9 October 2017

Newman's Conversion ... a different angle!

The poor, pompous egotist Mark Pattison, writing long after he had lost his own faith, gives this account of October 1845:
"On the 9th of October 1845 it was known that Newman had resigned his fellowship. On 10th October, Church showed me a note from Newman to him, announcing his coming reconciliation to the Catholic Church by Father Dominic [which had of course by that day already occurred]. It is impossible to describe the enormous effect produced in the academical and clerical world, I may say throughout England, by one man's changing his religion. But it was not consternation; it was a lull - a sense that the past agitation of twelve years was extinguished by this simple act; and perhaps a lull of expectation to see how many he would draw with him. Instead of a ferocious howl, Newman's proceeding was received in respectful silence, no one blaming. But as there must always be an advocatus diaboli, this part was sustained by the Vicar of St Thomas (!) [Pattison's own parenthetic exclamation mark] who went about inveighing against Newman's honesty in putting out the theory contained in his last sermon; 'He didn't believe it when he wrote it'".

It is not clear to me what, exactly, in Newman's Parting of Friends sermon, my Anglican predecessor Thomas Chamberlain might have deemed to be so dishonest.

There is an interesting episode in the life of George Bampfield, a Master at Lancing College (largely autobiographical though written in the third person): "He could no longer stay at Lancing, and went, as a last resource, to S Thomas', Oxford, then under Mr Chamberlain, the editor of the Church Times. One day his vicar came into his room, and noticing among his books a Totum [the entire Breviary in one volume instead of four] which belonged to one of Mr Bampfield's brothers, and which he himself had hardly opened, said: 'There is no use talking to you; you are gone'. The vicar was a true prophet; for after three Sundays Mr Bampfield left Oxford and determined to be reconciled to the Church of the Saints". He went to Brompton, where (13 August 1855) Fr Faber received him into Full Communion, more or less on the doorstep.

Perhaps the reason Bampfield went to Chamberlain was his perception of S Thomas's as by far the most 'advanced' church in England; Eucharistic Vestments in some shape or form* may have been in use since the early 1840s, and incense was established by the mid-1850s. In other words, Bampfield or his advisers felt that if S Thomas's, with all its Romish extremism, could not retain him in the Church of England, no parish church could. Possibly the meaning of Pattison's exclamation mark is: "And that from a dishonest extremist like Chamberlain of all people!!"


*Initially, it seems, more than one Oxford red silk MA hood sewn together (by Chamberlain's cousin the religious foundress Marion Hughes) so as to make a 'chasuble' not too alarmingly different from the MA hood to which conservative worshippers were accustomed. At Pentecost 1854 a proper purpose-made chasuble (Roman shape) was taken into use.

1 comment:

Fr PJM said...

According to remarks in some or one of his letters, Newman converted shortly after beginning to wear the Miraculous Medal. Not many people know that.