John Henry Newman
APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA
& SIX SERMONS
Edited, Annotated and with an introduction by
by Frank M. Turner (2008)
Reviewed by Patrick Killough
* Hardcover: 528 pages
* Publisher: Yale University Press (January 28, 2008)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 0300115075
* ISBN-13: 978-0300115079
* Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
* Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
I. For amazon.com
TITLE OF THIS REVIEW: ON FIRST LOOKING INTO TURNER'S NEWMAN
Reviewer's rating of Turner's edition of NEWMAN'S APOLOGIA * * * * *
Talk about a new book's timing! On April 23, 2008 the Vatican announced that Rome will elevate to one notch below sainthood Cardinal John Henry Newman. Amid well informed leaks of the coming beatification, Yale History Professor Frank M. Turner published his scholarly edition of Newman's 1864-1865 spiritual autobiography, APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA. The 144 year old APOLOGIA is a surpassingly great book. But to bridge the reader's knowledge gap between 1864 and 2008, Newman's master work cries out for careful, authoritative fleshing out by way of footnotes, introductions and within-the-covers access to related sermons of Newman. All these Professor Turner amply provides.
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA & SIX SERMONS is 528 pages long. Newman's own words make up close to 365 pages. The rest is Frank Turner, including a notably brilliant 115 Editor's Introduction. The Introduction places Newman in his time, identifies his friends and foes and makes the case for a secular, detached appreciation of a man whose religious admirers are sometimes tempted to play down human weaknesses.
Anglicans and Roman Catholics are grateful for what John Henry Newman did for their Churches. From 1833 to 1841 Newman vigorously led the Oxford Movement which reminded the Church of England that its Reformation under the Tudors had avoidably thrown out many good and seemly practices, including study of the early church fathers and voluntary practice of asceticism and even monasticism. Roman Catholics were later taught by Newman that there are distinctly Catholic but English ways of theologizing which complement Aristotle as baptized by Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics.
Frank Turner gives religious readers their due. But he also makes a case for the Newman who wrote IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY, a heavy tome pored over by American education majors of all religious beliefs and none. Nor need secular philosophers and phenomenologists be embarrassed to admit originality in Newman's slants on scepticism and his innovative "illative sense" for reaching epistemologically certain conclusions based on converging probabilities.
All of this and more there is in Turner's Newman. Enjoy this edition as the poet Keats did Chapman's Homer. Chapman was not Homer and Turner is not Newman. But both recent interpreters have kept their heroes gloriously alive.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold. -OOO-
II. For barnesandnoble.com
Title of this review: THE THINKING MAN'S CLIFFS NOTES TO CARDINAL NEWMAN
Reviewer's Rating of APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA * * * * * FIVE STARS
Serious students of the seminal 19th century English thinker and likely to be canonized Roman Catholic saint, Cardinal John Henry Newman, ought to burn incense to History Professor Frank M. Turner of Yale University. For Turner, also current Director of Yale's Beinecke Library, shines lights into neglected corners of Newman's personal history, mental enthusiasms and ways his contemporaries reacted to his thinking out loud and very publicly about matters of church and state.
Professor Turner created "the thinking man's Cliffs Notes" in his 1996 edition of Newman's THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY, a tough volume imposed on many an American student seeking undergraduate or advanced degrees in education. After digesting Turner's masterly eleven page essay on "Reading THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY," how many a crammer might have been tempted to skip Newman's reflections while he was trying to create a Catholic university in Dublin!
Then came Turner's 2002 740 page JOHN HENRY NEWMAN: THE CHALLENGE TO EVANGELICAL RELIGION. Here the professor proves that Newman was viscerally obsessed with trends within the Anglican church since the rise of Methodism: including exaltation of emotional religious conversion experience in lieu of baptism and a hierarchical, sacramental Church of England.
That second book sets the stage for Frank Turner's 2008 edition of APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA & SIX SERMONS -- all texts of John Henry Newman. The heart of Turner's APOLOGIA is a breathtakingly brilliant and original 115 page "Editor's Introduction" to 350-plus pages of Newman. Most of the Editor's Introduction could function as a much needed executive summary to the fiendishly difficult and intricate argumentation of Turner's 2002 CHALLENGE TO EVANGELICAL RELIGION. Turner also fleshes out the 1865 "book not pamphlet" edition of APOLOGIA with six sermons from Newman's Anglican years, which illuminate and give context to APOLOGIA.
Turner complains that, unlike Newman's contemporaries, too many later and current writers about John Henry Newman, were or are so dazzled by the brilliance of APOLOGIA that they felt excused from serious delving into contemporary criticism or asking themselves whether Newman, in 1864 and 1865, selected to his own advantage his memories of the Tractarian controversies of the 1830s and 1840s. Too much "Newmania." Too much hagiography. Too little scholarly digging. It is hard to argue that Professor Turner is wrong. -OOO-
Black Mountain, NC 05/18/2008
III. For epinions.com
Title of this Review: "Lead, Kindly Light"
Written: May 21 '08
Reviewer's Rating of APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA & SIX SERMONS * * * * * Five Stars
Pros: Newman's great "history of my own mind" in his own words. Turner's brilliant commentary.
Cons: Victorian English Christians quarreling about the weight of emotion in conversions and Rome versus Canterbury.
The Bottom Line: To understand why some Christians think baptism essential to salvation and others do not, read APOLOGIA. Explore Oxford University, Churches of England and Rome, Methodism, Unitarianism, Calvinism, Liberalism and Atheism.
aohcapablanca's Full Review: Frank M. Turner (ed.) John Henry Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Who among readers of epinions.com reviews is likely to pick up and read APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA ("Apology for his Own Life"), Cardinal John Henry Newman's "history of my own mind?" Very few, I suspect. Yet perhaps you should. You certainly might if you
-- want to understand religious trends in England in the 19th Century -- a time of great ferment about matters of a church controlled by the state, the rise of Liberalism, Darwinism, Catholic emancipation and more,
-- are a thoughtful Anglican, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic or Evangelical Christian,
-- admire fine writing,
-- enjoy a very great man's autobiography rooted in ill health, enormous talent, exquisite sensitivity to both friendships and to slights and which is heavily introspective, yet at the same time shows its subject vitally engaged in constructing external relations with poor parishioners, students, leading intellectuals, foes, prime ministers, bishops and popes.
That said: here goes.
What thing or two might you already know going into this review about John Henry Newman (1801-1890)? As a young Anglican priest, he wrote during a voyage in the Mediterranean a little poem you may know, later made into a popular and still sung hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light." Here is a long excerpt:
Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom,
lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
the distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
lead thou me on!
John Henry Newman also composed a long poem about a Christian man's dying, being brought by his guardian angel past mocking demons, seeing a searing vision of God who judges him and then commencing a long time in the purgatory of a cooling lake. A copy was found by the slain body of General Charles George "Chinese" Gordon after the fall of Khartoum. The poem is "The Dream of Gerontius," recast, in much shortened form, into a great musical offering by Sir Edward Elgar. You have very likely also heard of "Newman Clubs" or "Newman Centers" for Roman Catholic students at non-Catholic campuses. Yes, they are named for John Henry Newman who attempted (but failed personally to achieve) something similar at his alma mater, Oxford University.
Yet John Henry Newman was much more than what I have just listed. He was a strikingly original philosopher and theologian, ardent polemicist, pastor to the poor, founder of a Catholic university in Dublin and on and on. For the first half of his life he was an Anglican: Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford and ordained Church of England presbyter. After 1845 he was a Roman Catholic convert, re-ordained priest and late in life a Cardinal. He was widely admired, misunderstood, feared, loved and suffered major reverses at the hands of bishops both Anglican and Catholic. He is probably to be named among the top two dozen stylists of the English language.
In 1864 Newman dashed off a series of pamphlets defending himself against charges of being both a liar and a defender of deliberate religious deceit. His accuser: the great novelist, Anglican divine and professor of history, Charles Kingsley (author of WESTWARD, HO!, THE WATER BABIES, etc.). In 1865 Newman recast his hasty writings into a revised hard bound edition of what he called APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA. It described his conscience's search for God from his very earliest years through his Calvinist evangelical conversion at age 15, his growing away from Calvin into High Church Anglicanism, his initially failed efforts to "re-catholicize" Anglicanism (via revived pre-Reformation Catholic pious practices and even monasticism) and the reasons which drove him after nearly four years of final agony into the embrace of English Roman Catholicism.
I may have read APOLOGIA in high school and again in college. I certainly reread it about six years ago when I began a moderately serious amateur study of Newman. It is not at all an easy book, I venture to suggest, for most Americans to pick off a shelf and dive into without preparation. APOLOGIA's text ranges across too many English personalities and theological quarrels for a beginner to grasp without serious help.
Fortunately, help is at hand in the guise of JOHN HENRY CARDINAL NEWMAN: APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA & SIX SERMONS (2008) edited and commented on at length by Yale history professor Frank M. Turner. In 1996 Turner had created a pragmatically user-friendly "thinking man's Cliffs Notes" edition of Newman's THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY (1852), familiar to so many students of the theory of higher education.
Non-specialists can now profit greatly from Turner's similar service to APOLOGIA. Turner's detached, secular "historian's" edition (as distinct from an edition by someone out to canonize Cardinal Newman as a Saint) is 513 pages long. Of this 365 pages carry Newman's own words: APOLOGIA (117 - 353), five NOTES (359 - 426), four pieces of SUPPLEMENTAL MATTER (429 - 443) and SIX SERMONS (448 - 496). That is, prima facie, 365 pages supplied by Newman. (But many of those pages also carry very full footnotes by Turner.) Before each of these direct contributions by John Henry Newman comes commentary and analysis by Frank Turner, most notably a dazzling 115 page Editor's Introduction to all the Newman material.
On opening this 2008 edition, I had told myself that it would surely be enough for me simply to read the Turner materials and skip the Newman. After all I had already read APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA. But I soon realized that I had read only two of the six sermons. And they had all been selected by Turner for their relevance to Newman's autobiography and had never before been published between the same covers as APOLOGIA. So I read the sermons. And I also read all the other Frank Turner contributions.
Somewhere in that pleasant, informative process I found myself also rereading the APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA itself. Over the intervening years of amateur research I had become familiar with names like Hurrell Froude, Protestant Archbishop (of Dublin) Richard Whatley, John Keble, James Hope, Cardinal Manning (Newman's onetime Anglican disciple and ultra-conservative Roman Catholic foe) and dozens of others. But in this edition Turner brought these powerful men forward for me into a fresh, secular historical context. I saw Newman through Turner's historian eyes (as I had earlier done in a couple of other books of Turner's, too). I felt as if I was reading APOLOGIA for the first time, only this time fortified with something approaching the same knowledge of context and of events as readers in 1864 and 1865 would have had. Bless you, Frank Turner!
I have to close this already long review. Allow me to bite my tongue and restrain myself from delving into the substance of the book and the edition. I hope I have given enough hints of their contents to help you make three rational decisions:
-- do not read Newman if you have no interest in personal psychology, history of Christian churches, Christian theology or quarrels between Canterbury and Rome;
-- if you decide to read Newman's autobiography of his mind, do not casually pick up the raw text of APOLOGIA and start reading it without Turner's "thinking man's Cliffs Notes;"
-- If you do choose to read Turner's APOLOGIA & SIX SERMONS, be prepared to accept that once you have read Turner's 115 page Editor's Introduction, you will also want to find time for every word, every note, every reminiscence of a great religious writer and an admiring but not uncritical secular historian, i.e. another 398 glorious pages. -OOO-