Lytton Strachey (1880–1932). Eminent Victorians. 1918Cardinal Manning
Leo XIII. was elected, and there was a great change in the policy of the Vatican. Liberalism became the order of the day. And now at last the opportunity seemed ripe for an act which, in the opinion of the majority of English Catholics, had long been due—the bestowal of some mark of recognition from the Holy See upon the labours and the sanctity of Father Newman. It was felt that a Cardinal’s hat was the one fitting reward for such a life, and accordingly the Duke of Norfolk, representing the Catholic laity of England, visited Manning, and suggested that he should forward the proposal to the Vatican. Manning agreed, and then there followed a curious series of incidents—the last encounter in the jarring lives of those two men. A letter was drawn up by Manning for the eye of the Pope, embodying the Duke of Norfolk’s proposal; but there was an unaccountable delay in the transmission of this letter; months passed, and it had not reached the Holy Father. The whole matter would, perhaps, have dropped out of sight and been forgotten, in a way which had become customary when honours for Newman were concerned, had not the Duke of Norfolk himself, when he was next in Rome, ventured to recommend to Leo XIII. that Dr. Newman should be made a Cardinal. His Holiness welcomed the proposal; but, he said, he could do nothing until he knew the views of Cardinal Manning. Thereupon the Duke of Norfolk wrote to Manning, explaining what had occurred; shortly afterwards Manning’s letter of recommendation, after a delay of six months, reached the Pope, and the offer of a Cardinalate was immediately dispatched to Newman.
But the affair was not yet over. The offer had been made; would it be accepted? There was one difficulty in the way. Newman was now an infirm old man of seventy-eight; and it is a rule that all Cardinals who are not also diocesan Bishops or Archbishops reside, as a matter of course, at Rome. The change would have been impossible for one of his years—for one, too, whose whole life was now bound up with the Oratory at Birmingham. But, of course, there was nothing to prevent His Holiness from making an exception in Newman’s case, and allowing him to end his days in England. Yet how was Newman himself to suggest this? The offer of the Hat had come to him as an almost miraculous token of renewed confidence, of ultimate reconciliation. The old, long, bitter estrangement was ended at last. “The cloud is lifted from me for ever!” he exclaimed when the news reached him. It would be melancholy indeed if the cup were now to be once more dashed from his lips and he were obliged to refuse the signal honour. In his perplexity he went to the Bishop of Birmingham, and explained the whole situation. The Bishop assured him that all would be well; that he himself would communicate with the authorities, and put the facts of the case before them. Accordingly, while Newman wrote formally refusing the Hat, on the ground of his unwillingness to leave the Oratory, the Bishop wrote two letters to Manning, one official and one private, in which the following passages occurred:—
And in his private letter the Bishop said:
These two letters, together with Newman’s refusal, reached Manning as he was on the point of starting for Rome. After he had left England, the following statement appeared in the Times:—
“Pope Leo XIII. has intimated his desire to raise Dr. Newman to the rank of Cardinal, but with expressions of deep respect for the Holy See, Dr. Newman has excused himself from accepting the Purple.”
When Newman’s eyes fell upon this announcement, he realised at once that a secret and powerful force was working against him. He trembled, as he had so often trembled before; and certainly the danger was not imaginary. In the ordinary course of things, how could such a paragraph have been inserted without his authority? And consequently, did it not convey to the world, not only an absolute refusal which he had never intended, but a wish on his part to emphasise publicly his rejection of the proffered honour? Did it not imply that he had lightly declined a proposal for which in reality he was deeply thankful? And when the fatal paragraph was read in Rome, might it not actually lead to the offer of the Cardinalate being finally withheld?
In great agitation, Newman appealed to the Duke of Norfolk.
Of course it implies that an offer has been made me, and I have sent an answer to it. Now I have ever understood that it is a point of propriety and honour to consider such communications sacred. This statement therefore cannot come from me. Nor could it come from Rome, for it was made public before my answer got to Rome.
It could only come, then, from someone who not only read my letter, but, instead of leaving to the Pope to interpret it, took upon himself to put an interpretation upon it, and published that interpretation to the world.
A private letter, addressed to Roman Authorities, is interpreted on its way and published in the English papers. How is it possible that any one can have done this?
The crushing indictment pointed straight at Manning. And it was true. Manning had done the impossible deed. Knowing what he did, with the Bishop of Birmingham’s two letters in his pocket, he had put it about that Newman had refused the Hat. But a change had come over the spirit of the Holy See. Things were not as they had once been: Monsignor Talbot was at Passy, and Pio Nono was—where? The Duke of Norfolk intervened once again; Manning was profuse in his apologies for having misunderstood Newman’s intentions, and hurried to the Pope to rectify the error. Without hesitation, the Sovereign Pontiff relaxed the rule of Roman residence, and Newman became a Cardinal.
He lived to enjoy his glory for more than ten years. Since he rarely left the Oratory, and since Manning never visited Birmingham, the two Cardinals met only once or twice. After one of these occasions, on returning to the Oratory, Cardinal Newman said, “What do you think Cardinal Manning did to me? He kissed me!”
On Newman’s death, Manning delivered a funeral oration, which opened thus:—
When these tidings came to me, my first thought was this, in what way can I, once more, show my love and veneration for my brother and friend of more than sixty years?
In private, however, the surviving Cardinal’s tone was apt to be more … direct. “Poor Newman!” he once exclaimed in a moment of genial expansion. “Poor Newman! He was a great hater!”