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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Somerset

Cardinal Newman and the Jesuits

Cardinal John Henry Newman was canonised 13 October 2019

Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) is a significant figure in the religious history of England. His canonisation on 13 October has prompted the us to delve into the collections to see what material is held there relevant to the occasion.

Newman’s association with the Jesuits are numerous: he attended

St Ignatius’ chapel in Oxford and received Gerard Manley Hopkins, who would posthumously be celebrated as one of the 19th century’s greatest poets, into the Catholic Church. In fact, many Jesuits stated that they owed their conversion to Catholicism to Newman. Peter L’Estrange’s article ‘Newman’s relations with the Jesuits’ in the Heythrop Journal (Vol. XXIX, No1) gives some examples and can be consulted in the archives’ library. Newman was also a contributor to The Month and continued to provide advice to the Jesuits when they took over its editorship in 1865.

It should therefore be unsurprising that the Jesuits in Britain would have letters from Newman. The earliest letter from Newman discovered in the Archives is dated 26 January 1844 and is addressed to Robert Whitty (1817-1895), who would go on to join the Society in 1857.

Letter from Newman to Whitty (ref. 19/3/12 f. 8)

This letter can be found in one of three bound volumes in the archives containing correspondence from Newman to Jesuits and others. Another volume includes a letter (ref. 19/3/12 f. 10) to the then Provincial, Fr Randal Lythgoe SJ (1793-1855), dated 20 October 1845. In it, he thanks Fr Lythgoe for the congratulations sent upon Newman’s reception into the Roman Catholic Church a few days earlier. The letter reads as follows:

I feel very much the kindness of your congratulations – and of the interest you have taken in us here; and the very valuable offer you so considerately make us. It would be presumptuous in such as myself to speak of the reverence and admiration with which I regard the Society of Jesus. My first Communion was said on the Feast of St Francis Borgia. Father Dominic, who had received me, gave me the choice of the Feast day, whether according to his rule, in which it was St. Francis’s, or the English Calendar - and I, without any want of reverence, I trust, for St Paulinus, chose St. Francis.

I am, Dear Sir,

Your faithful Servant

John H Newman

Letter from Newman to Hanmer, Christmas Day, 1862 (ref. 19/3/13)

A series of letters dated between 1844 and 1882 from Newman to A J Hanmer was given to Fr Sydney Smith SJ (1843-1922), one of the writers based at 31 Farm Street at the time of receipt, by his sister-in-law in 1909. Hanmer had admired Newman during visits to Oxford in his youth and became a lifelong correspondent. He converted to Catholicism and tried a vocation at the London Oratory but ultimately left and lived out his life in Manchester.

The Blandyke Papers predictably contain articles on Newman, including a poem by John William Atkinson SJ in the February 1889 edition:

Cardinal Newman on his 88th birthday

Forty-four years

Of earnest search for light & God’s own truth,

Of striving with the force of child & youth

And man to pierce beyond the bourn of fears:

Forty-four years

Of calm, unruffled by stings of some,

The praise of many, and the constant hum

That keeps one name for ever in our ears:

Eighty-eight years

Of search & full fruition, strife & rest,

Wherein thy soul has passed through every test

And shone preeminent amidst its peers:

Eighty-eight years

Of work for God alone or man in Him:-

Thy brow is ploughed, thy kindly eye grows dim,

Great Son of Rome, rejoice! Thy heaven nears.

Article by Thomas Morton SJ in anticipation of Newman’s 87th birthday ( Blandyke Papers vol. 2,February 1888)
Newman’s Cardinal’s biretta

Recently the archives acquired artefacts belonging to Newman which had been housed in the Heythrop College library and were transferred to the Archives when the College closed last year. It remains a mystery as to how they came to be at Heythrop, but they include a scarlet skull cap and biretta, a quill, collar, and a photograph of Newman.

The reference library at the Jesuits in Britain Archives also contains many publications by and about Newman.

If you are interested in any of these records or the work done by the Jesuits in Britain Archives, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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