Monday, September 17, 2007

A Newmanist Breakfast

[Arthur Hugh Clough to J. P. Gell, Esq.]

Oxford: 1838

We have been up here just a month and a day, enjoying for the last week of it most glorious weather, greatly to the increase of hunting and boating, and to the decrease of reading. Among other incidents I have had the pleasure of twice meeting the heresiarch αυτοτατος, namely, John Henry Newman, once at a dinner-party, and once at a small and select breakfast. I was introduced, and had the honour of drinking wine with him; on the strength of all which of course, as is one’s bounden duty, I must turn Newmanist. As a first step in which process, I should rebuke you for the heresy of your last letter, dated (more shame to me) Nov. 22. I hoped very much you would come here after your degree was done, but if you continue to rest on Milton’s Christian Doctrines for one leg, and Calvin’s Institutes for the other, I recommend you to walk away on them as fast as you can from this seat and citadel of orthodoxy. It is difficult here even to obtain assent to Milton’s greatness as a poet; quite impossible, I should think, if you are unable to say that you ‘do not know anything about his prose writings.’ Also you must be ready to give up that ‘irreverent’ third book. Were it not for the happy notion that a man’s poetry is not at all affected by his opinions or indeed character and mind altogether, I fear the ‘Paradise Lost’ would be utterly unsaleable, except for waste paper, in the University. . . .

-from Poems and Prose Remains of Arthur Hugh Clough with a Selection from his Letters and a Memoir edited by his wife (London-2 vols.)

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