Wednesday, September 01, 2004

On September 1, 1865
Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O., wrote to an old friend, who had recently resumed contact with him.....

My dear Keble,—I have a great shrinking from pledging myself, for sometimes I cannot fulfil, and therefore disappoint the parties to whom I have pledged myself—but, please God, if all is well, and if it suits you, I propose to be with you on Thursday morning next, and spend the day with you. I leave you for the H. Bowdens at Ryde.
Ever yours affectionately,

Due to the fragility of Mrs. Keble's health, the visit did not occur until several weeks later, and as it happened, another old friend was also there. He wrote about this meeting to Fr. Ambrose St. John, C.O.

Here I am, very comfortable, and if I had my dear fiddle with me, I might sing and play, "recubans sub tegmine fagi," in full content. Scarcely had I left Birmingham when it struck me that, since Pusey was to be at Keble's that evening, he would, no manner of doubt, get into my train at Oxford and travel down with me. But he did not. I determined to go to Keble's next morning to see him.

So I did. I slept at the Railway Hotel at Southampton Dock, a very reasonable house, and good too, (they are building an Imperial Hotel), and yesterday morning (Tuesday) retraced my steps to Bishopstoke, left my portmanteau there, and went over to Hursley. I had forgotten the country, and was not prepared for its woodland beauty. Keble was at the door; he did not know me, nor I him. How mysterious that first sight of friends is! for, when I came to contemplate him, it was the old face and manner, but the first effect or impression was different.

His wife had been taken ill in the night, and at the first moment he, I think, and certainly I, wished myself away. Then he said: "Have you missed my letter?" meaning, "Pusey is here, and I wrote to stop your coming." He then said: "I must go and prepare Pusey." He did so, and then took me into the room where Pusey was.

I went in rapidly, and it is strange how action overcomes pain. Pusey, being passive, was evidently shrinking back into the corner of the room, as I should have done, had he rushed in upon me. He could not help contemplating the look of me narrowly and long. "Ah," I thought, "you are thinking how old I am grown, and I see myself in you,—though you, I do think, are more altered than I." Indeed, the alteration in him startled, I will add pained and grieved, me. I should have known him anywhere; his face is not changed, but it is as if you looked at him through a prodigious magnifier. I recollect him short and small, with a round head and smallish features, flaxen curly hair; huddled up together from his shoulders downward, and walking fast. This as a young man; but comparing him even as he was when I had last seen him in 1846, when he was slow in his motions and staid in his figure, there was a wonderful change in him. His head and features are half as large again; his chest is very broad, and he is altogether large, and (don't say all this to anyone) he has a strange condescending way when he speaks. His voice is the same; were my eyes shut, I should not be sensible of any alteration.

As we three sat together at one table, I had a painful thought, not acute pain, but heavy. There were three old men, who had worked together vigorously in their prime. This is what they have come to,—poor human nature! After twenty years they meet together round a table, but without a common cause or free outspoken thought; kind indeed, but subdued and antagonistic in their language to each other, and all of them with broken prospects, yet each viewing in his own way the world in which those prospects lay.

Pusey is full of his book (the "Eirenicon"), which is all but published, against Manning, and full of his speech on the relations of physical science with the Bible, which he is to deliver at the Church Congress at Norwich; full of polemics and hope. Keble is quite different; he is as delightful as ever, and it seemed to me as if he felt a sympathy and intimacy with me which he did not show towards Pusey. I judge by the way and tone he spoke to me of him. I took an early dinner with them; and, when the bell chimed at 4 o'clock for service, I got into my gig, and so from Bishopstoke to Ryde, getting here between 7 and 8.

Another letter adds a few more details:

When I got to Keble's door, he happened to be at it, but we did not know each other, and I was obliged to show him my card. Is not this strange? it is imagination mastering reason. He indeed thought, since Pusey was coming, I should not come that day—but I knew beyond doubt that I was at his house—yet I dared not presume it was he—but, after he began to talk, the old Keble, that is, the young, came out from his eyes and his features, and I daresay, if I saw him once or twice I should be unable to see much difference between his present face and his face of past days . As Mrs. Keble was ill, we then dined together tête-à-tête—a thing we never perhaps had done before—there was something awful in three men meeting in old age who had worked together in their best days. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, was the sad burden of the whole—once so united, now so broken up, so counter to each other—though neither of them of course would quite allow it. Keble has since written to me, "when shall we three meet again? soon—when the hurly burly's done."

Keble is deaf—but, what is worse, his speech is much impaired—and I think he thinks more slowly. Pusey was full of plans, full of meetings. He has since made an important speech at Norwich on the interpretation of Scripture, which will do good, and of this he was full. Then, he was just on publishing his book which he calls an Eirenicon, and he was full of it, though he was cautious of letting out all that was in it. Have you seen it? It is anything but an Eirenicon—it is likely to make Catholics very angry—and justly angry.

The Venerable ended up having to answer Pusey's Eirenicon with a book of his own- A Letter Addressed to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D.,on Occasion of His Eirenicon.


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