Eminent Victorians


But peace of mind was as far off from him as ever. First the bitter thought came to him that 'in all this Satan tells me I am doing it to be thought mortified and holy'; and then he was obsessed by the still bitterer feelings of ineradicable disappointment and regret. He had lost a great opportunity, and it brought him small comfort to consider that 'in the region of counsels, self-chastisement, humiliation, self-discipline, penance, and of the Cross', he had perhaps done right.

The crisis passed, but it was succeeded by a fiercer one. Manning was taken seriously ill, and became convinced that he might die at any moment. The entries in his Diary grew more elaborate than ever; his remorse for the past, his resolutions for the future, his protestations of submission to the will of God, filled page after page of parallel columns, headings and sub-headings, numbered clauses, and analytical tables. 'How do I feel about Death?' he wrote. 'Certainly great fear:

1. Because of the uncertainty of our state before God. 2. Because of the consciousness-(1) of great sins past, (2) of great sinfulness, (3) of most shallow repentance. What shall I do?'

He decided to mortify himself, to read St Thomas Aquinas, and to make his 'night prayers forty instead of thirty minutes'. He determined during Lent 'to use no pleasant bread (except on Sundays and feasts) such as cake and sweetmeat'; but he added the proviso 'I do not include plain biscuits'. Opposite this entry appears the word 'KEPT'. And yet his backslidings were many.

Looking back over a single week, he was obliged to register 'petulance twice' and 'complacent visions'. He heard his curate being commended for bringing so many souls to God during Lent, and he 'could not bear it'; but the remorse was terrible: 'I abhorred myself on the spot, and looked upward for help.' He made out list upon list of the Almighty's special mercies towards him, and they included his creation, his regeneration, and (No. 5)

'the preservation of my life six times to my knowledge:

(1) In illness at the age of nine. (2) In the water. (3) By a runaway horse at Oxford. (4) By the same. (5) By falling nearly through the ceiling of a church. (6) Again by a fall of a horse.

And I know not how often in shooting, riding, etc.'

At last he became convalescent; but the spiritual experiences of those agitated weeks left an indelible mark upon his mind, and prepared the way for the great change which was to follow.For he had other doubts besides those which held him in torment as to his own salvation; he was in doubt about the whole framework of his faith. Newman's conversion, he found, had meant something more to him than he had first realised. It had seemed to come as a call to the redoubling of his Anglican activities; but supposing, in reality, it were a call towards something very different--towards an abandonment of those activities altogether?

It might be 'a trial', or again it might be a 'leading'; how was he to judge? Already, before his illness, these doubts had begun to take possession of his mind. 'I am conscious to myself,' he wrote in his Diary, 'of an extensively changed feeling towards the Church of Rome ... The Church of England seems to me to be diseased: 1. ORGANICALLY (six sub-headings). 2. FUNCTIONALLY (seven subheadings) ... Wherever it seems healthy, it approximates the system of Rome.' Then thoughts of the Virgin Mary suddenly began to assail him :

'(1) If John the Baptist were sanctified from the womb, how much more the B.V.!

(2) If Enoch and Elijah were exempted from death, why not the B.V. from sin?

(3) It is a strange way of loving the Son to slight the mother!'

The arguments seemed irresistible, and a few weeks later the following entry occurs-- 'Strange thoughts have visited me:

(1) I have felt that the Episcopate of the Church of England is secularised and bound down beyond hope....

(2) I feel as if a light had fallen upon me. My feeling about the Roman Church is not intellectual. I have intellectual difficulties, but the great moral difficulties seem melting.

(3) Something keeps rising and saying, "You will end in the Roman Church".'

He noted altogether twenty-five of these 'strange thoughts'. His mind hovered anxiously round--'(1) The Incarnation, (2) The Real Presence, i.

Regeneration, ii. Eucharist, and (3) The Exaltation of S. M. and Saints.'

His twenty-second strange thought was as follows: 'How do I know where I may be two years hence? Where was Newman five years ago?'

It was significant, but hardly surprising, that, after his illness, Manning should have chosen to recuperate in Rome. He spent several months there, and his Diary during the whole of that period is concerned entirely with detailed descriptions of churches, ceremonies, and relics, and with minute accounts of conversations with priests and nuns. There is not a single reference either to the objects of art or to the antiquities of the place; but another omission was still more remarkable.

Manning had a long interview with Pius IX, and his only record of it is contained in the bald statement: 'Audience today at the Vatican'. Precisely what passed on that occasion never transpired; all that is known is that His Holiness expressed considerable surprise on learning from the Archdeacon that the chalice was used in the Anglican Church in the administration of Communion. 'What!' he exclaimed, is the same chalice made use of by everyone?' 'I remember the pain I felt,' said Manning, long afterwards, 'at seeing how unknown we were to the Vicar of Jesus Christ. It made me feel our isolation.'