The Antagonist Principle

The Antagonist Principle: John Henry Newman and the Paradox of Personality

Lawrence Poston
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
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    The Antagonist Principle
    Book Description:

    The Antagonist Principleis a critical examination of the works and sometimes controversial public career of John Henry Newman (1801-1890), first as an Anglican and then as Victorian England's most famous convert to Roman Catholicism at a time when such a conversion was not only a minority choice but in some quarters a deeply offensive one. Lawrence Poston adopts the idea of personality as his theme, not only in the modern sense of warring elements in one's own temperament and relationships with others but also in a theological sense as a central premise of orthodox Trinitarian Christian doctrine. The principle of "antagonism," in the sense of opposition, Poston argues, activated Newman's imagination while simultaneously setting limits to his achievement, both as a spiritual leader and as a writer. The author draws on a wide variety of biographical, historical, literary, and theological scholarship to provide an "ethical" reading of Newman's texts that seeks to offer a humane and complex portrait.

    Neither a biography nor a revelation of a life, this textual study of Newman's development as a theologian in his published works and private correspondence attempts to resituate him as one of the most combative of the Victorian seekers. Though his spiritual quest took place on the far right of the religious spectrum in Victorian England, it nonetheless allied him with a number of other prominent figures of his generation as distinct from each other as Thomas Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, and Walter Pater. Avoiding both hagiography and iconoclasm, Poston aims to "see Newman whole."

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3634-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Note on Citations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    John henry newman was a divided and at times divisive personality. The self-effacing yet entrancingly powerful preacher at St. Mary’s seems an altogether different person from the combative, zealous partisan of the Tractarian movement. To many former anglicans, he was a turncoat; to some roman Catholics, he was a potential double agent, lukewarm about bringing others over to his newfound communion and still harboring anglican sympathies. writing of Henri Bremond’s classic “psychological biography,” Martin J. Svaglic observed that Bremond’s attempt to “steer a path between the apotheosizers and calumniators of newman” foreshadowed an ongoing division of critical opinion. “Newman continues...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Self and Others
    (pp. 15-38)

    One of the most memorable sections of newman’sApologiais the passage opening with the strangely ominous words “The Long Vacation of 1839 began early” and culminating in his study of the Monophysite heresy.¹ well before 1839, newman, despite his own disavowals, was the acknowledged leader of the Tractarian movement in the Church of england, concerned to reinfuse the establishment with the primitive Catholicity of which it had lost sight since the elizabethan settlement. Thus when newman claims his reading evoked his first doubts of the “tenableness of anglicanism” and, by the end of august, had left him “seriously alarmed,”...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Journey from Evangelicalism
    (pp. 39-62)

    Newman’s life and theological development up to his embarkation on the fateful journey to italy, undertaken in 1832 with Hurrell Froude and his father, archdeacon robert Hurrell Froude, represent a period of expansion in his outlook. His core evangelicalism never left him, but in its contemporary manifestations it was insufficient to sustain him. His early journal entries, with their soul-searching and self-rebuke, would have been familiar to any evangelical of his time, and those traits never deserted him. But at the time of his ordination nearly a decade before, the fuller development of his ecclesiology, his idea of the salvific...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Polarities
    (pp. 63-90)

    Newman had concludedThe Arians of the Fourth Centuryon a note of intermingled hope and anxiety. “And so of the present perils, with which our branch of the Church is beset, as they bear a marked resemblance to those of the fourth century, so are the lessons, which we gain from that ancient time, especially cheering and edifying to Christians of the present day.” Heresy exists now as it did then, but “though the present tyranny [over the Church] has more of insult, it has hitherto had less of scandal, than attended the scandal of arianism.” Rejoicing in the...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Notes of the Church
    (pp. 91-113)

    Newman had committed himself to the creation of a new spirit in the Church of england. The question was whether the Church was capable of sustaining the burden he put on it. was it ready to renounce its connection with the State, should circumstances warrant, or to right what Newman saw as the excesses of the reformation and restore the Catholicity of its doctrine and discipline? For him, the answers to such questions were subject to the test of Personality: what kind of collective personality the establishment of his day exhibited and what justified its assumption of teaching authority.


  10. CHAPTER 5 Anglican Deathbeds
    (pp. 114-136)

    Newman’s Uncertainty as to how to deal with his friends is manifest in the correspondence leading up to his reception by rome. He was not certain how much he could reveal to Keble and Pusey about his true state of mind, or how long he could keep his younger followers in check. His hand was forced by external events during the period 1843–45: the knowledge that william Palmer was about to publish a critical narrative of the Movement, the publication of the memoirs of Joseph Blanco white, and the pending translation of Bishop Bagot from oxford to the see...

  11. CHAPTER 6 “A Deliverance from the Nightmare”
    (pp. 137-157)

    When tony blair announced his decision to join the Roman Catholic Church, the news made scarcely a ripple. Rowan Williams, whose appointment to the see of Canterbury had been effected under Prime Minister Blair, wished him happiness in his new spiritual home; others commented on the joy of seeing husband and wife in the same communion. The slight whiff of an earlier tradition was evident only in Blair’s delaying his decision until after stepping down as head of the government.

    By contrast, Newman’s secession, whether scandalous or welcome news to his contemporaries, was a very much publicized matter. of course,...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Building Community
    (pp. 158-181)

    The search for community—how to define it, how to live in it—was a major preoccupation of Newman’s years between his reception by Rome and the publication of theApologia.Newman’s attraction to the oratorian order and its sixteenth-century founder, St. Philip of Neri, was challenged by the rift between him and his fellow Anglican convert (and also oratorian) Frederick William Faber. But Newman’s preoccupations were not wholly dictated by questions of internal order. in three collections of addresses he gave between 1849 and 1852—Discourses Addressed to Mixed Congregations, Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching Considered,...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Reconstituting the Self
    (pp. 182-208)

    Had newman died at the end of the 1850s, his influence on Victorian culture would have probably waned. outside of religious circles, his reputation would have rested principally on his contributions to educational philosophy and practice. His morale was at a low point during much of the 1850s and early 1860s. He was far from secure in his new communion. at the end of 1859, his article inThe Rambler,“on Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine,” was delated to Rome for heresy because it appeared to give an unduly prominent voice to the laity and parish clergy in...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Oppositions and Resolutions
    (pp. 209-234)

    The decade following the publication of theApologiais marked by one major publication, theEssay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent(1870), and several lesser works—newman’s review of J.R. Seeley’sEcce Homo(1866), his response to Pusey’s Eirenicon, published in the same year, and hisLetter to the Duke of Norfolk(1874)—that represent the consolidation of his particular views on Catholics, Catholicism, and the role of a nonestablished church in a secularizing society. This period also marks some of Newman’s most serious difficulties with the hierarchy, which theApologia,though it had brought him a measure...

  15. Afterword
    (pp. 235-246)

    By the time of his death, Newman’s secession from the Church of england was no longer a serious obstacle to his appreciation by scores of Churchmen and other Protestants as well as his standing as one of the most eminent of Victorians, a respected exponent of his own faith, an intellectual whose spiritual pilgrimage had become a matter of public record and was admired even among those whose reconstruction of faith had taken quite a different path from his. The two most significant events of his later years came from quite different quarters: the award of the first honorary fellowship...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 247-260)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-272)
  18. Index
    (pp. 273-282)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 283-288)