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victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 156 John Henry Newman:The Challenge to Evangelical Religion by Frank M.Turner; pp. 740. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. $43.50 cloth. This vast tome of a book is far more than a biography or even a fashionable “cultural biography.” Turner’s John Henry Newman at once traces Newman’s life up to his conversion and provides an encyclopedic history of Christianity in England from the 1820s through the 1840s. Turner gives us a great deal of background—of evangelicalism,Tractarianism, and their major proponents —even before we get to Newman himself, which we do after over 100 pages. His examination of Newman’s writings, his responses to them, and the complete set (with revisions) of ninety tracts is a spectacular work of scholarship:Turner has gone back to the pamphlets, the letters and diaries of the period, the Melbourne Papers, and the archives of Oriel House (to name only a few collections and sources). He revises our view of nineteenth-century religion—and of Newman—in brave, interesting ways. Turner shows that the Apologia, long taken at face value as an authentic representation of the development of Newman’s religious opinions, is a manipulated, revisionist, and manifestly untrue account.The Apologia transformed Newman into a kindly Victorian sage just as he was experiencing great hostility from English Catholics.Though the Apologia pretends to be an honest rendering of his life, the evidence shows that it is not.Turner calls it “a dazzling autobiographical creation…. In its pages the ecclesiastical tumult of the Reform Act years, the interdenominational religious struggles of the 1830s and 1840s, and the simultaneous venomous internal debates over the future of the Church of England stand transformed into events within the universal battles between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, faith and doubt, religion and secular liberalism, as well as road marks on Newman’s own journey of religious discovery ” (6).The enemies of the early part of his life are presented as liberals, and Newman as having ever fought a just battle against the liberalizing temperament. But asTurner sets the account, Newman’s real enemies during his time as an Anglican were the members of evangelical wing of the Established Church.As a strategy for recasting his reputation, the Apologia worked. It enabled Newman to revise his Anglican sermons and publish them with success. Turner examines the original documents of the religious positions of Newman and his colleagues; they left quite a paper trail in their zealous and unsparing Tracts for the Times. Tractarianism began as a response to the Irish Temporalities Act, which proposed to disestablish the Irish Protestant bishoprics imposed on its Catholic population.Tractarianism was an intemperate and deliberately alarmist response not only to the reforms proposed by the bill, but also to the presence of dissenters in Parliament, as the Dissenters and the evangelical wing of the Church backed disestablishment. Evangelicalism as a tendency had been around since the eighteenth century, but it was revived and 157 Reviews made a real political force in the early nineteenth century, with a new interest in the end of the world and in interpreting Biblical prophecy. Tractarianism was a deliberate attempt to fight against evangelicalism and its influence in the Church of England. Its notables included John Keble, Richard Hurrell Froude, Edward Pusey, and Newman himself. Keble was particularly interested in reviving the power of the clergy against secular and individual authority, and he advocated a return to practices abandoned since the Reformation, particularly confession. UnderTurner’s lens, theTractarians come off not so much as devout reformers, but as self-hating men who used their religious beliefs to spread that hate around. Froude was particularly interested in fasting and physical punishment; as Turner says, “the reasons for [his] self-abasements … appear to have a sexual component” (81). The religious austerities Pusey enforced on his family make frightening reading: “On one occasion when her daughter Mary encountered difficulty with her spelling lessons, Mrs. Pusey wrote her husband,‘Mary has been whipped four times today, and tied to the bedpost all day, and seems as proud as the wicked spirit could wish’” (105). In a chapter entitled“What...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 156-159
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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