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Newman and his Family Paperback – October 24, 2013
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As in his first book, Edward Short artfully portrays here the personal influences that formed the character and mind of John Henry Newman. Where Newman and His Contemporaries successfully re-positioned the man among a constellation of his cultural and literary fellows, Newman and His Family charts out the shifting angles and dimensions of a tighter, more powerful ring of influences around the Victorian sage: his father, mother, brothers, sisters, and nephew. Again, Short's well-wrought chapters, with their characteristic grace, aplomb, and light-borne wit, bring a much-wanted human richness to our understanding of a man we are only beginning to know.
-- Dwight Lindley, Assistant Professor of English, Hillsdale College, USA
Newman and his Family is a psychological and spiritual voyage around the great Cardinal in the often fraught context of his familial relationships, which will be fascinating equally to Catholics, other faiths and unbelievers. Newman himself said that there was nothing more interesting than the ten thousand little details and complications of daily life and family history. With the wisdom of empathy, Edward Short's gift is to let us hear Newman speak in his own voice, so distant from our own times and yet still so immediate. In this meticulously researched and lovingly written book, Newman has found his ideal biographer.
-- Angela Thirlwell, Author of 'William and Lucy: the other Rossettis' and 'Into the Frame: the four loves of Ford Madox Brown'
'Newman and his Family is one of the most remarkable books I have read in many years. For newcomers it presents Newman from within, as he really was. For those already familiar with Newman's writings, Edward Short brings informed, refreshing, always original, and sometimes provocative insight into the greatest English religious figure of his time and ours. Here is Newman as understood by, and not understood by his family--and what a family! This often gripping book deserves to find a wide readership. I suspect it will become a classic.
-- Dermot Fenlon, The Birmingham Oratory, UK
Edward Short's Newman and his Family is "a work of great sympathetic insight, intelligent reading and wide-ranging imagination which I would recommend unreservedly to all Newman scholars... masterly..."
Edward Short's Newman and his Family is "learned, delightful and fascinating."
"Meticulously researched and elegantly written, Edward Short’s book is a volume worthy of a man who in a long life (1801-1890) played with distinction many parts – priest, educator, theologian, philosopher, apologist, preacher, novelist, poet, satirist, sage, friend and likely saint... I heartily recommend this work...”
--The Catholic Leader, Brisbane, Australia
"… an important, fascinating, and well-researched exploration of the family context and influence on Newman’s life and thought.”
--Geoffrey Rowell, The Church Times
“Edward Short has written an elegant and erudite book, showing how Newman struggled in his thought to respond to his relatives’ views whilst answering ‘the call of charity’… It will benefit any level of university student or intelligent layperson who reads it.”
--Christopher Villiers, The Theological Review
Newman and his Family "is excellent, at once scholarly and moving. It gives deep and original insights into a man and a family whose tragedies and tensions were emblematic of their age. This is a volume which does not simply enrich our understanding of Newman; it brings a human note to the larger religious and political dramas of Victorian England and thus to the background of our present age. One can hardly wait for the third volume to see what Short will make of the critics, especially the unfortunate Charles Kingsley, doomed to be forever remembered as the immediate cause of Newman’s finest literary hour."
-- Carl Trueman, First Things
"Short devotes a chapter to Newman’s father and mother, and one to each of the siblings. He adds another, crucially important chapter, on Newman’s correspondence with his nephew, John Rickards Mozley, eldest son of his sister Jemima. For the most part, the chapters draw from the letters exchanged between Newman and the person in question. But Short, the author of a fine volume entitled Newman and His Contemporaries, also provides ample excurses on other writings of Newman, as well as representative figures of Victorian England. ...Edward Short’s superb knowledge of 19th century English literature and history illumines his presentation. ...Of all the members of the family, undoubtedly the one closest to Newman’s heart was his mother, Jemima Fourdrinier, of Huguenot heritage. Short writes: 'Newman had a deep bond with his mother—one forged in heartbreak and loss, as well as love and affection—and it showed him not only the vanity of human wishes but the wisdom of empathy.' That 'empathy' is apparent in the letters Newman exchanged, not only with family, but with countless men and women over the course of his long and fruitful life. Empathy also marks Edward Short’s wise study."
-- Robert P. Imbelli, America Magazine
"...a fine, far-ranging analysis of Newman and his family."
--J. Dickinson, Choice
“This eminently readable and empathetic volume is an insightful addition to the growing literature on Newman and his milieu.”
--Kathryn R. Barush, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, Theological Studies
"The rift between Newman and his brothers and sisters and their families, all of whom remained outside the household of the Faith, remained a constant wound; a painful and mysteriously providential reminder to him of the anguish endured by many. Inspired by the letters of the saints of the earliest centuries, Newman's own loving letters to his family, drawn upon in this absorbing book, allowed him constantly to rejuvenate his mission, of cutting his way, as William Lockhart observed, through the tangled forest that had grown up between the insular Christianity of England and Catholic Christendom."
Madeleine Beard, author of Faith and Fortune
In Newman and his Family, Edward Short "provides a feast of selections both from Newman (many from his uncollected works), his family's letters, letters from acquaintances, as well as testimonies from contemporary authors and prominent personalities, retrieved and positioned in the best possible spot... What emerges is the reason for Newman's early success and the consternation, dread and panic in his fellow Anglicans at his eventual conversion. For Newman was the soul of his age, the attentive and wise curate who knew and could express each man's soul better than he could himself."
--Patrick Madigan, Heythrop Journal
In Newman and his Family, “Edward Short has done an excellent job of presenting Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman as a deeply loving man. I recommend this book to all…” Sr. Mary Jeremiah, OP, Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly.
From the Back Cover
"So few great men shine in their slippers. Newman was a fascinating exception. To appreciate the great caritas of the man we have to see him in the context of his family, where the exercise of caritas was most difficult" --Edward Short, Catholic Weekly
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I should have hesitated longer. Before I get to the negatives, though, I will give credit where it's due: If the rest of the book had been like the chapter on Frank Newman, this would have been at least a three-star review and maybe a four. As it is, that chapter saved this from being a one-star review.
What's wrong with this book? It's just badly written and unfocused. The author obviously knows a lot about Newman and about Victorian life in general--he just can't put it on paper well, and he can't decide what to leave in and to leave out.
1) Preoccupation with irrelevancies: At location 1947 (I'm working from the Kindle edition), Short tells us that Newman enrolled in Lincoln's Inn to study law in 1819. He then adds: "(Gladstone enrolled in 1833.)" So what? Gladstone was a topic of Short's previous book (also badly written). Mentioning him here adds nothing.
2) Cheap shots at people who don't agree with Newman. From location 2115: "If Newman rarely spoke ill of the Irish, Carlyle, like many of the Victorian English, rarely spoke well of them." Carlyle hadn't been mentioned in pages (see problem #1), and there was no reason to drag him in here either. Another example, from location 3253: "Lord Acton, whose dubious reputation for learning is only matched by his dubious judgment...."
3) Telling us what Newman didn't agree with. That's where the first quotation in #2 comes from, and too much of the book is like this: "See this Victorian English writer? Here's what he thought about the topic. Newman didn't think that way." Repeat, for page after page.
4) Speaking of repeating, there is an extensive quotation from Dean Church at location 582. This quotation is repeated with only the first line omitted at location 3273. And there's a quotation from one of Newman's letters at location 4394. This quotation is repeated with a preceding line added at location 4895.
5) Walter Mayers was the schoolmaster who first brought Newman to faith in God. When the author chose to describe his untimely death as "handing in his lunch pail," I quit reading. Enough is enough.
And so it is enough for this review. I could give more examples or point out more problems more, but I won't waste my time or yours. I suggest that you not waste your money on this book either.
In "Newman and His Family", Short provides even deeper insights into Newman as son and brother: easing his parents' burdens when his father's banking business goes bankrupt and then his brewery business fails; loving and supporting his widowed mother; helping each of his brothers, Charles and Frank, in very practical ways with education, housing, and jobs; mourning his sister Mary who died so young and regretting that she might not have known just how much he loved her; bearing the slights of his sisters Harriet and Jemina after his conversion; corresponding with his nephew John Mozley with both rigor and compassion--and finding another family nest (the Oratorian "nido") in the Catholic Church. For faithful Catholics with family members who have fallen away, Blessed John Henry Newman is a great patron, providing us with an example of faithfulness and love. Short, with wonderful excerpts from Newman's letters, sermons, and other works, has revealed another side of this holy man. Required reading for not only Newman scholars, but Newman devotees.
Bl John Henry Newman’s conversion to the Roman Catholic Church came at a very high price for him. Short follows Newman’s odyssey and carefully describes how this affected his relationship to his parents, his brothers and his sisters. Each sibling is given a chapter as are his parents. The author takes us through the conflicts, and difficulties experienced by the Newmans, most especially their most famous sibling. It brings to mind that if one “knocked on any door” they would find a sorrow behind it.
If one is interested in reading about how famous people suffer the same trials and sorrows in their families as most everyone else, Edward Short’s book is not to be neglected.