27 September 2018

Blessed John Henry Newman at the races?

I was once accorded the tremendous privilege of looking at Blessed John Henry Newman's personal books at the Birmingham Oratory, in 'the Cardinal's' study (with adjacent chapel). Little discoveries can be as satisfactory as large ones; we all know that on Monday December 3, Newman left Oxford for the foreign travels which led him to Sicily, serious illness, and the writing of Lead kindly light. The day before, he preached a University Sermon which could be regarded as the start of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England.

But what was he doing on the preceding Saturday? He was shopping ... for books. Devout tomes? Deary me, No. He bought a pocket copy of Thucydides; and one of Pindar. Isn't it a lovely mental picture; the slender, donnish, very English figure, sweat pouring down his face as he plodded round the bumps near Syracuse and traced (Thucydides in hand) the footprints of the ill-fated Athenian Expedition during the Peloponnesian War; then sitting in a hostelry (I think I detected slight wine marks on some pages) and reading Pindar's mannered encomia upon the equestrian victories of Sicilian rulers in the Games.

Newman once said, I think, that he could never be a saint; because he loved literature too much. But Classicists, evidently, can become beati!

This was my first effort after I returned to blogging after the awkward and painful events which followed my entry into Full Communion with the See of S Peter. I have left the original comments.

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