Newman, about 1865

Among the many things gathering dust in my house is the above photograph of Cardinal Newman; it comes, I believe, from around 1865; although I must admit it looks to me very like an earlier calotype image (the softening or “blurring” of the edges) but the sides of the print have been cut away and so I suppose it could be a wet plate image which is just not identifiable.

Nevertheless, it is one of the more unusual photographs of Newman (despite that it is, of course, floating round the internet already).  I’ve been thinking a lot about Newman lately.  When I was living in rented accommodation as a student I used to have a framed print of the great man above my fireplace (flanked on one side by John Keble and the other by Dr. Pusey); a paperback copy of the Apologia, well thumbed, upon my bedside cabinet.  I’ve often, since then, given the example of Newman to people who ask me about why on earth I became a Catholic; and if they haven’t heard of him, I have at least used his words in order to describe what is for many nominal or non Christians a very difficult thing to understand.  The largely negative view of Catholicism means that choosing to be Catholic seems pretty odd.  I expect that for many of Newman’s Victorian contemporaries the same view of the Church prevailed and so the same misunderstandings accompanied him as accompany us former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

I wonder if many of the Anglicans now considering entering the Church will return again to contemplation of the images of the Father of Anglo-catholicism and to the Apologia, so important for them among all the writings of this most prolific author?  It would certainly make good sense to do so, because a surer star to guide them into the safe harbour of the Catholic Church they would not find among the Saints, save only Our Blessed Lady of Walsingham.

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