The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

XII. The Oxford Movement

§ 3. Tracts for the Times

The first of the tracts was Newman’s own, Thoughts on the Ministerial Commission, respectfully addressed to the Clergy; and all the early tracts sounded the same notes of stress and danger and appeal. Other writers joined, some of them men of great power, and worthy to be leaders in a great cause; but perhaps in Newman and Froude alone was there the indubitable touch of real genius. Of Froude, those who knew him best said, when he had passed away, before the movement had reached more than its initial stages, that “men with all their health and strength about them might gaze on his attenuated form, struck with a certain awe of wonderment at the brightness of his wit, the intenseness of his mental vision, and the iron strength of his argument.” His Remains (1838 and 1839) show the daring of his spirit, the directness, if narrowness, of his vision and the sympathy with which he appreciated the history of the church’s past. His analysis and summary of the letters of Becket is remarkable for the time at which it was written and has not a few points of enduring value. In 1834, the tract writers were joined by Edward Bouverie Pusey, regius professor of Hebrew since 1828, a scholar of eminence who was already of great weight in the university and the church. Newman said of his accession to the movement that “he was able to give a name, a fame, and a personality to what was without him a sort of mob.” Tract no. 18, Thoughts on the Benefits of the System of Fasting enjoined by our Church was issued with his initials. Isaac Williams, who was with him and Newman when it was agreed that he should contribute, says that the initials were added to show that he was in no way responsible for the other tracts; but the Record newspaper took them as showing his sanction, and the nickname “Puseyite” was soon affixed to all the writers and their friends, and it stuck.

The tracts were now well launched, and those who wrote them were a coherent body, with common aims and something of a common style in English writing: intensely serious, unaffected, without the slightest ornament or rhetoric, but dignified and, in later issues, reflecting in the language the weight and elaboration of the argument. John William Bowden, William Palmer, Arthur Philip Perceval, Isaac Williams were others who added each a distinctive character to the general impression; and the last of these was a genuine poet and the master of a singularly limpid and attractive prose style.