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Newman and His Contemporaries Paperback – April 21, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Edward Short’s Newman and His Contemporaries is that most intellectually satisfying phenomenon; a deeply-researched, beautifully-written and important book that answers all the questions it sets itself, and all that any reader may also ask. The Oxford Movement might not engage many people today, but in Victorian England it was an absolutely revolutionary concept and the author blows pure oxygen onto its almost-dead embers in recreating its crises and controversies. Moreover, the reader doesn’t need to know anything about Tractarianism to enjoy the perceptive and witty essays covering the Cardinal’s relations with such figures as Gladstone, Thackeray, Arnold, Clough and the Froudes.” --Andrew Roberts, BBC History Magazine Books of the Year 2011

“Another Newman book? Well, yes, and a particularly fine one that explores Newman’s relationships with the great ecclesiastical, literary, political, and journalistic figures of his time. Edward Short’s close reading of Newman’s vast correspondence also demonstrates just how many of our post-Vatican II arguments were anticipated in the 19th century among Newman and his interlocutors.”--George Weigel, Christmas Books for 2011

"In this well-researched book, Edward Short shows how Newman, far from being the self-absorbed introvert as some have claimed, had a wide circle of friends who benefited from his extraordinary powers of empathy. Newman and his Contemporaries is a useful introduction to this essential quality of the man and will send readers back not only to Newman's published works but to his wonderful letters."--Ian Ker, author of John Henry Newman: A Biography (1988)

"Newman and his Contemporaries is a charming blend of erudition, lively commentary and judicious selection of sources. Eavesdropping on heart-to-heart conversations with novelists and social critics, politicians and journalists, scientists and clergymen, Edward Short has succeeded in bringing alive some of Newman's most engaging correspondence and setting it within its proper historical framework. The Newman that emerges from this study confronts the modern reader on the burning issues of the times - both his times and ours - and captivates us by his subtlety of mind, his exquisite prose style and his genius for friendship." --Paul Shrimpton, Magdalen College School (Oxford), and author of A Catholic Eton? Newman's Oratory School (2005)

"Newman and His Contemporaries is like a Victorian Dance to the Music of Time, except the characters are all real historical figures. Social historians, Spectator readers, literate people in general, young BXVI generation Catholics and those old enough to finish the sentence Introibo ad Altare Dei....will love it. This is a book to be taken on a summer holiday and read under a palm tree with a gin and tonic. Social histories can be boring and sag in the middle, but this one isn't. It's a soufflé that doesn't flop."--Tracey Rowland, Dean and Professor of Political Philosophy and Continental Theology at the John Paul II Institute (Melbourne) and author of Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI

"Newman and his Contemporaries sets out to place Newman in context and in dialogue with a range of his contemporaries. Newman famously said that ‘a man’s life is in his letters.’ The 30 or so volumes of Newman’s Letters and Diaries provide a significant quarry for Short’s exploration… In its rich citations from Newman’s correspondence "Newman and his Contemporaries" reminds us of Newman’s skill as a pastoral theologian and theological apologist… Newman saw that there were hard questions for Anglicans to answer, with which we need to continue to wrestle—about authority, about the right discernment of development, and, fundamentally, about the nature of the Church. If this book provokes us to do this, then it will have achieved one of its purposes.” --Geoffrey Rowell, Church Times

Newman and His Contemporaries “is the best study of Newman since Ian Ker’s magisterial biography. It complements the latter work by showing Newman through the eyes of his contemporaries, from the perspective of his relations with them… The text of every chapter is chock full of engaging anecdotes and witty commentary. We are introduced to a panorama of life among an educated class of English-speaking people for whom religion was a matter of passionate concern. Best of all, this book introduces us to a type of holiness that manifests itself uniquely in the form of friendship.” --Carleton P. Jones, OP, First Things

“Edward Short puts us in contact with Newman's opinions and decisions, but does so via a well-chosen selection of his contemporaries. The result is a fresh reading of, and insight into, the dramatic character of Blessed John Henry Newman's eventful, even iconic, life. . . . Newman and His Contemporaries can be highly recommended to both Newman specialists and Newman beginners.” -–Thomas Norris, author of Newman for Today

“This formidably researched and carefully organized book provides a valuable approach to a much-covered subject from a novel angle… The author skillfully moves… from John Keble, Edward Pusey, the family of Hurrell Froude (who died in his thirties)… [to] Wellington, Peel, Melbourne, Palmerston, Disraeli, and Gladstone, almost 60 years of prime ministers… It is interesting to read of the Duke of Wellington, not someone I ever thought was much exercised about theological fineries… accusing the ‘shopkeepers’ whom he considered the beneficiaries of the First Reform Act, of being "Socinians and atheists." Then, again, here Charlotte Bronte describes… the rather bonhomous… Cardinal Wiseman [as] ‘swimming into the room, smiling, simpering, and bowing like a fat old lady... the picture of a sleek hypocrite.’ When the Iron Duke is roaring about Socinians and a Bronte is raving like this, the glories of the Victorian era were not as august and tranquil as is generally thought… This is a very rigorous and readable account of the personal impact of one of modern England's greatest intellectuals on a fascinating range of his contemporaries, and… a valuable addition to the Newman literature.” --Conrad Black, The Catholic Herald

“This book... with its rich cast-list and broad sweep, will be a valued addition to the libraries not only of the Newmaniacs but of anyone who takes the 19th century seriously and who wishes to explore its often alien ideas and characters." -–A. N. Wilson, The Spectator

"Newman and His Contemporaries offers a fresh voice to the field by . . . looking at the impact that Blessed Newman had upon a number of his contemporaries. . . . Perhaps most impressively, Short demonstrates an intimate familiarity with the relevant literature, navigating with ease both Newman's writings as well as the published works and personal correspondence of Newman's interlocutors. . . . His prose is exceedingly readable. . . . Overall, I found Short's monograph to be both impressive and also accessible.” -–Ryan Marr, Saint Louis University

“Novelists, social critics, politicians and journalists, scientists and clergymen are all well-represented... The numerous photographs which illustrate the book help to bring its many characters to life. Highly recommended!”--Newsletter of the Friends of Cardinal Newman

"Edward Short’s Newman and His Contemporaries reminds us what a central figure Cardinal Newman was to Victorian intellectual and cultural life, whose relations with Gladstone, Thackeray, Matthew Arnold, his American friends, and many others are told with scholarship and wit in this highly engaging book."--Newsweek/Daily Beast Writers' Favorite Books of 2011

"For those minded to observe the Christmas season on an ecclesiastical note, I recommend Edward Short’s Newman and His Contemporaries, a familiar subject approached from a new angle. Newman’s relations with his Tractarian allies as an Anglican and after his reception as a Roman Catholic roll quite effortlessly into his relations with what he called “the talent of the day.” The fear that the British Victorian gentry and aristocracy had of the intellectual seduction of Rome, especially when the temptation was limned out by Newman in all his rigor, brilliance, charm, and articulation, is very striking. Newman’s reflections on 60 years of British prime ministers, from Peel and Melbourne to Disraeli and Salisbury, are also fascinating."  --Christmas Books, The American Spectator

"Edward Short's fine book is closely argued, well researched, and very readable." --Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal.

"Edward Short has both an in-depth knowledge of Newman's life and thought, as well as an enviable familiarity with the writings of many of Newman's contemporaries... The wide-ranging discussions in this book are both fascinating and thought-provoking." --The Catholic Historical Review

"Short has limited his field of reference to the Victorian intellectual world... but within that world he moves with great facility and aplomb, drawing out the remarkable--and remarkably complicated--strands of friendship that made the fabric of John Henry Newman's long nineteenth-century life... Thus, Newman and his Contemporaries successfully returns one of the great ninetenth-century public intellectuals to his natural habitat... Thank goodness, then, for Edward Short's work. Victorianists and scholars of late-modern religion and culture will enjoy every page of Newman and his Contemporaries." --Dwight A. Lindley, III, Christianity and Literature

"...interesting and massive.... Admirers of Ian Ker's John Henry Newman: A Biography should find Short's book a useful complement to that study. Despite its 403 pages of dense small print, the main text reads easily and is full of rich material from Newman's Letters and Diaries and many other sources. It illuminates well-known contemporaries of Newman and helpfully introduces others who are less well-known... an excellent book which belongs in every serious library." --Walter E. Conn, Villanova University, Horizons

Newman and his Contemporaries "includes an excellent 'Select Bibliographical Index,' which briefly identifies hundreds of historical figures with whom Newman interacted. Over a hundred pages of notes complete this very well written work. The book is delightfully readable... Short's book deserves a place in all academic libraries as well as personal and parish collections." --Arnold Rzepecki, Catholic Library World

“One of the greatest merits of this book (in addition to the author’s lively style) is Short’s extensive use of Newman’s correspondence, a voluminous collection of letters that would otherwise remain largely unknown except to dedicated researchers... Short allows the sources to speak for themselves and he presents them in a wonderfully readable and even entertaining fashion while managing, at the same time, to introduce his readers to the essential elements of Newman’s theology... Eminently readable and enlightening.” –  Terrence Merrigan, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, Recusant History

"It is a joy to hear Newman’s characteristic voice speaking through such a mass of adroitly chosen quotations and contextual material from a wide range of writings by other great Victorians, in a work which is easily and agreeably written and a pleasure to read. ....there is much here to value in this sympathetic and enlightening account of Newman and his world." -- Sheridan Gilley, Victorian Studies

"As a seminarian, I found Newman and his Contemporaries to be a formative read.  Throughout the book, Newman is revealed to have been a concerned pastor, sharing with his flock the heart of the Good Shepherd, who cares for his sheep... He desired to serve God at all times and with all of the gifts that God had bestowed on him... I recommend Newman and his Contemporaries to fellow seminarians and priests especially, as well as to all who desire to get to know Newman for the first time or to deepen their knowledge of him." -Brother Luke J. Leighton, C.F.R. Dunwoodie Review

"Edward Short shows how Newman engaged the literary and theological
culture of his time. He offers chapters on Newman's extended encounters with two high-church Anglicans whom he failed to bring over to Rome, John Keble and Edward Pusey; with several eminent Victorian women who sought his counsel, including Emily Bowles, Lady Chatterton and Catherine Ward; with such leading literary lights as Matthew Arnold, William Makepeace Thackeray and Arthur Hugh Clough; as well as with one of Britain's most notable prime ministers, William Gladstone."
--Ralph C. Wood, Christian Century

About the Author

Edward Short writes frequently for a number of magazines and journals on history, literature, religion and the arts. He is married and lives in New York.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury T&T Clark; 1 edition (April 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0567026892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0567026897
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,107,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As someone who has read about Newman and read the works of Newman for years, I really appreciated Edward Short's overall technique in writing this book. Newman's letters are such a great source of information about events in his life and his character, and Short references them throughout the text. Each chapter also contains excellent sketches of each contemporary which include details about his or her family life, emotional struggles, and achievements. The main distinction of the book for me, however, was the shift in context when Short describes the great events of Newman's life, like the Oxford Movement, his conversion to Catholicism, his troubles as a Catholic, etc and his most important works, like the "Apologia pro Vita Sua", "The Letter to the Duke of Norfolk", "The Grammar of Assent", "The Idea of a University", etc. Instead of a straightforward survey of these works, Short places them in the context of Newman's relationships with his contemporaries. Thereby, while discussing William Gladstone's High Church Anglican sympathies with the Oxford Movement, Short explores reaction to Newman's Catholic conversion in 1845. In that same chapter, Gladstone's violent response to the declaration of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council in 1870 sets up Newman's great public reply and his private reactions.

Among the most poignant of the chapters are the first three, which review Newman's great friendships with Keble and Pusey, who stayed in the Church of England after his "defection" and struggled to maintain the purpose and goals of the Tractarian Movement. The chapters on his contacts with Richard Holt Hutton, Matthew Arnold, and Arthur Hugh Clough are each fascinating, as all three men fell under Newman's influence in some way, but responded so differently to it.
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For those who appreciate Newman's monumental affect on church and intellectual history this book is must reading.Newman did not live in a monastery or a sacristy.His dramatic life was interwoven with some of the greatest luminaries of the 19th century.I loved this book.
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I gave two stars to Short's book on Newman and his Family, and you can go there if you want to see examples of the problems I'm talking about here. Short knows a lot about Newman and a lot about his contemporaries, but he doesn't write smoothly or clearly, can't stick to his topics, and can't resist taking potshots at anyone who disagrees with Newman.

Particularly evident in this book is what I'd call "apophatic biography"--pages spent on telling us what other people thought that Newman didn't think. I get the idea of comparing and contrasting, but what we end up with is a lot of quotations from Newman's contemporaries and a lot of quotations from Newman without nearly enough to show how they influenced each other.
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