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In a sort of follow-up to my previous post, I’d like to say a word about another man who strode that Victorian stage along with Newman – sometimes beside him and sometimes not. They were often at loggerheads, being men very different in temperament, interests and degree and kind of ambition. He was significant enough that in biographies of Newman, he often needs a chapter all his own. Also a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, he was likely a very good man, possibly a holy man. His most passionate ministry was that which he exercised among the downtrodden slum dwellers of London. And he acquired quite the reputation for gaining converts. But there is one fact about him that I find most arresting, though I’m not sure why.

Born in 1808, Henry Edward Manning was by seven years Newman’s junior. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, an enrollment cut short when his father, a banker, experienced business reversals. While working as a clerk in the Colonial Office, he became convinced that he was called to the ministry, returned to Oxford, and eventually took Anglican orders. He did well wherever he went, making friends easily. One was W. E. Gladstone, who would later say upon Manning’s crossing to Rome that it was as if he “had murdered his mother.” They remained in contact for many years to come, Manning several times extending the hand of peace, but Gladstone had essentially gone cold. He seems to have taken Manning’s decision as a personal betrayal, and never got over it.

Until I read a biography of Manning, or something he has written on the matter, the path to his conversion will remain not nearly so clear as Newman’s. He was, so this narrative claims, “outside the Oxford Movement,” meaning that at the time of its commencement he was not a High Churchman, and he disliked the Tracts for the Times, especially Newman’s Tract Ninety, which he felt misrepresented the meaning of the Thirty-Nine Articles. (So, that he was outside the movement is not to say that he was not influenced by it.) But six years later we find him subscribing to nearly all of Newman’s Anglo-Catholic principles, and very firmly in the camp of Newman’s great friends, Pusey and Keble. He moves from Luther’s view of Baptism in 1834 to, a mere eight years later, a belief in Apostolic Succession. On a trip to Rome he met with Pope Pius IX and wrote to a friend that “it is impossible not to love” him. Not long after he converted. I’m not sure of the exact year, but it was after Newman – I’m guessing around 1850, followed by ordination to the Catholic priesthood.

His reputation begins at once, and his rise was rapid:

During his first month in the Church, he converted seven; before he returned from Rome in 1852, he had converted fifteen; and while traveling home, he converted several more. He always kept a careful record of his conversions; this record shows that up to 1865 he had personally converted no fewer than 346 persons in England alone.

It became the common wisdom among Protestants that it would be wise to avoid religious conversation with Dr. Manning, as when it was over he would have you come out on the wrong side of the Reformation. His great failure was with Florence Nightingale, whose career he had done much to encourage. She came to the Church’s door, but balked on its threshold. He did, however, capture her friend and confidante, one Miss Stanley, daughter of the Dean of Westminster.

Of his differences with Newman I’ll mention only one, which I found amusing. Newman had written an open Letter to Doctor Pusey upon publication of the latter’s Eirenicon, against that work’s representation of Catholic teaching regarding veneration of Mary and the saints. The letter was widely hailed in Catholic circles, and even got Rome’s attention. Manning personally praised him for it. But then he gave approval for publication of an article in the Dublin Review by one William George Ward, the Review’s editor, attacking Newman’s use of “certain phrases” in his Letter. (Ward had acquired the reputation of one who would be "more Catholic than the Pope," and as desiring a new Papal encyclical every morning for breakfast.) Bishop Ullathorne put a stop to it, reminding Manning that Ward would be outside his rights as a layman to censure a member of the priesthood. (Ah, the good old days.) But Newman was rightly upset with Manning, and it took a while to put this one behind him, writing to Ullathorne:

I will say to your Lordship that I cannot trust the Archbishop. Last spring he wrote to me flattering letters upon my letter to Pusey; and then he followed them up by privately sending to your Lordship for approval an article…in which I was severely handled for certain passages in it. I think that, as a matter of prudence, I never shall trust him till he has gone through Purgatory, and has no infirmities upon him.

In spite of their differences, in the end it came down to this, as Manning wrote to a friend in 1866: “I should be ready to let him [Newman] write down my faith and I would sign it without reading it. So would he.”

But here is that fact I find so interesting. Back in the early 1830’s, the newly ordained Anglican Manning had fallen in love with one of the beautiful, “sylph-like” daughters of a Dr. Sargent. Her name was Caroline. They were married in 1833 by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (one of the four sons – the others were Henry, Robert and William, who all became Catholic – of William Wilberforce, leader of the anti-slavery movement). It was a brief marriage. Caroline suffered from tuberculosis and died within four years. But it seems his memory of her was a thing kept very much alive in his heart. Upon becoming a Catholic, he writes, “Fifteen years ago a crucifix stood in sight of her dying bed, which taught me the article of Communion of Saints. And I have never been without one.” On the day he entered the Roman Academia for study, after his ordination, this went into his diary: “Nativity of Caroline, most lamented.”

After Manning’s own death in 1892, Herbert (later Cardinal) Vaughn related the following to Baron von Hügel:

…this is what happened shortly before his death. I was by his bedside; he looked around to see that we were alone; he fumbled under his pillow for something; he drew out a battered little pocketbook full of a woman’s fine handwriting. He said, ‘For years you have been as a son to me, Herbert. I know not to whom to leave this – I leave it to you. Into this little book my dearest wife wrote her prayers and meditations. Not a day has passed , since her death, on which I have not prayed and meditated from this book. All the good I may have done, all the good I may have been, I owe to her. Take precious care of it.’ He ceased speaking, and soon afterwards unconsciousness came on.

Comments (6)

A lovely meditation to read this morning, especially just after a call from my family (in TX) that my dad may be in his last hours or days. He and Mother have been singing "God will Take Care of Us" together, especially when she has had to leave the nursing home after visiting with him for several hours, and this morning when she arrived around 5:30 after being called in by the staff, he said something to her, of which she caught the words "God cares" . . . How do people face death without hope? Thank God for the people around us who remind us of that hope . . .

Bill, thank you for this beautiful post.

This is a wonderful post, beautifully written. I like the short series on Victorian men you're developing here, Bill. :-)

I have only one mischievous comment to add: Manning would have had a very different life had his dearly loved wife not died, or even if they had lived out a long life together into old age. He would not have been a Cardinal, for example.

Beth, I'm sorry about your dad, and hope you are able to get to him before the end.

Thank you, Steve.

Lydia, that ain't mischievous, just true. Maybe not a Cardinal, but maybe still Catholic. The woman had an influence on him that will require more reading on my part to take the measure of. Here's another interesting fact: Dr. Sargent, Caroline's father, had four daughters. One was married to Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, another to Henry Wilberforce (Newman's friend and later, along with his wife, a convert), and another to George Dudley Ryder (also a Newman friend and convert). Samuel remained Anglican, and a lifelong estrangement obtained between him and his three convert brothers. (Why it had to be that way I don't know.) So that means that one Sargent-daughter remained Anglican, two became Catholic, and one, Caroline, did not (in this life) complete her journey. But I'm wondering if that crucifix over her deathbed (she and Manning were Low Church at the time) pointed in a particular direction. Manning obviously took something from it, but anything more would require a speculation I'm not willing to undertake.

Thanks, Bill. He died about the time we pulled out of the driveway to head for TX, but I had a wonderful visit with him in May, and I am glad Mother did not have to sit with him all night. So I have no argument with the Lord's timing.

I hope you find out more about Caroline Manning and tell us. She sounds like a lovely woman, and one I should, at least the ways we see here, emulate.

Mrs. Impson -- I'm so sorry to hear about that. God be with all of you.

Bill -- thanks for another excellent essay.

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