Newman and His Contemporaries: a Book Signing by Edward Short

February 15, 2012

On Thursday, February 16th at 7:30pm Edward Short will be doing a special book signing of Newman and His Contemporaries at Pauline Books and Media on 64 West 38th Street in New York City. Fr. Carlton Jones, O.P., wrote the following review in First Things: “A man’s life is in his letters,” John Henry Newman once wrote to his sister Jemima. In his biography, Edward Short mines Newman’s marvelous letters to “show that what animated his life was not only love of God but love of neighbor.” Newman’s circle of friends was wide indeed: it included his clerical collaborators in the Oxford Movement; prominent political and literary figures such as Prime Minister William Gladstone, W. M. Thackeray, and Spectator editor R. H. Hutton; assorted Americans, including Orestes Brownson and James Cardinal Gibbons; and several remarkable women, among them Mrs. Wooten, his close collaborator as matron of the Birmingham Oratory School, and Lady Lothian, the eminent philanthropist. Many of his correspondents did not share Newman’s Catholic faith; it was his person that attracted them: his intelligence, integrity, and sympathy, which enabled Newman to explain and defend his faith without resorting to conventional arguments. As the skeptical critic Matthew Arnold wrote to him in 1871, “Nothing can ever do away with the effect you have produced upon me, for it consists in a general disposition of mind rather than a particular set of ideas.” This book is the best study of Newman since Ian Ker’s magisterial biography, and it complements the latter work by showing Newman through the eyes of his contemporaries. Short’s heavy volume may seem forbidding to non-specialist readers, but his style is informal, fluid, and free of pedantry. The text is full of engaging anecdotes and witty commentary. We are introduced to a panorama of life among an educated class of English-speaking people for whom religion was a matter of passionate concern. Best of all, this book introduces us to a type of holiness that manifests itself uniquely in the form of friendship. Extracts from other Reviews “Edward Short’s Newman and His Contemporaries is that most intellectually satisfying phenomenon; a deeply-researched, beautifully-written and important book that answers all the questions it sets itself, and all that any reader may also ask. The Oxford Movement might not engage many people today, but in Victorian England it was an absolutely revolutionary concept and the author blows pure oxygen onto its almost-dead embers in recreating its crises and controversies. Moreover, the reader doesn’t need to know anything about Tractarianism to enjoy the perceptive and witty essays covering the Cardinal’s relations with such figures as Gladstone, Thackeray, Arnold, Clough and the Froudes.”   –Andrew Roberts, BBC History Magazine Books of the Year 2011 “Another Newman book? Well, yes, and a particularly fine one that explores Newman’s relationships with the great ecclesiastical, literary, political, and journalistic figures of his time. Edward Short’s close reading of Newman’s vast correspondence also demonstrates just how many of our post-Vatican II arguments were anticipated in the 19th century among Newman and his interlocutors.”   –George Weigel, Christmas Books for 2011   “Newman and his Contemporaries sets out to place Newman in context and in dialogue with a range of his contemporaries. Newman famously said that ‘a man’s life is in his letters.’ The 30 or so volumes of Newman’s Letters and Diaries provide a significant quarry for Short’s exploration… In its rich citations from Newman’s correspondence “Newman and his Contemporaries” reminds us of Newman’s skill as a pastoral theologian and theological apologist… Newman saw that there were hard questions for Anglicans to answer, with which we need to continue to wrestle—about authority, about the right discernment of development, and, fundamentally, about the nature of the Church. If this book provokes us to do this, then it will have achieved one of its purposes.” –Geoffrey Rowell, Church Times   “This book… with its rich cast-list and broad sweep, will be a valued addition to the libraries not only of the Newmaniacs but of anyone who takes the 19th century seriously and who wishes to explore its often alien ideas and characters.’ – A. N. Wilson, The Spectator   “Edward Short puts us in contact with Newman’s opinions and decisions, but does so via a well-chosen selection of his contemporaries. The result is a fresh reading of, and insight into, the dramatic character of Blessed John Henry Newman’s eventful, even iconic, life. . . . Newman and His Contemporaries can be highly recommended to both Newman specialists and Newman beginners.” – Thomas Norris, author of Newman for Today “This formidably researched and carefully organized book provides a valuable approach to a much-covered subject from a novel angle… The author skilfully moves… from John Keble, Edward Pusey, the family of Hurrell Froude (who died in his thirties)… [to] Wellington, Peel, Melbourne, Palmerston, Disraeli, and Gladstone, almost 60 years of prime ministers… It is interesting to read of the Duke of Wellington, not someone I ever thought was much exercised about theological fineries… accusing the ‘shopkeepers’ whom he considered the beneficiaries of the First Reform Act, of being “Socinians and atheists.” Then, again, here Charlotte Bronte describes… the rather bonhomous… Cardinal Wiseman [as] ‘swimming into the room, smiling, simpering, and bowing like a fat old lady… the picture of a sleek hypocrite.’ When the Iron Duke is roaring about Socinians and a Bronte is raving like this, the glories of the Victorian era were not as august and tranquil as is generally thought… This is a very rigorous and readable account of the personal impact of one of modern England’s greatest intellectuals on a fascinating range of his contemporaries, and… a valuable addition to the Newman literature.” – Conrad Black, The Catholic Herald “Novelists, social critics, politicians and journalists, scientists and clergymen are all well-represented… The numerous photographs which illustrate the book help to bring its many characters to life. Highly recommended!” – Newsletter of the Friends of Cardinal Newman

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