John Henry Newman


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The Challenge to Evangelical Religion

Frank M. Turner

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A provocative reappraisal of a pivotal figure, John Henry Newman also offers an important reconsideration of the religious and intellectual history of the nineteenth century.

One of the most controversial religious figures of the nineteenth century, John Henry Newman (1801–1890) began his career as a priest in the Church of England but converted to the Roman Catholic Church in 1845. He became a cardinal in 1879.

Between 1833 and 1845 Newman, now best known for his autobiographical Apologia Pro Vita Sua and The Idea of a University, was the aggressive leader of the Tractarian Movement within Oxford University. Newman, along with John Keble, Richard Hurrell Froude, and E. B. Pusey, launched an uncompromising battle against the dominance of evangelicalism in early Victorian religious life. By 1845 Newman’s radically outspoken views had earned him censure from Oxford authorities and sharp criticism from the English bishops.

Departing from previous interpretations, Turner portrays Newman as a disruptive and confused schismatic conducting a radical religious experiment. Turner demonstrates that Newman’s passage to Rome largely resulted from family quarrels, thwarted university ambitions, the inability to control his followers, and his desire to live in a community of celibate males.

Frank M. Turner is John Hay Whitney Professor of History at Yale University and editor of "Apologia Pro Vita Sua" and Six Other Sermons, published by Yale University Press.

“Frank Turner is one of the leading historians of nineteenth-century Britain and arguably the leading intellectual historian, so expectations for this book run high—and they are not disappointed, for this is his crowning achievement.”—Boyd Hilton, Cambridge University

“Frank Turner’s meticulously researched, brilliantly revisionist book hurls a grenade into Newman studies, convincingly demonstrating that Newman’s obsessive opposition to evangelicalism shaped his entire career and that when Newman attacked liberals and liberalism, he often had evangelicals in mind. Turner’s close reading of the tracts in the context of reviews, Newman’s letters, and other manuscript information reveals a far more complex and more interesting—if not always more appealing—man than appears in the Apologia and the standard biographies. This magisterial work of intellectual archeology forcefully conveys the complexity and conflict of early Victorian religion.”—George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University 

“Turner’s work is the definitive study of Newman as a controversialist in the early years of his career. Based on an exhaustive analysis of Newman’s and his colleagues’ writings throughout the time of the ‘Oxford movement,’ it is a refreshing corrective to Newman’s own later and self-serving account in the Apologia pro vita sua.”—Claude Welch, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Historical Theology, Graduate Theological Union, and author of Yale’s Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century  

“The author presents valuable insight into Newman’s work before his conversion to Catholicism.”—John R. Parnell, Journal of Church and State

"[A] provocative text."—Library Journal

"John Henry Newman remains one of the most puzzling figures of the English nineteenth century, but this book goes a very long way towards teasing out his mystery. . . . [Turner] has drawn the most detailed and magisterial picture of early nineteenth-century English religious life. . . . Frank M. Turner’s book revolutionises Newman studies. . . . It liberates him [Newman] from the stranglehold of ecclesiasticism (a stranglehold whose knots he happily tied himself with his silken fingers) and reveals a believable human psyche."—A. N. Wilson, Literary Review

"Turner has masterfully captured Newman’s faith as it engaged the culture of Victorian England. . . . Turner helps the reader understand how Newman developed his architectonic vision in the context of his family conflicts, personal ambition, resentment of authority, and desire to live in a community of celibate males. This vibrant study is paced with a richness of detail and is a superbly nuanced analysis. Turner’s methodology and attention to detail shows how the history of theology should be done."—Donald J. Dietrich, The European Legacy

“Turner’s account is thorough, well researched, and engaging.”—Frederick D. Aquino, Theology Today

"This book is an extraordinary achievement. . . . [It] contributes greatly to our understanding of an all-too-human Victorian sage."—Jeffrey Cox, Historical Journal

"It is Turner's sort of impassioned, biographical book that makes it possible for us to keep writing about the mind of John Henry Newman."—Paul H. Friesen, The Dalhousie Review

"Newman remains an enigma and Frank M. Turner comes closer than any historian of modern times in putting the pieces together on this brilliant, baffling, contradictory figure. . . . The opening and closing chapters of this engrossing book bear rereading both as excellent examples of the historian's craft, but also for their treatment of complex, frequently shifting evidence. . . . Turner's book is both a powerful and compelling statement about Newman's ideas and development during his formative years, and an indispensable guide to an important chapter in nineteenth-century English history."—Frederick Quinn, Anglican Theological Review

“Frank Turner’s meticulously researched, brilliantly revisionist book hurls a grenade into Newman studies. . . . This magisterial work of intellectual archaeology forcefully conveys the complexity and conflict of early Victorian religion.”—George P. Landow, Brown University

Longlisted for the 2003 British Academy book prize
ISBN: 9780300173093
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
752 pages, 5 7/8 x 9
14 b/w illus.
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