Thursday, April 22, 2004

From Loss and Gain
The first of the two novels by Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O.
In this scene, the main character (Charles Reding) receives some news from a close friend (and fellow Oxford undergraduate), which shows a bit of the type of reaction someone who converted to Catholicism in 19th England could expect.....
"Charles had to pass a day or two at the house of a relative who lived a little way out of London. While he was there a letter arrived for him, forwarded from home; it was from Willis, dated from London, and announced that he had come to a very important decision, and should not return to Oxford. Charles was fairly in the world again, plunged into the whirl of opinions: how sad a contrast to his tranquil home! There was no mistaking what the letter meant; and he set out at once with the chance of finding the writer at the house from which he dated it. It was a lodging at the west-end of the town; and he reached it about noon.

He found Willis in company with a person apparently two or three years older. Willis started on seeing him.

'Who would have thought! what brings you here?'he said; 'I thought you were in the country.' Then to his companion, 'This is the friend I was speaking to you about, Morley. A happy meeting; sit down, dear Reding; I have much to tell you.'

Charles sat down, all suspense, looking at Willis with such keen anxiety that the latter was forced to cut the matter short. 'Reding, I am a Catholic.'

Charles threw himself back in his chair, and turned pale.

'My dear Reding, what is the matter with you? why don't you speak to me?'

Charles was still silent; at last, stooping forward, with his elbows on his knees, and his head on his hands, he said, in a low voice, 'Oh, Willis, what have you done?'

'Done?' said Willis; 'what you should do, and half Oxford besides. Oh, Reding, I'm so happy!'

'Alas, alas!' said Charles; 'but what is the good of my staying?-all good attend you, Willis; good-bye!'

'No, my good Reding, you don't leave me so soon, having found me so unexpectedly; and you have had a long walk, I dare say; sit down, there's a good fellow; we shall have luncheon soon, and you must not go without taking your part in it.' He took Charles's hat from him as he spoke; and Charles, in a mixture of feelings, let him have his way.

'Oh, Willis, so you have separated yourself from us for ever!' he said; 'you have taken your course, we keep ours: our paths are different.'

'Not so,' said Willis; 'you must follow me, and we shall be one still.'

Charles was half offended. 'Really I must go,' he said, and he rose; 'you must not talk in that manner.'

'Pray, forgive me,' answered Willis; 'I won't do so again; but I could not help it; I am not in a common state, I'm so happy!'

A thought struck Reding. 'Tell me, Willis,' he said, 'your exact position; in what sense are you a Catholic? What is to prevent your returning with me to Oxford?'

His companion interposed: 'I am taking a liberty, perhaps,' he said; 'but Mr. Willis has been regularly received into the Catholic Church.'

'I have not introduced you,' said Willis. 'Reding, let me introduce Mr. Morley; Morley, Mr. Reding. Yes, Reding, I owe it to him that I am a Catholic. I have been on a tour with him abroad. We met with a good priest in France, who consented to receive my abjuration.'

'Well, I think he might profitably have examined into your state of mind a little before he did so," said Reding; 'you are not the person to become a Catholic, Willis.'

'What do you mean?'

'Because,' answered Reding, 'you are more of a Dissenter than a Catholic. I beg your pardon,' he added, seeing Willis look up sharply, 'let me be frank with you, pray do. You were attached to the Church of Rome, not as a child to a mother, but in a wayward, roving way, as a matter of fancy or liking, or (excuse me) as a greedy boy to something nice; and you pursued your object by disobeying the authorities set over you.'

It was as much as Willis could bear; he said he thought he recollected a text about 'obeying God rather than men'.

'I see you have disobeyed men,' retorted Charles; 'I trust you have been obeying God.' "


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