Text: Fr Nicholas Schofield on Cardinal Manning: His Life and Legacy

Fr Nicholas Schofield

Fr Nicholas Schofield

Fr Nicholas Schofield, Diocese of Westminster Archivist, gave the following talk at Farm Street Church on Monday 5 March for the opening of the Exhibition on the life and legacy of Cardinal Henry Manning.

The early weeks of 1892, like those of 2018, were marred by an influenza pandemic. As one journalist put it, 'inebriates and teetotallers, healthy lads and decrepit octogenarians, the soldier in the camp and the scientist in the study, the debutante dancing at her first ball and the homeless outcast shivering under an archway, are stricken alike with indiscriminating impartiality.'

On 14 January the Duke of Clarence, the eldest son of the future Edward VII and second in line to the British Throne, died at Sandringham of 'a combined attack of influenza and pneumonia'. He was aged only 28 and due shortly to get married. Just forty minutes before his tragic death, one of the great figures of the Victorian Age also died, at Archbishop's House, Westminster, from complications of bronchitis: Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, aged 83.

'We have known him so long' [The Tablet declared], 'and loved him so well, and so many times seen him identified with, and standing the foremost champion of, every cause we cared for that his loss must be felt as an intimate and private and personal grief by every Catholic within the narrow seas…To him, more than to any man, it is due that English Catholics have outgrown the narrow, cramped life of their past of persecution, and stand today in all ways on a footing of equality with their contemporaries. He was the great leader who led us out of desert places and the time of bondage and into the Land of Promise.'

The national mourning that followed the untimely death of a future king did not diminish the deep respect paid to the elderly Archbishop. Tributes poured out in the press by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, 100,000 filled in to view his body and large crowds lined the streets as his body was taken from the Requiem Mass at the Brompton Oratory to Kensal Green. Such scenes had not been seen since the funeral of the Duke of Wellington forty years previously.

Yet, surprisingly, almost as soon as his body had been lowered into the ground of St Mary's Cemetery, his reputation began to decline. The multi-volume biography that was expected to be produced after the death of a great man was written not by the cardinal's chosen biographer, JEC Bodley, but by a rather unscrupulous journalist, Edmund Sheridan Purcell, who presented a most unflattering portrayal of Manning. In the words of Sheridan Gilley, he became 'a sort of Jekyll and Hyde rapidly alternating between the lowest motives and the highest, between grasping personal ambition and complete self-abnegation before God.'

Lytton Strachey came across Purcell's work and was inspired to include Manning among his Eminent Victorians (1918), alongside Florence Nightingale, Dr Arnold and General Gordon. It was a masterpiece of English prose but only served to spread Purcell's prejudices to a wider readership. These have taken a long time to die. There has been much important work on Manning in subsequent years by the likes of the Abbe Chapeau, Jacqueline Clais, Alan McClelland, David Newsome, James Pereiro, Robert Gray, Peter Erb and others have helped redress the balance. Yet 125 years after his death, no definitive biography of Manning has been produced.

Early Life and Education

Manning was born near Totteridge, then in Hertfordshire, on 15 July 1808 - the only future Archbishop of Westminster to be born within the current diocesan boundaries. The family also owned a property near Sevenoaks called Coombe Bank, now a private Catholic school. Henry Edward was the youngest of eight children and his family's considerable wealth was based on the West Indian sugar trade. His father, William, rose to become Governor of the Bank of England, Lord Mayor of London and a Member of Parliament. His commercial interests were not reserved to the Caribbean: his involvement in the Australian Agricultural Company led to the Manning River in New South Wales being named after him. It was indeed a cosmopolitan family. The future cardinal's aunt married John Laurens, an American patriot and statesman who made a name for his criticisms of slavery.

The young boy was educated in schools at Streatham and Totteridge before going on to Harrow in 1822, where he was a passionate cricketer and adopted rather foppish style of dress, including Hessian top-boots with tassels. His friends include the brother of the poet William Wordsworth, Christopher, and another contemporary, a day boy, was a certain Anthony Trollope.

In 1827 Manning entered Balliol College, Oxford and became a renowned debater at the newly-founded Union, speaking 'at every meeting, on all subjects, with unfailing fluency and propriety of expression.' In the Westminster Archive we have a little book recording the debates he was involved in: for example, in February 1830 he spoke in favour of the motion 'that the American Constitution is not adapted to the exigencies of a powerful state, and does not promote stability' (the motion was carried). His finest moment was in a debate with the students of Cambridge, who argued that Shelley was a greater poet than Byron; Manning's speech won the day for Oxford. His friend and contemporary, William Ewart Gladstone, described him as 'one of the three handsomest men at Oxford. He was not at all religious.' There was a sense that he could turn his hand to anything - such are the twists and turns of human life that it could easily have been Gladstone who entered the Church and Manning who became Prime Minister.

Manning took a First Class degree in 1830 and spent a brief period working at the Colonial Office. In 1831 the family business collapsed, sparking off a religious conversion. It is interesting that Newman's first conversion, in March 1816 while at school in Ealing, was partly occasioned by the failure of his father's bank.

Marriage and Lavington

In 1832 Manning took up a fellowship at Merton College and was ordained an Anglican minister. He served his curacy at Lavington-with-Graffham, near Chichester in Sussex. Shortly afterwards the Rector, Rev John Sargent, died - having contracted pneumonia after giving up his seat on a coach and travelling outside in bad weather - and Manning succeeded him. He married his youngest daughter, Caroline Sargent, on 7 November 1833 after three months of courtship - the ceremony being performed by the bride's brother-in-law, Samuel Wilberforce (the future bishop of Oxford and Winchester). His wife's family would later prove influential in his conversion to Rome - two sister-in-laws would eventually be received into the Church with their husbands and children; indeed, his nephew, Fr Ignatius Dudley Ryder, would succeed Newman as Provost of the Birmingham Oratory. As an aside, it is worth mentioning that two other nephews, on the Manning side, would become Catholic priests and a niece married the brother of the future Cardinal Gasquet. It is interesting how within the space of a generation both sides of this very establishment family embraced Rome!

Meanwhile Manning concentrated on his Sussex parish, where he first came face-to-face with widespread poverty and the aftermath of the Captain Swing riots. His concern for the underdog would mark the rest of his life. He took his pastoral responsibilities seriously, introducing daily morning and evening prayer and tolling the bell himself to call his flock to church. He also tried to visit his parishioners regularly, and became a familiar and stately figure trudging the country lanes (unusually for the times) in his cassock. 'I loved…the little church under a green hill-side, where the morning and evening prayers and the music of the English Bible for seventeen years became a part of my soul. Nothing is more beautiful in the natural order, and if there were no eternal world I could have made it my home.'

In 1837 tragedy struck; Manning's wife died of consumption - a weakness in the Sargent family - leaving her husband a childless widower who often wrote his sermons beside her tomb against the west wall of the graveyard. On her deathbed, Caroline had told her mother, 'look after Henry', and this she did for a number of years, keeping house for him and acting as a companion. Lytton Strachey claimed that 'in after years, the memory of his wife seemed to be blotted from his mind' and that he saw her death as opening up his career possibilities, numbering it among 'God's special mercies'. Nothing could have been further from the truth; indeed, if Manning seldom spoke of his wife in later years it may have been because he found it too painful, that part of him died with his young wife.

Manning later erected a stained glass window in Chichester Cathedral in her memory. He kept all her letters, which were stolen-to his great grief-while travelling to Rome in 1851. Years later, as Manning lay dying, he entrusted a volume of his wife's prayers and thoughts, which he kept under his pillow, to Herbert Vaughan, saying: 'not a day has passed since her death on which I have not prayed and meditated from that book. All the good I may have done, all the good I may have been, I owe to her. ' It is thought that the book is buried with him in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral. Despite his rather austere appearance, Manning clearly had a very human heart.

Manning continued to throw himself into pastoral work and into the debates that dominated the Church of England at the time. He moved away from his original evangelical outlook and developed strong beliefs in baptismal regeneration, the Real Presence, the dignity of the Priesthood and the authority and nature of the Church. In later life, Manning would say (using the language of a cricketer) 'I became a Catholic off my own bat'. He was in touch with the arguments of the Tractarians, distributing the Tracts for the Times locally and co-writing one of them, Tract 78, on the subject of Catholic Tradition. But, as Fr Pereiro puts it, his ideas 'germinated and grew up in Lavington, the fruit of study and silent contemplation. There, echoes of the agitation at Oxford and elsewhere reached him, muted by distance and by the peaceful atmosphere of the South Downs countryside.' What is interesting is that, rather like Newman, Manning's principles developed rather than sharply changed, based largely on his reading of the Fathers and his analysis of contemporary events. There is an essential unity to his intellectual life, based around the presence and teaching action of the Holy Spirit within the Church, making her voice authoritative and infallible.

Archdeacon and the Road to Rome

His high church leanings did not prevent him from becoming Archdeacon of Chichester in December 1840. Manning embarked on visitations of all the parishes in the diocese, published four volumes of his sermons and increasingly became a national figure. According to his biographer David Newsome:

'His archidiaconal charges were read nationwide, their main significance today lying in the remarkable similarity between the declared priorities in these charges and those which he was later to define in his pastorals as archbishop of Westminster: urgent attention to the plight of the poor and the outcasts of society; sympathy for the lot of the labouring classes and condemnation of exploitation by greedy landowners and employers; and the crucial need for the education of the poor and for the preservation of its denominational character.

He was also keen to defend the Church from state interference. And this issue would be the catalyst for his conversion to Catholicism. It was the acceptance on the part of the Privy Council of the Rev GC Gorham and his unsound doctrines on baptismal regeneration that caused Manning to finally reconsider his position within the Anglican Communion. How could the State interfere in sacred doctrine? What sort of a church did this make the Church of England?

For several years he suffered great spiritual anguish, distancing himself from the actions of Newman and other converts and defending the Anglican via media on the one hand and privately doubting his own position on the other. By 1851 - the year after the restoration of the hierarchy - his position had become untenable and he decided to become a Catholic.

The parting of friends deeply grieved him, and as Archbishop of Westminster he would regularly go to his London club, the Athenaeum, to read papers and maintain contact with the world he had left behind. When his chosen biographer, Bodley, a non-Catholic, visited him in his old age he would say: "Nobody here understands Oxford, none of them have quite understood me. This is why I cling to you and count on your coming back to see me; I can talk to you about things that the others don't care about."

Convert and Priest

The great drama of Manning's conversion unfolded here at Farm Street, together with a lawyer friend, James Hope. According to an autobiographical note,

'On 6th April 1851, Passion Sunday, Hope and I went to Father Brownbill in Hill Street and were received. I, before High Mass, and he after it. So ended one life: and I thought my life was over. I fully believed that I should never do more than become a priest…'

The Jesuit presbytery was then on Hill Street and Fr James Brownbill was described by his fellow Jesuit, Bernard Bassett, as 'a simple, average, unaffected man who of no great intellectual attainments.'

To a friend, Manning wrote:

'It was all most private on Sunday. The process was Confession, conditional Baptism, profession of Faith, made by my desire, and Absolution. Then I went to the High Mass, which to me, even when outside, has been the divinest act of worship upon earth.'

Manning was ordained a priest on 14 June by Cardinal Wiseman and said his first Mass at Farm Street. For the ensuing three years he studied at the Accademia in Rome, an elite school for papal diplomats, at the same time as his successor at Westminster, Herbert Vaughan, and another future Cardinal, Edward Howard. He also developed a close relationship with Pius IX.

The 'Wars of Westminster'

He returned to England in 1854 and immediately used his connections with the establishment in sending Catholic sisters to act as nurses with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea. For the next eight years he lived at Bayswater as superior of a new community, founded with the encouragement of Cardinal Wiseman: the Oblates of St Charles. This was a community of secular priests, inspired by St Charles Borromeo and coming directly under the Archbishop. Bayswater was then one of the most destitute parts of London but the Oblates built thriving churches not only in Bayswater but Notting Hill and Kensal New Town, as well setting up a number of schools. The Oblates were able to do work that busy parish clergy could not so easily do, such as running schools (such as St Charles' College) and teaching at seminary.

Manning gained a reputation as a spiritual director. By 1865 he had received 343 converts, including such illustrious names as the Duchesses of Argyll and Buccleuth (who, incidentally, is the three-times great-grandmother of Sarah, Duchess of York) and Lady Herbert of Lea (who became a well-known Catholic writer).

In 1857 he was named Provost of the Metropolitan Chapter of Westminster. Understandably Manning's background and meteoric rise led to much resentment, especially among the old English Catholics. The Oblates were not universally appreciated, especially by the Canons of Westminster and Wiseman's Coadjutor, Archbishop Errington. Their presence in the diocesan seminary - Herbert Vaughan, an Oblate, becoming its Vice-Rector at the age of 23 - was a bitter area of contention and seen as an aggressive 'take over'. The tensions escalated and were eventually taken to Rome; although the Oblates made a diplomatic departure from the seminary, Errington was deprived of his position as coadjutor in 1860, along with his right to succeed Wiseman. Manning meanwhile drew ever closer to Wiseman and did much work behind the scenes as his health declined.

On the death of Cardinal Wiseman in 1865, Manning was not included on the terna of three names sent to Rome; it was said that the canons would rather elect Beelzebub than Provost Manning and among the names offered was the controversial Archbishop Errington. His inclusion was seen by the pope as a personal affront and so he took matters into his own hands. Eventually he settled on Manning, who was the favoured candidate of Mgr Talbot, the pope's great English confidante. The pope put his decision down to Divine inspiration, that he had heard a voice directing that Manning should be placed at Westminster: 'Put him there, put him there', the voice kept on saying.
It is interesting to note the government's reaction to his appointment. Initially there was a hope that Wiseman might not be replaced at all, that he would be the first and only Archbishop of Westminster.

On hearing that Manning had been appointed, Prime Minister Palmerston was alarmed: 'Wiseman was an uncouth man and never made his way into Society…Manning is an Englishman, was I believe an Oxonian, and is very agreeable, and insinuating, and if he comes here he will mix in general Society…He will labour incessantly at making Converts and win over to Rome a great number of Foolish Men and Silly Women.'

But Odo Russell, the British diplomat in Rome, thought that Manning's unpopularity would make him an isolated, divisive figure and subsequently 'will give the Roman Catholics far more trouble and annoyance than he can ever give Her Majesty's Government'.

Manning was duly consecrated Archbishop of Westminster by Bishop Ullathorne of Birmingham at St Mary Moorfields on 8 June 1865. Ten years later he was created a cardinal.

Diocesan Bishop

Within the Archdiocese of Westminster Manning worked tirelessly, founding new missions, holding the Fourth Provincial Council of Westminster (1873) and establishing a diocesan seminary in Hammersmith, dedicated to St Thomas Becket, a suitably muscular patron for his clergy. During his tenure, the number of Westminster priests increased from 215 to 358. In 1866 he set up the Westminster Diocesan Education Fund, which made possible the founding of some 49 schools. He did not forget destitute children whom, he feared, would be corrupted by a non-Catholic education in the workhouses and reformatories, and he fought for Catholic education, especially in the aftermath of the 1870 Education Act, which threatened the future of denominational education and created (potentially unsympathetic) School Boards, with elected members, to take over the running of many schools.

He supported the building of Westminster Cathedral as a memorial to Wiseman and bought a plot of land for £60,000 on which the cathedral now stands. Such a site would be utterly unaffordable today. However, the actual building work commenced under his successor since Manning's priority was education - 'could I leave 20,000 children without education,' he famously said, 'and drain my friends and my flock to pile up stones and bricks?'

We have alluded earlier to Manning's pride in his Oxford days and his feelings of isolation amongst a body of clergy that had mostly not been educated at the British universities. It might come as a surprise, then, that Manning was convinced that Oxford and Cambridge were unsuitable, even dangerous places for young Catholics; indeed, a formal prohibition was obtained from Rome in 1867. He also resisted Newman's efforts to establish a Catholic college at Oxford. This was not because he wanted Catholics to live in an ivory tower; he strongly believed that they should be fully involved in the life of the nation and bear fruit in a rapidly changing society. However, before they were able to do this Catholics needed to be solidly formed and he thought there were too many traps and snares in what was still very much an Anglican establishment.

Manning tried to counter this with his own Catholic University College on Wright's Lane, just off Kensington High Street, founded in 1875. However, he appointed Mgr Capel as rector, who brought with him scandal and financial difficulties; the college closed in 1882.

Manning and the Jesuits

In looking at his role as a bishop in Victorian London, we should briefly consider his relationship with the Jesuits. We have already mentioned how Manning was received into the Church and celebrated his First Mass here at Farm Street; while studying in Rome he also kept a confessional here and became a popular spiritual director. Moreover, one of his nephews, William Anderdon, became a Jesuit, as did his beloved secretary, Canon John Morris. It might be thought, then, that Archbishop Manning would be a great friend of the Society.
However, his biographer Purcell wrote that 'the unfriendly relations which subsisted between Cardinal Manning and the Jesuits in England during the whole period of his rule as Archbishop …is an open secret.' Manning tried to curtail their activity in London. It seems that he had influenced Wiseman to make a u-turn on supporting the Jesuits to open a house and school in the Westminster area - they already looked after the church on Horseferry Road and had purchased land on the site now occupied by Victoria Station; next time you're running for a train remember that this could have been a Jesuit foundation!

Archbishop Manning refused to allow them to set up a grammar school in London and it was left to his successor to reverse this policy almost immediately: in 1892 permission was granted for a Jesuit church and school to be opened in Stamford Hill.

Why was Manning against the Jesuits? There may have been a personal falling out; Manning seems to have suddenly stopped hearing confessions and saying Mass at Farm Street in his early days as a Catholic priest. But there was also a continuation of the suspicion of the Jesuits that marked the history of the English diocesan clergy from the reign of Elizabeth I onwards. Let us not forget that the founding of this church in the 1840s was allowed by Rome but met with opposition from the Vicar Apostolic, who thought it would 'compete' with nearby missions, drawing away much-needed revenue; as a result, it was not given parochial status until 1966. Manning likewise thought the Jesuits attracted the best priests and laity, flourishing at the expense of the rest of the Church and considering the diocesan clergy as a very clear 'second best'.

He admitted that the Jesuits had given valuable service to the Church at the time of the Reformation but since then 'its corporate action has been excessive'. With regard to England, he thought that the actions of the Jesuits - their support for conspiracies against the Crown, for example, and their opposition to the revival of the episcopacy in the seventeenth century - had resulted in the 'loss' of the English people to the Faith. Indeed, he even argued that 'if the Society had not been suppressed in 1773, the English Hierarchy would not have been restored in 1850'. The Jesuits tended to run the majority of English seminaries and gained their best students; it weakened the diocesan priesthood and made it 'second-rate'. The disappearance of the Jesuits meant that the secular clergy (a term he hated) were 'restored to their independence and self-formation'; new seminaries, such as Oscott, St Edmund's and Ushaw, were established; the likes of Cardinal Wiseman were produced for the Church.

Central to this view was an understanding of the supremacy of episcopal authority and diocesan clergy (as opposed to religious orders).

In 1881 Manning, with the support of Herbert Vaughan and Bishop Clifford of Clifton, obtained from Leo XIII the bull Romanos pontifices, which laid down that in future no religious house, college, or school could be established without the prior consent of the diocesan bishop.
Nevertheless, he still came to this church as the local ordinary. On one occasion in the 1880s his preferred biographer, JEC Bodley, went to see Manning at 'the grim barrack called Archbishop's House' and found him dressed in 'scarlet and lace': '"Forgive my togs," he said, "but it's the Immaculate Conception and I have to go to Farm Street".'

Manning and Rome

Manning, like Wiseman, had a great love of Rome; he visited some twenty-two times in his life and spoke fluent Italian, though with a distinctly English accent.

Manning was a close friend of Pius IX; the pope had often granted him audiences while studying at the Accademia and hoped to lure him into his household as a domestic prelate. Manning had a high vision of the papacy and was a staunch defender of the pope's temporal sovereignty, which was under attack from nationalists and revolutionaries. Did not the Papal States secure the Church's independence from secular powers - and was it not precisely the same issue that had led him to leave the Church of England? Manning was only too aware of the need for the Church to have a clear and authoritative voice for not only was she threatened by Erastianism but, as Wilfrid Ward emphasized, he had a 'very strong and mystical sense of a battle raging between the Church and the modern world.' Christians had to be constantly on their guard against secularism, liberalism and the spirit of 1789.

During the First Vatican Council (1869-70) Manning was one of the most vocal proponents of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, acting as a sort of 'chief whip' in lobbying for support among the bishops and, on one occasion, delivering a rousing speech in Latin that lasted nearly two hours. This was one of the reasons for Manning's famous rift with Newman, who advised moderation and wondered whether this was the opportune moment for a dogmatic definition. In the end, the 'Ultramontanes' won convincingly and the dogma of papal infallibility was duly defined ex cathedra on 18 July 1870. So strong an impression did Manning create during the council that he received a handful of votes at the 1878 conclave and, at home, had to defend his theological position against the published criticisms of Gladstone in two works, The Vatican Decrees and their Bearing on Civil Allegiance (1875) and The True Story of the Vatican Council (1877).

The Poor Man's Cardinal

If Manning was ecclesiologically an Ultramontane, he was a political and social progressive. He did not see this as a contradiction: once the revealed truths of God were safeguarded within the Church, there was a duty for Christians to act as leaven in the world, to build up God's Kingdom and bring the light of Christ to those living in darkness. Moreover he saw the individual as a 'soul-body', concerned not only with their eternal salvation but their physical and material well-being.

Thus, in 1884 he served on a Royal Commission that investigated the condition of working-class housing. Although dismissive of movements for Church Reunion, he acknowledged the good to be found in other denominations; he was, for example, on friendly terms with William Booth and commended the practical Christianity of the Salvation Army. He actively promoted teetotalism and founded the Total Abstinence League of the Cross, which organised large rallies and promoted a special 'Truce' around St Patrick's Day. Indeed, the structure of the League took its inspiration from the Salvation Army. Despite his Englishness, he had a great concern for the people of Ireland, who formed a large part of his flock, and argued for greater religious equality and an end to the land laws. He influenced Gladstone in supporting the disestablishment of the Irish Church and by the end of his life was increasingly favourable to Home Rule.

His most famous intervention, however, came in the London Dock Strike of 1889 - as a result of which he became a popular hero. Working conditions in the docks were undeniably tough, with low pay, dangerous conditions and casual working hours. When Ben Tillett demanded a rise in the basic wage and a minimum daily period of four hours employment, these were rejected and he called the strike that came to involve as many as 130,000 men; the London docks effectively ceased to function.

Manning endorsed trade unionism and believed that every citizen had a right to work. He supported the National Agricultural Labourers' Union, founded by Joseph Arch (a Primitive Methodist), arguing for a nine-and-a-half hour working day and a minimum wage of 16 shillings a week. Manning spoke at public meetings in 1872 and 1874 alongside Protestant and even atheist speakers.

In an 1874 lecture on 'The Dignity and Rights of Labour', Manning famously anticipated many of the arguments that would later be found in Leo XIII's ground breaking encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891). 'The strength and skill that are in a man,' he argued, 'are as much his own as his life-blood; and that skill and strength which he has as his personal property no man may control.' As a result, Manning claimed for labour the rights of capital: 'labour has a right, not only to its own freedom, but it has a right to protect itself.'

The Cardinal followed events closely and met with the dock directors and strike leaders several times. He was part of the Mansion House Committee, formed by the Lord Mayor to seek reconciliation, and, on one occasion, went to Ben Tillett's house and, finding him out, waited for him all afternoon. He amused himself by reading the latest Sherlock Holmes story in the Strand magazine.

The directors initially agreed to raise wages at the start of the next year but the dock workers obviously wanted the pay rise sooner and objected to the suggestion that no demands for extra money for overtime be made. Manning held a four-hour meeting with the strikers and made what has been called 'the last great speech of his life'. He proposed 4th November (the feast of his great patron, St Charles Borromeo) as the date from which the terms should apply. Eventually, the meeting accepted the date and permitted the Cardinal to negotiate a settlement. Manning was hailed as the people's hero and at the May Day procession of 1890 his portrait appeared alongside that of Karl Marx on some of the banners! Perhaps not surprisingly, there were critical voices within the Catholic community. The future Cardinal Vaughan represented the 'old' Catholics and landed families, who looked to the Church as 'the best safeguard of property' and the status quo. He later wrote that Manning's interventions were the result of a weakening mind and lack of judgment, as was sometimes found in old age.

What is surprising is just how wide and global his concerns were. Manning is impressive in what we might today call his 'outreach': he condemned the persecution of the Jews in Russia, he supported the world's first anti-vivisectionist organisation and attended the meetings of the Metaphysical Society, discussing with Protestants, deists and atheists such subjects as the ultimate grounds of belief and the immortality of the soul. In a speech at a prize-giving at the London Hospital, he spoke in favour of the theory of evolution. Many Catholic bishops of the time were concerned with the narrow interests of their Church and the complex implications of a newly-restored hierarchy. Manning was not one of these.


Manning's was an austere though charismatic personality. Looking back to his first audience with the Cardinal, Francis MacNutt, an American Papal Chamberlain, wrote that:

'while his photographs, liberally displayed in shop windows, had made his features familiar to me, I was none the less impressed by the ascetic cast of his countenance, a something no camera ever caught, and by his beautifully modulated voice. It seemed to me that I had never heard our language so faultlessly spoken. The shabbiness of his dress was conspicuous. The several Cardinals I had known in Rome were sufficiently gorgeous, and I took this for granted. Here, I beheld the most illustrious of them all, with the red silk of his sleeves actually frayed, and a biretta, faded into a dull pink tone, set carelessly on his head.'

GK Chesterton famously described him as 'a ghost clad in flames'. Despite appearances, he was a man of great culture and wit, and his door was open to all classes of society.

His strong principles make it easy to understand why he clashed with certain contemporaries, perhaps most famously his fellow convert cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman. They were temperamentally opposites - Manning found Newman's seeming evasiveness and prickliness trying - and, as we have seen, disagreed over some of the crucial issues of the day, such as education and infallibility.

Manning's trusty butler at Archbishop's House was called William Newman, which led to a malicious rumour that 'he had been chosen for this name of his because Manning liked to order about a person called Newman - but this was pure legend.' Indeed, the apparent rift between the two men saddened Manning. He confessed to the Duchess of Buccleuth that Newman was 'difficult' and that others had found him to be so but he kept him in his prayers. When it was proposed that Rome should be petitioned to give Newman a red hat, Manning's reaction - after a pregnant pause - was 'Fiat Voluntas Tua' (Thy Will be Done!). Manning was equally generous when it came to preaching the eulogy at Newman's funeral.

Newman is often seen as the great thinker and saint, while Manning is the strong leader and man of action. But we should not downplay his intellectual achievements. Out of all the Archbishops of Westminster, Manning was probably the most gifted and original theologian. Although his writings were not systematic, some of the themes that regularly appeared in them were cutting-edge for the times - such as his stress on the action of the Holy Spirit and his vision of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. These were not common themes in nineteenth century theology and would be taken up and developed in the twentieth century. His concern for Catholic Social Teaching were picked up not only in Rerum Novarum but in a whole series of papal documents, right up to Benedict XVI's Caritas in veritate (2009) and
Francis' Evangelli Gaudium (2013) (and to a certain extent Laudato Si, 2015).

Manning's achievements are extraordinary but under-appreciated. As we already noted, his reputation unexpectedly plummeted in the years following his death. Even the story of his personal papers is something of a drama. Kept for many years at Bayswater by the Oblates of St Charles, by the time their future as a community was being questioned it was clear that the archive was in a poor state - that much had been damaged during the vicissitudes of war and that some had been taken by his unscrupulous biographers. Thanks to the Abbe Chapeau, a French scholar who dedicated his life to studying this English cardinal, the papers that remained were taken to Angers to be sorted and saved for posterity. Such was the confusion of the times that one wonders what might have happened had he not stepped in. Over the years, some of the papers were deposited at the Bodleian and Pitts Emory University. In July 2014 the remaining ones were entrusted to the care of the Westminster Diocesan Archives.

It is unfortunate that some of the initiatives closest to his heart did not survive very long - St Thomas' Seminary in Hammersmith was closed by Vaughan within a year of his death; the Catholic University College in Kensington failed within his lifetime; the League of the Cross declined; more recently, his beloved Oblates of St Charles were suppressed in the 1960s. As a result, Manning's legacy is perhaps less tangible than that of Wiseman and Vaughan and, certainly, Newman. As David Newsome reflected, 'the passage of time will always favour the thinker rather than the doer of great deeds. Actions, however admirable, retain only an historical interest, while words endure.'

Yet, the reputation of this eminent Victorian, this convert of Farm Street, this faithful Shepherd, this prophetic theologian and social reformer is too often forgotten. Surely he is worthy of re-examination 125 years after his death.

The Exhibition on the life and legacy of Cardinal Henry Manning is at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street until 23 March. For more information see: www.indcatholicnews.com/news/34270

Tags: Manning, Cardinal Henry Manning, Fr Nicholas Schofield, Farm Street

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