John Henry Newman

Early Life and Works

He studied at Trinity College, Oxford, and held a fellowship at Oriel College, where he became tutor (1826) after his ordination (1824) in the Church of England. He was made vicar of St. Mary's, Oxford, in 1827 and was (1831–32) select preacher to the university. In 1832 he resigned his tutorship after a dispute over his religious duties and went on a Mediterranean tour. While on this trip he wrote "Lead, Kindly Light" and other hymns. After John Keble preached the celebrated sermon "National Apostasy" in the summer of 1833, Newman threw himself into the ensuing discussion and in September began the Tracts for the Times. These, joined with his sermons given at St. Mary's, provided guidance and inspiration to the Oxford movement.

About 1840, Newman began to lose faith in his position, and an article by Nicholas Wiseman led him to reconsider the Roman Catholic claims. In 1841 his Anglican career came to a crisis; in that year Newman published Tract 90, demonstrating that the Thirty-nine Articles, the formulary of faith of the Church of England, were consistent with Catholicism. It created a great outcry from Anglicans everywhere and a ban on the Tracts for the Times from the bishop of Oxford. Newman now went into retirement at Littlemore (a chapelry attached to St. Mary's), where he remained for more than a year, living with a group of men in a sort of monastic seclusion. He gave up his living in Sept., 1843, and in 1845 was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

The chief literary products of Newman's retirement consisted of the Essay on Miracles and the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. In 1846 he went to Rome, where he received ordination and a doctorate of divinity. He entered the Oratorians (see Oratory, Congregation of the) and came back to England (1847) filled with the idea of extending the church in England by means of the Oratory. After living at various places he settled at Edgbaston (on the outskirts of Birmingham); there, in the Oratory he founded, he remained the rest of his life.

Newman's life was marked by several unpleasant public events, the first of these being a libel suit against him by an Italian ex-friar named Achilli. Newman lost the suit, but was later exonerated, and a great fund was publicly raised to defray the expense and the fine he had incurred. In 1854 the bishops of Ireland tried to found a Catholic university in Dublin and made Newman its head; he found himself in difficulties at once, and the ill-planned project was abandoned.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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