _Remains_ knew what he was; they knew the place and proportion of the fierce and scornful passages; they knew that they really did not go beyond the liberty and the frank speaking which most people give themselves in the _abandon_ and understood exaggeration of intimate correspondence and talk. But they miscalculated the effect on those who did not know him, or whose interest it was to make the most of the advantage given them. They seem to have expected that the picture which they presented of their friend’s transparent sincerity and singleness of aim, manifested amid so much pain and self-abasement, would have touched readers more. They miscalculated in supposing that the proofs of so much reality of religious earnestness would carry off the offence of vehement language, which without these proofs might naturally be thought to show mere random violence. At any rate the result was much natural and genuine irritation, which they were hardly prepared for. Whether on general grounds they were wise in startling and vexing friends, and putting fresh weapons into the hands of opponents by their frank disclosure of so unconventional a character, is a question which may have more than one answer; but one thing is certain, they were not wise, if they only desired to forward the immediate interests of their party or cause. It was not the act of cunning conspirators; it was the act of men who were ready to show their hands, and take the consequences. Undoubtedly, they warned off many who had so far gone along with the movement, and who now drew back. But if the publication was a mistake, it was the mistake of men confident in their own straight-forwardness.

There is a natural Nemesis to all over-strong and exaggerated language. The weight of Froude’s judgments was lessened by the disclosure of his strong words, and his dashing fashion of condemnation and dislike gave a precedent for the violence of shallower men. But to those who look back on them now, though there can be no wonder that at the time they excited such an outcry, their outspoken boldness hardly excites surprise. Much of it might naturally be put down to the force of first impressions; much of it is the vehemence of an Englishman who claims the liberty of criticising and finding fault at home; much of it was the inevitable vehemence of a reformer. Much of it seems clear foresight of what has since come to be recognised. His judgments on the Reformers, startling as they were at the time, are not so very different, as to the facts of the case, from what most people on all sides now agree in; and as to their temper and theology, from what most churchmen would now agree in. Whatever allowances may be made for the difficulties of their time, and these allowances ought to be very great, and however well they may have done parts of their work, such as the translations and adaptations of the Prayer Book, it is safe to say that the divines of the Reformation never can be again, with their confessed Calvinism, with their shifting opinions, their extravagant deference to the foreign oracles of Geneva and Zurich, their subservience to bad men in power, the heroes and saints of churchmen. But when all this is said, it still remains true that Froude was often intemperate and unjust. In the hands of the most self-restrained and considerate of its leaders, the movement must anyhow have provoked strong opposition, and given great offence. The surprise and the general ignorance were too great; the assault was too rude and unexpected. But Froude’s strong language gave it a needless exasperation.

Froude was a man strong in abstract thought and imagination, who wanted adequate knowledge. His canons of judgment were not enlarged, corrected, and strengthened by any reading or experience commensurate with his original powers of reasoning or invention. He was quite conscious of it, and did his best to fill up the gap in his intellectual equipment. He showed what he might have done under more favouring circumstances in a very interesting volume on Becket’s history and letters. But circumstances were hopelessly against him; he had not time, he had not health and strength, for the learning which he so needed, which he so longed for. But wherever he could, he learned. He was quite ready to submit his prepossessions to the test and limitation of facts. Eager and quick-sighted, he was often apt to be hasty in conclusions from imperfect or insufficient premisses; but even about what he saw most clearly he was willing to hold himself in suspense, when he found that there was something more to know. Cardinal Newman has noted two deficiencies which, in his opinion, were noticeable in Froude. “He had no turn for theology as such”; and, further, he goes on: “I should say that his power of entering into the minds of others was not equal to his other gifts”–a remark which he illustrates by saying that Froude could not believe that “I really held the Roman Church to be antichristian.” The want of this power–in which he stood in such sharp contrast to his friend–might be either a strength or a weakness; a strength, if his business was only to fight; a weakness, if it was to attract and persuade. But Froude was made for conflict, not to win disciples. Some wild solemn poetry, marked by deep feeling and direct expression, is scattered through his letters,[24] kindled always by things and thoughts of the highest significance, and breaking forth with force and fire. But probably the judgment passed on him by a clever friend, from the examination of his handwriting, was a true one: “This fellow has a great deal of imagination, but not the imagination of a poet.” He felt that even beyond poetry there are higher things than anything that imagination can work upon. It was a feeling which made him blind to the grandeur of Milton’s poetry. He saw in it only an intrusion into the most sacred of sanctities.

It was this fearless and powerful spirit, keen and quick to see inferences and intolerant of compromises, that the disturbances of Roman Catholic Emancipation and of the Reform time roused from the common round of pursuits, natural to a serious and thoughtful clergyman of scholarlike mind and as yet no definite objects, and brought him with all his enthusiasm and thoroughness into a companionship with men who had devoted their lives, and given up every worldly object, to save the Church by raising it to its original idea and spirit. Keble had lifted his pupil’s thoughts above mere dry and unintelligent orthodoxy, and Froude had entered with earnest purpose into Church ways of practical self-discipline and self-correction. Bishop Lloyd’s lectures had taught him and others, to the surprise of many, that the familiar and venerated Prayer Book was but the reflexion of mediaeval and primitive devotion, still embodied in its Latin forms in the Roman Service books; and so indirectly had planted in their minds the idea of the historical connexion, and in a very profound way the spiritual sympathy, of the modern with the pre-Reformation Church. But it is not till 1829 or 1830 that we begin in his _Remains_ to see in him the sense of a pressing and anxious crisis in religious matters. In the summer of 1829 he came more closely than hitherto across Mr. Newman’s path. They had been Fellows together since 1826, and Tutors since 1827. Mr. Froude, with his Toryism and old-fashioned churchmanship, would not unnaturally be shy of a friend of Whately’s with his reputation for theological liberalism. Froude’s first letter to Mr. Newman is in August 1828. It is the letter of a friendly and sympathising colleague in college work, glad to be free from the “images of impudent undergraduates”; he inserts some lines of verse, talks about Dollond and telescopes, and relates how he and a friend got up at half-past two in the morning, and walked half a mile to see Mercury rise; he writes about his mathematical studies and reading for orders, and how a friend had “read half through Prideaux and yet accuses himself of idleness”; but there is no interchange of intimate thought. Mr. Newman was at this time, as he has told us, drifting away from under the shadow of liberalism; and in Froude he found a man who, without being a liberal, was as quick-sighted, as courageous, and as alive to great thoughts and new hopes as himself. Very different in many ways, they were in this alike, that the commonplace notions of religion and the Church were utterly unsatisfactory to them, and that each had the capacity for affectionate and whole-hearted friendship. The friendship began and lasted on, growing stronger and deeper to the end. And this was not all. Froude’s friendship with Mr. Newman overcame Mr. Keble’s hesitations about Mr. Newman’s supposed liberalism. Mr. Newman has put on record what he thought and felt about Froude; no one, probably, of the many whom Cardinal Newman’s long life has brought round him, ever occupied Froude’s place in his heart. The correspondence shows in part the way in which Froude’s spirit rose, under the sense of having such a friend to work with in the cause which day by day grew greater and more sacred in the eyes of both. Towards Mr. Keble Froude felt like a son to a father; towards Mr. Newman like a soldier to his comrade, and him the most splendid and boldest of warriors. Each mind caught fire from the other, till the high enthusiasm of the one was quenched in an early death.

Shortly after this friendship began, the course of events also began which finally gave birth to the Oxford movement. The break-up of parties caused by the Roman Catholic emancipation was followed by the French and Belgian revolutions of 1830, and these changes gave a fresh stimulus to all the reforming parties in England–Whigs, Radicals, and liberal religionists. Froude’s letters mark the influence of these changes on his mind. They stirred in him the fiercest disgust and indignation, and as soon as the necessity of battle became evident to save the Church–and such a necessity was evident–he threw himself into it with all his heart, and his attitude was henceforth that of a determined and uncompromising combatant. “Froude is growing stronger and stronger in his sentiments every day,” writes James Mozley, in 1832, “and cuts about him on all sides. It is extremely fine to hear him talk. The aristocracy of the country at present are the chief objects of his vituperation, and he decidedly sets himself against the modern character of the gentleman, and thinks that the Church will eventually depend for its support, as it always did in its most influential times, on the very poorest classes.” “I would not set down anything that Froude says for his deliberate opinion,” writes James Mozley a year later, “for he really hates the present state of things so excessively that any change would be a relief to him.” … “Froude is staying up, and I see a great deal of him.” … “Froude is most enthusiastic in his plans, and says, ‘What fun it is living in such times as these! how could one now go back to the times of old Tory humbug?'” From henceforth his position among his friends was that of the most impatient and aggressive of reformers, the one who most urged on his fellows to outspoken language and a bold line of action. They were not men to hang back and be afraid, but they were cautious and considerate of popular alarms and prejudices, compared with Froude’s fearlessness. Other minds were indeed moving–minds as strong as his, indeed, it may be, deeper, more complex, more amply furnished, with a wider range of vision and a greater command of the field. But while he lived, he appears as the one who spurs on and incites, where others hesitate. He is the one by whom are visibly most felt the _gaudia certaminis,_ and the confidence of victory, and the most profound contempt for the men and the ideas of the boastful and short-sighted present.

In this unsparing and absorbing warfare, what did Froude aim at–what was the object he sought to bring about, what were the obstacles he sought to overthrow?

He was accused, as was most natural, of Romanising; of wishing to bring back Popery. It is perfectly certain that this was not what he meant, though he did not care for the imputation of it. He was, perhaps, the first Englishman who attempted to do justice to Rome, and to use friendly language of it, without the intention of joining it. But what he fought for was not Rome, not even a restoration of unity, but a Church of England such as it was conceived of by the Caroline divines and the Non-jurors. The great break-up of 1830 had forced on men the anxious question, “What is the Church as spoken of in England? Is it the Church of Christ?” and the answers were various. Hooker had said it was “the nation”; and in entirely altered circumstances, with some qualifications. Dr. Arnold said the same. It was “the Establishment” according to the lawyers and politicians, both Whig and Tory. It was an invisible and mystical body, said the Evangelicals. It was the aggregate of separate congregations, said the Nonconformists. It was the parliamentary creation of the Reformation, said the Erastians. The true Church was the communion of the Pope, the pretended Church was a legalised schism, said the Roman Catholics. All these ideas were floating about, loose and vague, among people who talked much about the Church. Whately, with his clear sense, had laid down that it was a divine religious society, distinct in its origin and existence, distinct in its attributes from any other. But this idea had fallen dead, till Froude and his friends put new life into it Froude accepted Whately’s idea that the Church of England was the one historic uninterrupted Church, than which there could be no other, locally in England; but into this Froude read a great deal that never was and never could be in Whately’s thoughts. Whately had gone very far in viewing the Church from without as a great and sacred corporate body. Casting aside the Erastian theory, he had claimed its right to exist, and if necessary, govern itself, separate from the state. He had recognised excommunication as its natural and indefeasible instrument of government. But what the internal life of the Church was, what should be its teaching and organic system, and what was the standard and proof of these, Whately had left unsaid. And this outline Froude filled up. For this he went the way to which the Prayer Book, with its Offices, its Liturgy, its Ordination services, pointed him. With the divines who had specially valued the Prayer Book, and taught in its spirit, Bishop Wilson, William Law, Hammond, Ken, Laud, Andrewes, he went back to the times and the sources from which the Prayer Book came to us, the early Church, the reforming Church for such with all its faults it was–of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, before the hopelessly corrupt and fatal times of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which led to the break-up of the sixteenth. Thus to the great question, What is the Church? he gave without hesitation, and gave to the end, the same answer that Anglicans gave and are giving still. But he added two points which were then very new to the ears of English Churchmen: (1) that there were great and to most people unsuspected faults and shortcomings in the English Church, for some of which the Reformation was gravely responsible; (2) that the Roman Church was more right than we had been taught to think in many parts both of principle and practice, and that our quarrel with it on these points arose from our own ignorance and prejudices. To people who had taken for granted all their lives that the Church was thoroughly “Protestant” and thoroughly right in its Protestantism, and that Rome was Antichrist, these confident statements came with a shock. He did not enter much into dogmatic questions. As far as can be judged from his _Remains_, the one point of doctrine on which he laid stress, as being inadequately recognised and taught in the then condition of the English Church, was the primitive doctrine of the Eucharist. His other criticisms pointed to practical and moral matters; the spirit of Erastianism, the low standard of life and purpose and self-discipline in the clergy, the low tone of the current religious teaching. The Evangelical teaching seemed to him a system of unreal words. The opposite school was too self-complacent, too comfortable, too secure in its social and political alliances; and he was bent on shaming people into severer notions. “We will have a _vocabularium apostolicum,_ and I will start it with four words: ‘pampered aristocrats,’ ‘resident gentlemen,’ ‘smug parsons,’ and _’pauperes Christi’_. I shall use the first on all occasions; it seems to me just to hit the thing.” “I think of putting the view forward (about new monasteries), under the title of a ‘Project for Reviving Religion in Great Towns.’ Certainly colleges of unmarried priests (who might, of course, retire to a living, when they could and liked) would be the cheapest possible way of providing effectively for the spiritual wants of a large population.” And his great quarrel with the existing state of things was that the spiritual objects of the Church were overlaid and lost sight of in the anxiety not to lose its political position. In this direction he was, as he proclaims himself, an out-and-out Radical, and he was prepared at once to go very far. “If a national Church means a Church without discipline, my argument for discipline is an argument against a national Church; and the best thing we can do is to unnationalise ours as soon as possible”; “let us tell the truth and shame the devil; let us give up a _national_ Church and have a _real_ one.” His criticism did not diminish in severity, or his proposals become less daring, as he felt that his time was growing short and the hand of death was upon him. But to the end, the elevation and improvement of the English Church remained his great purpose. To his friend, as we know, the Roman Church was _either_ the Truth or Antichrist. To Froude it was neither the whole Truth nor Antichrist; but like the English Church itself, a great and defective Church, whose defects were the opposite to ours, and which we should do wisely to learn from rather than abuse. But to the last his allegiance never wavered to the English Church.

It is very striking to come from Froude’s boisterous freedom in his letters to his sermons and the papers he prepared for publication. In his sermons his manner of writing is severe and restrained even to dryness. If they startle it is by the force and searching point of an idea, not by any strength of words. The style is chastened, simple, calm, with the most careful avoidance of over-statement or anything rhetorical. And so in his papers, his mode of argument, forcible and cogent as it is, avoids all appearance of exaggeration or even illustrative expansion; it is all muscle and sinew; it is modelled on the argumentative style of Bishop Butler, and still more, of William Law. No one could suppose from these papers Froude’s fiery impetuosity, or the frank daring of his disrespectful vocabulary. Those who can read between the lines can trace the grave irony which clung everywhere to his deep earnestness.

There was yet another side of Froude’s character which was little thought of by his critics, or recognised by all his friends. With all his keenness of judgment and all his readiness for conflict, some who knew him best were impressed by the melancholy which hung over his life, and which, though he ignored it, they could detect. It is remembered still by Cardinal Newman. “I thought,” wrote Mr. Isaac Williams, “that knowing him, I better understood Hamlet, a person most natural, but so original as to be unlike any one else, hiding depth of delicate thought in apparent extravagances. _Hamlet_, and the _Georgics_ of Virgil, he used to say, he should have bound together.” “Isaac Williams,” wrote Mr. Copeland, “mentioned to me a remark made on Froude by S. Wilberforce in his early days: ‘They talk of Froude’s fun, but somehow I cannot be in a room with him alone for ten minutes without feeling so intensely melancholy, that I do not know what to do with myself. At Brightstone, in my Eden days, he was with me, and I was overwhelmed with the deep sense which possessed him of yearning which nothing could satisfy and of the unsatisfying nature of all things.'”[25]

Froude often reminds us of Pascal. Both had that peculiarly bright, brilliant, sharp-cutting intellect which passes with ease through the coverings and disguises which veil realities from men. Both had mathematical powers of unusual originality and clearness; both had the same imaginative faculty; both had the same keen interest in practical problems of science; both felt and followed the attraction of deeper and more awful interests. Both had the same love of beauty; both suppressed it. Both had the same want of wide or deep learning; they made skilful use of what books came to their hand, and used their reading as few readers are able to use it; but their real instrument of work was their own quick and strong insight, and power of close and vigorous reasoning. Both had the greatest contempt for fashionable and hollow “shadows of religion.” Both had the same definite, unflinching judgment. Both used the same clear and direct language. Both had a certain grim delight in the irony with which they pursued their opponents. In both it is probable that their unmeasured and unsparing criticism recoiled on the cause which they had at heart. But in the case of both of them it was not the temper of the satirist, it was no mere love of attacking what was vulnerable, and indulgence in the cruel pleasure of stinging and putting to shame, which inspired them. Their souls were moved by the dishonour done to religion, by public evils and public dangers. Both of them died young, before their work was done. They placed before themselves the loftiest and most unselfish objects, the restoration of truth and goodness in the Church, and to that they gave their life and all that they had. And what they called on others to be they were themselves. They were alike in the sternness, the reality, the perseverance, almost unintelligible in its methods to ordinary men, of their moral and spiritual self-discipline.


Hurrell Froude was, when I, as an undergraduate, first knew him in 1828, tall and very thin, with something of a stoop, with a large skull and forehead, but not a large face, delicate features, and penetrating gray eyes, not exactly piercing, but bright with internal conceptions, and ready to assume an expression of amusement, careful attention, inquiry, or stern disgust, but with a basis of softness. His manner was cordial and familiar, and assured you, as you knew him well, of his affectionate feeling, which encouraged you to speak your mind (within certain limits), subject to the consideration that if you said anything absurd it would not be allowed to fall to the ground. He had more of the undergraduate in him than any “don” whom I ever knew; absolutely unlike Newman in being always ready to skate, sail, or ride with his friends–and, if in a scrape, not pharisaical as to his means of getting out of it. I remember, _e.g._, climbing Merton gate with him in my undergraduate days, when we had been out too late boating or skating. And unless authority or substantial decorum was really threatened he was very lenient–or rather had an amused sympathy with the irregularities that are mere matters of mischief or high spirits. In lecture it was, _mutatis mutandis_, the same man. Seeing, from his _Remains_, the “high view of his own capacities of which he could not divest himself,” and his determination not to exhibit or be puffed up by it, and looking back on his tutorial manner (I was in his lectures both in classics and mathematics), it was strange how he disguised, not only his _sense_ of superiority, but the appearance of it, so that his pupils felt him more as a fellow-student than as the refined scholar or mathematician which he was. This was partly owing to his carelessness of those formulae, the familiarity with which gives even second-rate lecturers a position of superiority which is less visible in those who, like their pupils, are themselves always struggling with principles–and partly to an effort, perhaps sometimes overdone, not to put himself above the level of others. In a lecture on the _Supplices_ of Aeschylus, I have heard him say _tout bonnement,_ “I can’t construe that–what do you make of it, A.B.?” turning to the supposed best scholar in the lecture; or, when an objection was started to his mode of getting through a difficulty, “Ah! I had not thought of that–perhaps your way is the best.” And this mode of dealing with himself and the undergraduates whom he liked, made them like him, but also made them really undervalue his talent, which, as we now see, was what he meant they should do. At the same time, though watchful over his own vanity, he was keen and prompt in snubs–playful and challenging retort–to those he liked, but in the nature of scornful exposure, when he had to do with coarseness or coxcombry, or shallow display of sentiment. It was a paradoxical consequence of his suppression of egotism that he was more solicitous to show that you were wrong than that he was right.

He also wanted, like Socrates or Bishop Butler, to make others, if possible, think for themselves.

However, it is not to be inferred that his conversation was made of controversy. To a certain extent it turned that way, because he was fond of paradox. (His brother William used to say that he, William, never felt he had really mastered a principle till he had thrown it into a paradox.) And paradox, of course, invites contradiction, and so controversy. On subjects upon which he considered himself more or less an apostle, he liked to stir people’s minds by what startled them, waking them up, or giving them “nuts to crack.” An almost solemn gravity with amusement twinkling behind it–not invisible–and ready to burst forth into a bright low laugh when gravity had been played out, was a very frequent posture with him.

But he was thoroughly ready to amuse and instruct, or to be amused and instructed, as an eager and earnest speaker or listener on most matters of interest. I do not remember that he had any great turn for beauty of colour; he had none, I think, or next to none, for music–nor do I remember in him any great love of humour–but for beauty of physical form, for mechanics, for mathematics, for poetry which had a root in true feeling, for wit (including that perception of a quasi-logical absurdity of position), for history, for domestic incidents, his sympathy was always lively, and he would throw himself naturally and warmly into them. From his general demeanour (I need scarcely say) the “odour of sanctity” was wholly absent. I am not sure that his height and depth of aim and lively versatility of talent did not leave his _compassionate_ sympathies rather undeveloped; certainly to himself, and, I suspect, largely in the case of others, he would view suffering not as a thing to be cockered up or made much of, though of course to be alleviated if possible, but to be viewed calmly as a Providential discipline for those who can mitigate, or have to endure it.

J.H.N. was once reading me a letter just received from him in which (in answer to J.H.N.’s account of his work and the possibility of his breaking down) he said in substance: “I daresay you have more to do than your health will bear, but I would not have you give up anything except perhaps the deanery” (of Oriel). And then J.H.N. paused, with a kind of inner exultant chuckle, and said, “Ah! there’s a Basil for you”; as if the friendship which sacrificed its friend, as it would sacrifice itself to a cause, was the friendship which was really worth having.

As I came to know him in a more manly way, as a brother Fellow, friend, and collaborateur, the character of “ecclesiastical agitator” was of course added to this.

In this capacity his great pleasure was taking bulls by their horns. Like the “gueux” of the Low Countries, he would have met half-way any opprobrious nickname, and I believe coined the epithet “apostolical” for his party because it was connected with everything in Spain which was most obnoxious to the British public. I remember one day his grievously shocking Palmer of Worcester, a man of an opposite texture, when a council in J.H.N.’s rooms had been called to consider some memorial or other to which Palmer wanted to collect the signatures of many, and particularly of dignified persons, but in which Froude wished to express the determined opinions of a few. Froude stretched out his long length on Newman’s sofa, and broke in upon one of Palmer’s judicious harangues about Bishops and Archdeacons and such like, with the ejaculation, “I don’t see why we should disguise from ourselves that our object is to dictate to the clergy of this country, and I, for one, do not want any one else to get on the box.” He thought that true Churchmen must be few before they were many–that the sin of the clergy in all ages was that they tried to make out that Christians were many when they were only few, and sacrificed to this object the force derivable from downright and unmistakable enforcement of truth in speech or action.

As simplicity in thought, word, and deed formed no small part of his ideal, his tastes in architecture, painting, sculpture, rhetoric, or poetry were severe. He had no patience with what was artistically dissolute, luscious, or decorated more than in proportion to its animating idea–wishy-washy or sentimental. The ornamental parts of his own rooms (in which I lived in his absence) were a slab of marble to wash upon, a print of Rubens’s “Deposition,” and a head (life-size) of the Apollo Belvidere. And I remember still the tall scorn, with something of surprise, with which, on entering my undergraduate room, he looked down on some Venuses, Cupids, and Hebes, which, freshman-like, I had bought from an Italian.

He was not very easy even under conventional vulgarity, still less under the vulgarity of egotism; but, being essentially a partisan, he could put up with both in a man who was really in earnest and on the right side. Nothing, however, I think, would have induced him to tolerate false sentiment, and he would, I think, if he had lived, have exerted himself very trenchantly to prevent his cause being adulterated by it.

He was, I should say, sometimes misled by a theory that genius cut through a subject by logic or intuition, without looking to the right or left, while common sense was always testing every step by consideration of surroundings (I have not got his terse mode of statement), and that genius was right, or at least had only to be corrected here and there by common sense. This, I take it, would hardly have answered if his trenchancy had not been in practice corrected by J.H.N.’s wider political circumspection.

He submitted, I suppose, to J.H.N.’s axiom, that if the movement was to do anything it must become “respectable”; but it was against his nature.

He would (as we see in the _Remains_) have wished Ken to have the “courage of his convictions” by excommunicating the Jurors in William III.’s time, and setting up a little Catholic Church, like the Jansenists in Holland. He was not (as has been observed) a theologian, but he was as jealous for orthodoxy as if he were. He spoke slightingly of Heber as having ignorantly or carelessly communicated with (?) Monophysites. But he probably knew no more about that and other heresies than a man of active and penetrating mind would derive from text-books. And I think it likely enough–not that his reverence for the Eucharist, but–that his special attention to the details of Eucharistic doctrine was due to the consideration that it was the foundation of ecclesiastical discipline and authority–matters on which his mind fastened itself with enthusiasm.


[18] I ought to say that I was not personally acquainted with Mr. Froude. I have subjoined to this chapter some recollections of him by Lord Blachford, who was his pupil and an intimate friend.

[19] “In this mortal journeying wasted shade Is worse than wasted sunshine.”

HENRY TAYLOR, _Sicilian Summer_, v. 3.

[20] _Remains_, Second Part, i. 47.

[21] _Remains_, i. 82.

[22] _Apologia_, p. 84.

[23] The following shows the feeling about him in friends apt to be severe critics:–“The contents of the present collection are rather fragments and sketches than complete compositions. This might be expected in the works of a man whose days were few and interrupted by illness, if indeed that may be called an interruption, which was every day sensibly drawing him to his grave. In Mr. Froude’s case, however, we cannot set down much of this incompleteness to the score of illness. The strength of his religious impressions, the boldness and clearness of his views, his long habits of self-denial, and his unconquerable energy of mind, triumphed over weakness and decay, till men with all their health and strength about them might gaze upon his attenuated form, struck with a certain awe of wonderment at the brightness of his wit, the intenseness of his mental vision, and the iron strength of his argument…. We will venture a remark as to that ironical turn, which certainly does appear in various shapes in the first part of these _Remains_. Unpleasant as irony may sometimes be, there need not go with it, and in this instance there did not go with it, the smallest real asperity of temper. Who that remembers the inexpressible sweetness of his smile, and the deep and melancholy pity with which he would speak of those whom he felt to be the victims of modern delusions, would not be forward to contradict such a suspicion? Such expressions, we will venture to say, and not harshness, anger, or gloom, animate the features of that countenance which will never cease to haunt the memory of those who knew him. His irony arose from that peculiar mode in which he viewed all earthly things, himself and all that was dear to him not excepted. It was his poetry.” From an article in the _British Critic_, April 1840, p. 396, by Mr. Thomas Mozley, quoted in _Letters of J.B. Mozley,_ p. 102.

[24] Such as the “Daniel” in the _Lyra Apostolica,_ the “Dialogue between Old Self and New Self,” and the lines in the _Remains_ (i 208, 209).

[25] A few references to the _Remains_ illustrating this are subjoined if any one cares to compare them with these recollections, i. 7, 13, 18, 26, 106, 184, 199, 200-204.

[26] I am indebted for these recollections to the late Lord Blachford. They were written in Oct. 1884.



In the early days of the movement, among Mr. Newman’s greatest friends, and much in his confidence, were two Fellows of Trinity–a college which never forgot that Newman had once belonged to it,–Isaac Williams and William John Copeland. In mind and character very different, they were close friends, with the affection which was characteristic of those days; and for both of them Mr. Newman “had the love which passes that of common relation.”[27] Isaac Williams was born among the mountains of Wales, and had the true poetic gift, though his power of expression was often not equal to what he wanted to say. Copeland was a Londoner, bred up in the strict school of Churchmanship represented by Mr. Norris of Hackney, tempered by sympathies with the Non-jurors. At Oxford he lived, along with Isaac Williams, in the very heart of the movement, which was the interest of his life; but he lived, self-forgetting or self-effacing, a wonderful mixture of tender and inexhaustible sympathy, and of quick and keen wit, which yet, somehow or other, in that time of exasperation and bitterness, made him few enemies. He knew more than most men of the goings on of the movement, and he ought to have been its chronicler. But he was fastidious and hard to satisfy, and he left his task till it was too late.

Isaac Williams was born in Wales in 1802, a year after Newman, ten years after John Keble. His early life was spent in London, but his affection for Wales and its mountain scenery was great and undiminished to the end of his life. At Harrow, where Henry Drury was his tutor, he made his mark by his mastery of Latin composition and his devotion to Latin language and literature. “I was so used to think in Latin that when I had to write an English theme, which was but seldom, I had to translate my ideas, which ran in Latin, into English”;[28] and later in life he complained of the Latin current which disturbed him when he had to write English. He was also a great cricketer; and he describes himself as coming up to Trinity, where he soon got a scholarship, an ambitious and careless youth, who had never heard a word about Christianity, and to whom religion, its aims and its restraints, were a mere name.

This was changed by what, in the language of devotional schools, would have been called his conversion. It came about, as men speak, as the result of accidents; but the whole course of his thoughts and life was turned into a channel from which it nevermore diverged. An old Welsh clergyman gave the undergraduate an introduction to John Keble, who then held a place in Oxford almost unique. But the Trinity undergraduate and the Oriel don saw little of one another till Isaac Williams won the Latin prize poem, _Ars Geologica_. Keble then called on Isaac Williams and offered his help in criticising the poem and polishing it for printing. The two men plainly took to one another at first sight; and that service was followed by a most unexpected invitation on Keble’s part. He had chanced to come to Williams’s room, and on Williams saying that he had no plan of reading for the approaching vacation, Keble said, “I am going to leave Oxford for good. Suppose you come and read with me. The Provost has asked me to take Wilberforce, and I declined; but if you would come, you would be companions.” Keble was going down to Southrop, a little curacy near his father’s; there Williams joined him, with two more–Robert Wilberforce and R.H. Froude; and there the Long Vacation of 1823 was spent, and Isaac Williams’s character and course determined. “It was this very trivial accident, this short walk of a few yards, and a few words spoken, which was the turning-point of my life. If a merciful God had miraculously interposed to arrest my course, I could not have had a stronger assurance of His presence than I always had in looking back to that day.” It determined Isaac Williams’s character, and it determined for good and all his theological position. He had before him all day long in John Keble a spectacle which was absolutely new to him. Ambitious as a rising and successful scholar at college, he saw a man, looked up to and wondered at by every one, absolutely without pride and without ambition. He saw the most distinguished academic of his day, to whom every prospect was open, retiring from Oxford in the height of his fame to bury himself with a few hundreds of Gloucestershire peasants in a miserable curacy. He saw this man caring for and respecting the ignorant and poor as much as others respected the great and the learned. He saw this man, who had made what the world would call so great a sacrifice, apparently unconscious that he had made any sacrifice at all, gay, unceremonious, bright, full of play as a boy, ready with his pupils for any exercise, mental or muscular–for a hard ride, or a crabbed bit of Aeschylus, or a logic fence with disputatious and paradoxical undergraduates, giving and taking on even ground. These pupils saw one, the depth of whose religion none could doubt, “always endeavouring to do them good as it were unknown to themselves and in secret, and ever avoiding that his kindness should be felt and acknowledged”; showing in the whole course of daily life the purity of Christian love, and taking the utmost pains to make no profession or show of it. This unostentatious and undemonstrative religion–so frank, so generous in all its ways–was to Isaac Williams “quite a new world.” It turned his mind in upon itself in the deepest reverence, but also with something of morbid despair of ever reaching such a standard. It drove all dreams of ambition out of his mind. It made humility, self-restraint, self-abasement, objects of unceasing, possibly not always wise and healthy, effort. But the result was certainly a character of great sweetness, tenderness, and lowly unselfishness, pure, free from all worldliness, and deeply resigned to the will of God. He caught from Mr. Keble, like Froude, two characteristic habits of mind–a strong depreciation of mere intellect compared with the less showy excellences of faithfulness to conscience and duty; and a horror and hatred of everything that seemed like display or the desire of applause or of immediate effect. Intellectual depreciators of intellect may deceive themselves, and do not always escape the snare which they fear; but in Isaac Williams there was a very genuine carrying out of the Psalmist’s words: “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself; I refrain my soul and keep it low, as a child that is weaned from his mother.” This fear of display in a man of singularly delicate and fastidious taste came to have something forced and morbid in it. It seemed sometimes as if in preaching or talking he aimed at being dull and clumsy. But in all that he did and wrote he aimed at being true at all costs and in the very depths of his heart; and though, in his words, we may wish sometimes for what we should feel to be more natural and healthy in tone, we never can doubt that we are in the presence of one who shrank from all conscious unreality like poison.

From Keble, or, it may be said, from the Kebles, he received his theology. The Kebles were all of them men of the old-fashioned High Church orthodoxy, of the Prayer Book and the Catechism–the orthodoxy which was professed at Oxford, which was represented in London by Norris of Hackney and Joshua Watson; which valued in religion sobriety, reverence, and deference to authority, and in teaching, sound learning and the wisdom of the great English divines; which vehemently disliked the Evangelicals and Methodists for their poor and loose theology, their love of excitement and display, their hunting after popularity. This Church of England divinity was the theology of the old Vicar of Coln St. Aldwyn’s, a good scholar and a good parish priest, who had brought up his two sons at home to be scholars; and had impressed his solid and manly theology on them so strongly that amid all changes they remained at bottom true to their paternal training. John Keble added to it great attainments and brilliant gifts of imagination and poetry; but he never lost the plain, downright, almost awkward ways of conversation and manner of his simple home–ways which might have seemed abrupt and rough but for the singular sweetness and charm of his nature. To those who looked on the outside he was always the homely, rigidly orthodox country clergyman. On Isaac Williams, with his ethical standard, John Keble also impressed his ideas of religious truth; he made him an old-fashioned High Churchman, suspicious of excitement and “effect,” suspicious of the loud-talking religious world, suspicious of its novelties and shallowness, and clinging with his whole soul to ancient ways and sound Church of England doctrine reflected in the Prayer Book. And from John Keble’s influence he passed under the influence of Thomas Keble, the Vicar of Bisley, a man of sterner type than his brother, with strong and definite opinions on all subjects; curt and keen in speech; intolerant of all that seemed to threaten wholesome teaching and the interests of the Church; and equally straightforward, equally simple, in manners and life. Under him Isaac Williams began his career as a clergyman; he spent two years of solitary and monotonous life in a small cure, seeking comfort from solitude in poetical composition (“It was very calm and subduing,” he writes); and then he was recalled to Oxford as Fellow and Tutor of his college, to meet a new and stronger influence, which it was part of the work and trial of the rest of his life both to assimilate and to resist.

For, with Newman, with whom he now came into contact, he did both. There opened to him from intercourse with Newman a new world of thought; and yet while feeling and answering to its charm, he never was quite at ease with him. But Williams and Froude had always been great friends since the reading party of 1823, in spite of Froude’s audacities. Froude was now residing in Oxford, and had become Newman’s most intimate friend, and he brought Newman and Williams together. “Living at that time,” he says, “so much with Froude, I was now in consequence for the first time brought into intercourse with Newman. We almost daily walked and often dined together.” Newman and Froude had ceased to be tutors; their thoughts were turned to theology and the condition of the Church. Newman had definitely broken with the Evangelicals, to whom he had been supposed to belong, and Whately’s influence over him was waning, and with Froude he looked up to Keble as the pattern of religious wisdom. He had accepted the position of a Churchman as it was understood by Keble and Froude; and thus there was nothing to hinder Williams’s full sympathy with him. But from the first there seems to have been an almost impalpable bar between them, which is the more remarkable because Williams appears to have seen with equanimity Froude’s apparently more violent and dangerous outbreaks of paradox and antipathy. Possibly, after the catastrophe, he may, in looking back, have exaggerated his early alarms. But from the first he says he saw in Newman what he had learned to look upon as the gravest of dangers–the preponderance of intellect among the elements of character and as the guide of life. “I was greatly delighted and charmed with Newman, who was extremely kind to me, but did not altogether trust his opinions; and though Froude was in the habit of stating things in an extreme and paradoxical manner, yet one always felt conscious of a ground of entire confidence and agreement; but it was not so with Newman, even though one appeared more in unison with his more moderate views.”

But, in spite of all this, Newman offered and Isaac Williams accepted the curacy of St. Mary’s. “Things at Oxford [1830-32] at that time were very dull.” “Froude and I seemed entirely alone, with Newman only secretly, as it were, beginning to sympathise. I became at once very much attached to Newman, won by his kindness and delighted by his good and wonderful qualities; and he proposed that I should be his curate at St. Mary’s…. I can remember a strong feeling of difference I first felt on acting together with him from what I had been accustomed to: that he was in the habit of looking for effect, and for what was sensibly effective, which from the Bisley and Fairford School I had been long habituated to avoid; but to do one’s duty in faith and leave it to God, and that all the more earnestly, because there were no sympathies from without to answer. There was a felt but unexpressed difference of this kind, but perhaps it became afterwards harmonised as we acted together.”[29]

Thus early, among those most closely united, there appeared the beginnings of those different currents which became so divergent as time went on. Isaac Williams, dear as he was to Newman, and returning to the full Newman’s affection, yet represented from the first the views of what Williams spoke of as the “Bisley and Fairford School,” which, though sympathising and co-operating with the movement, was never quite easy about it, and was not sparing of its criticism on the stir and agitation of the Tracts.

Isaac Williams threw himself heartily into the early stages of the movement; in his poetry into its imaginative and poetical side, and also into its practical and self-denying side. But he would have been quite content with its silent working, and its apparent want of visible success. He would have been quite content with preaching simple homely sermons on the obvious but hard duties of daily life, and not seeing much come of them; with finding a slow abatement of the self-indulgent habits of university life, with keeping Fridays, with less wine in common room. The Bisley maxims bade men to be very stiff and uncompromising in their witness and in their duties, but to make no show and expect no recognition or immediate fruit, and to be silent under misconstruction. But his was not a mind which realised great possibilities of change in the inherited ways of the English Church. The spirit of change, so keenly discerned by Newman, as being both certain and capable of being turned to good account as well as bad, to him was unintelligible or bad. More reality, more severity and consistency, deeper habits of self-discipline on the accepted lines of English Church orthodoxy, would have satisfied him as the aim of the movement, as it undoubtedly was a large part of its aim; though with Froude and Newman it also aimed at a widening of ideas, of interests and sympathies, beyond what had been common in the English Church.

In the history of the movement Isaac Williams took a forward part in two of its events, with one of which his connexion was most natural, with the other grotesquely and ludicrously incongruous. The one was the plan and starting of the series of _Plain Sermons_ in 1839, to which not only the Kebles, Williams, and Copeland contributed their volumes, but also Newman and Dr. Pusey. Isaac Williams has left the following account of his share in the work.

“It seemed at this time (about 1838-39) as if Oxford, from the strength of principle shown there (and an almost unanimous and concentrated energy), was becoming a rallying point for the whole kingdom: but I watched from the beginning and saw greater dangers among ourselves than those from without; which I endeavoured to obviate by publishing the _Plain Sermons_. [_Plain Sermons_, by contributors to the _Tracts for the Times_, 1st Series, January 1839.] I attempted in vain to get the Kebles to publish, in order to keep pace with Newman, and so maintain a more practical turn in the movement. I remember C. Cornish (C.L. Cornish, Fellow and Tutor of Exeter) coming to me and saying as we walked in Trinity Gardens, ‘People are a little afraid of being carried away by Newman’s brilliancy; they want more of the steady sobriety of the Kebles infused into the movement to keep us safe; we have so much sail and want ballast.’ And the effect of the publication of the _Plain Sermons_ was at the time very quieting. In first undertaking the _Plain Sermons_, I had no encouragement from any one, not even from John Keble; acquiescence was all that I could gain. But I have heard J.K. mention a saying of Judge Coleridge, long before the _Tracts_ were thought of: ‘If you want to propagate your opinions you should lend your sermons; the clergy would then preach them, and adopt your opinions.’ Now this has been the effect of the publication of the _Plain Sermons_.”

Isaac Williams, if any man, represented in the movement the moderate and unobtrusive way of religious teaching. But it was his curious fate to be dragged into the front ranks of the fray, and to be singled out as almost the most wicked and dangerous of the Tractarians. He had the strange fortune to produce the first of the Tracts[30] which was by itself held up to popular indignation as embodying all the mischief of the series and the secret aims of the movement. The Tract had another effect. It made Williams the object of the first great Tractarian battle in the University, the contest for the Poetry Professorship: the first decisive and open trial of strength, and the first Tractarian defeat. The contest, even more than the result, distressed him greatly; and the course of things in the movement itself aggravated his distress. His general distrust of intellectual restlessness had now passed into the