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I read Grammar of Assent many years ago and really didn't get it, and don't remember much of it now. I should read it again--I think it would be a lot more useful to me now. The Apologia on the other hand I read even longer ago, enjoyed, and still remember pretty well.

This is a fabulous entry to "52 Authors". Thank you. Newman is someone I have always been meaning to read but never gotten around to. Your post should help guide me to the best way of approaching this great Catholic thinker.

Yes, it is a really good piece.

Re the Apologia as "whiny"--I remember thinking that it sounded angry. I think he had reason to be. For some reason these words have stuck with me: "Never meant it? I maintain that I never said it."

Some interesting light on the controversy in this online facsimile of a 1913 edition: https://archive.org/stream/a599543500newmuoft#page/n19/mode/2up

How clear and concise his writing is in that explanation of his use of strong or "sharp" language. If only he'd been able to do that elsewhere, instead of his usual "dense, difficult, and often obtuse, not to mention unnecessarily long-winded" style.

About Vatican II being “Newman’s Council": I saw mention somewhere a few days ago of a 2014 book, Newman on Vatican II by Ian Ker -- has anyone here read it?

Fr. Ian Ker "...is generally regarded as the world's authority on John Henry Newman, on whom he has published more than twenty books." Wow.


I don't really agree with Robert's characterization of Newman's prose. I would describe it rather as complex but clear. At least that's how I remember it. Sometimes I have difficulty with his language which I think was sometimes a bit antique even in its time. For instance, the use of "despond" as a verb (apparently) in the quotation from Idea of a University. I emailed Robert to ask him if that was meant to be "despondent". Apparently not.

For about the 20th time in this 52 Authors series, I really want to go and read (or re-read) something by the author of the week.

Mac, I think some of it is more like what you say and some of it is like what I say. Maybe it also depends on how the I an when I read him.

I thought the point about people turning into Arians when they do not have the created and divinized humanity of Mary to venerate is brilliant. I need to re-read the Essay on Development of Doctrine

Me too, to that point about Arianism.

Robert, my view of Newman's prose is probably somewhat shaped by the fact that I first read him in a literature class, in excerpts that were undoubtedly chosen for the quality of their prose. Also, it's the Apologia that I most remember, and it's probably less dense than the philosophical-theological works.

It had occurred to me that the latria/dulia distinction does have the effect of making you realise how much your worship of God falls short; it hadn't occurred to me that this makes you a semi-Arian, which is a bit worrying. I tend to have a hard time conceiving of latria except as dulia with the volume turned up to 11, but that's simply the definition of hyperdulia. Though writing this comment has forced me to go looking for a definition - per the Catholic Encyclopaedia, "[adoration] formally consists in self-abasement before the Infinite, and in devout recognition of His transcendent excellence", which makes sense. (All hail google! (With the dulia due to created things, of course.))

Regarding "despondent", "-ent/-ant" is a suffix in Old French that turns a verb into an adjective equivalent to the "-ing" participle in English. So if you see it on the end of a word it usually implies a corresponding verb, e.g. "repellent" -> "repel" (note that a verb ending in "-ate" has that ending replaced, e.g. "arrogate/arrogant"); though there are cases where the original verb has gone by the wayside, e.g. "patient". But examples can be multiplied - absorbant, dependent, apparent, effervescent, cromulant, etc.

I don't mind Newman's prose in the Grammar, which I love, but I find it pompous in the Idea of a University, which I find soporific

I'm going to confess that I start getting drowsy when I see words like "latria" and "dulia", and think it's good that we have theologians to worry about such things. But that second paragraph of the two that Robert quotes on the subject is just a killer, as much in style as in substance.

I recognized the use of "despond" as a verb as reasonable, but I don't think I had ever encountered it before. It occurs to me now to wonder if it's meant to be taken as a verb in "Slough of Despond"--the place where one desponds, rather than "Slough of Despondency", which is how I'd always taken it.

By the way, El Gaucho, you're welcome.

I've always loved the phrase "Slough of Respond." If there were nothing else good in PP, that would be worth the price of the book. Of course, the are other good things.



Pilgrim's Progress. That's where the Slough is.


That's the Slough of Despond. The Slough of Respond is where you are when you get so far behind on your correspondence that you just give up.

I've read PP, but don't remember details. I remember phantom tollbooth much more. :)

Oh dear. What an idiot I am.

Anyway, Robert, I remember Phantom Tollbooth better, too, but there are a couple of things in Pilgrim's Progress that have been really helpful to me.


I thought that was probably just auto-correct messing with you again.:-)

You know, it might have been. I can't remember which machine I was using.

If I had my Kindle at work, I would try it and see.


Slough of Respond.

Yep. It was autocorrect.


My introduction to Newman was a very funny essay, in a collection of humorous writing. I've often had the feeling subsequently that his prose is not quite as advertised. I really enjoyed Loss and Gain, though. There are some very funny moments in that.

There are a couple of nicely observed scenes of academic conversation over breakfast. Mentioning the novel now brings to mind how years ago I invited an American student that I'd just met to have breakfast with me the next day, and was baffled by her snapping "No!" (The bafflement makes the occasion memorable.) We never spoke to one another after that. I had no interest in associating with such a boor. I don't know what she thought of me. Only very recently, watching some tedious American comedy show, it struck me that she probably took it for a pick-up line, and that she might not have responded the same way to an invitation to lunch or tea. Then again, she might just have had no manners.

That's rather funny, Paul. If a bit baffling.

I am also laughing at the Slough of Respond, which I hadn't seen 'til now.

When Bill was working at the museum, he asked a new employee if he could sit with her in the breakroom and she told him no. Fairly soon she figured out he was an okay guy, though.


It makes you wonder what people have been through, that they should be unable (or unwilling) to be civil in an ordinary human interaction.

I can't think of any idiosyncratically American slant on meeting for breakfast that would account for the reaction. She must have thought you meant "would you like to spend the night with me?"

But then again she may have just been a boor.

Well yes, that's what I think. But it never occurred to me at the time.

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