Saturday, April 12, 2003

April 12, 1822
was an important day in the life of the Venerable.
" 'I have this morning been elected Fellow of Oriel.' "

"Mr. Newman used also to relate the mode in which the announcement of his success was made to him. The Provost's butler—to whom it fell by usage to take the news to the fortunate candidate—made his way to Mr. Newman's lodgings in Broad Street, and found him playing the violin. This in itself disconcerted the messenger, who did not associate such an accomplishment with a candidateship for the Oriel Common-Room; but his perplexity was increased when, on his delivering what may be supposed to have been his usual form of speech on such occasions, that 'he had, he feared, disagreeable news to announce, viz. that Mr. Newman was elected Fellow of Oriel, and that his immediate presence was required there,' the person addressed, thinking that such language savoured of impertinent familiarity, merely answered, 'Very well,' and went on fiddling. This led the man to ask whether, perhaps, he had not mistaken the rooms and gone to the wrong person, to which Mr. Newman replied that it was all right. But, as may be imagined, no sooner had the man left, than he flung down his instrument, and dashed down stairs with all speed to Oriel College. And he recollected, after fifty years, the eloquent faces and eager bows of the tradesmen and others whom he met on his way, who had heard the news, and well understood why he was crossing from St. Mary's to the lane opposite at so extraordinary a pace."

" There remains a letter, from a school-fellow and University friend, which shows the popular estimate of an Oriel fellowship as well as the writer's sense of his friend's power:


April 12, 1822.
Behold you now a Fellow of Oriel, the great object of the ambition of half the Bachelors of Oxford. Behold you (to take a peep into futurity) in Holy Orders, taking pupils in college, and having a curacy within a short distance; then Public Tutor, Vicar of ——, Provost, Regius Professor of Divinity, Bishop of ——, Archbishop of Canterbury; or shall we say thus—Student-at-law, Barrister, Lord Chancellor, or at least Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench? Which of these ladders is it your intention to climb? You now have it in your power to decide."

"As to Mr. Newman, he ever felt this twelfth of April, 1822, to be the turning-point of his life, and of all days most memorable. It raised him from obscurity and need, to competency and reputation."

Autobiographical Memoir

This was especially remarkable in that, brilliant as the Venerable was, he was very much an underdog candidate, in that he was barely twenty-one and had been an undergraduate at Trinity College, which, at that time, had a rather poor academic reputation. In addition, he had not distinguished himself in his final examinations, earning, not the double First he had hoped for, but a Second and what would now be called a Third, but was then simply referred to as being 'under the line.' (The reason Newman had done so poorly was because before his finals, he completely swamped himself with work, studying nine to 16 hours a day. When the examination actually came, he was so exhausted he pretty much collapsed.)

His 'ladder' was, of course, to be neither one of the ones his friend Thresher mapped out...


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