John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman

Portrait of Newman, by George Richmond, 1844.

John Henry Newman, D.D. The hymnological side of Cardinal Newman’s life and work is so small when compared with the causes which have ruled, and the events which have accompanied his life as a whole, that the barest outline of biographical facts and summary of poetical works comprise all that properly belongs to this work. Cardinal Newman was the eldest son of John Newman, and was born in London, Feb. 21, 1801. He was educated at Ealing under Dr. John Nicholas, and at Trinity College, Oxford, where he graduated in honours in 1820, and became a Fellow of Oriel in 1822. Taking Holy Orders in 1824, he was for a short time Vice-Principal of St. Alban’s Hall, and then Tutor of Oriel. His appointment to St. Mary’s, Oxford, was in the spring of 1828. In 1827 he was Public Examiner, and in 1830 one of the Select University Preachers. His association with Keble, Pusey, and others, in what is known as “The Oxford Movement,” together with the periodical publication of the Tracts for the Times, are matters of history. It is well known how that Tract 90, entitled Bernards on Certain Passages in the Thirty-nine Articles, in 1841, was followed by his retirement to Littlemore; his formal recantation, in February, 1843, of all that he had said against Rome; his resignation in September of the same year of St. Mary’s and Littlemore; and of his formal application to be received into the communion of the Church of Rome, Oct. 8, 1845. In 1848 he became Father Superior of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, at Birmingham; in 1854 Rector of the newly founded Roman Catholic University at Dublin; and in 1858 he removed to the Edgbaston Oratory, Birmingham. In 1879 he was created a Cardinal, and thus received the highest dignity it is in the power of the Pope to bestow. Cardinal Newman’s prose works are numerous, and his Parochial Sermons especially being very popular. His Apologia pro Vita Sua, 1864, is a lucid exposition and masterly defence of his life and work.

Cardinal Newman’s poetical work began with poems and lyrical pieces which he contributed to the British Magazine, in 1832-4 (with other pieces by Keble and others), under the title of Lyra Apostolica. In 1836 these poems were collected and published under the same title, and Greek letters were added to distinguish the authorship of each piece, his being δ. Only a few of his poems from this work have come into use as hymns. The most notable is, “Lead, kindly Light”. His Tract for the Times, No. 75, On the Roman Breviary, 1836, contained translations of 14 Latin hymns. Of these 10 were repeated in his Verses on Religious Subjects, 1853, and his Verses on Various Occasions, 1865, and translations of 24 additional Latin hymns were added. Several of these translations are in common use, the most widely known being “Nunc Sancte nobis” (“Come, Holy Ghost, Who ever One”). His collection of Latin hymns from the Roman and Paris Breviaries, and other sources was published as Hymni Ecclesiae, in 1838, and again in 1865. His Dream of Gerontius, a poem from which his fine hymn, “Praise to the Holiest in the height,” is taken, appeared in his Verses on Various Occasions, in 1868. Cardinal Newman’s influence on hymnology has not been of a marked character. Two brilliant original pieces, and little more than half a dozen translations from the Latin, are all that can claim to rank with his inimitable prose.

–John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)


Newman, John Henry, p. 822, ii. He died at Edgbaston, Birmingham, Aug. 11, 1890.

–John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)


Newman, Card. J. H., pp. 802, ii.; 1581, ii. The following are also in use at the present time, but, except No. 13, almost exclusively in R. C. collections. The dates in brackets are those given in Newman’s Verses, 1868; all thus marked were composed in the Birmingham Oratory at these dates:—
i. In the Rambler, 1850.
1.  In the far North our lot is cast. [S. Philip Neri.] (1850.) March, 1850, p. 250. In the Birmingham Oratory Hymn Book, 1857 and 1906, it begins, ” On Northern coasts,” and in the Parochial Hymn Book, 1880, with st. ii. ” Founder and Sire! to mighty Rome.”
2.  The Angel-lights of Christmas morn. [Candlemas.] (1849.) March, 1850, p. 251.
3.  There sat a Lady all on the ground. [B. V. M.] (1849.) May, 1850, p. 425.
ii. Verses, 1853.
4.  All is Divine which the Highest has made. [For an inclement May.] (1850.) 1853, p. 128.
5.  Green are the leaves, and sweet the flowers. [May.] (1850.) 1853, p. 125.
6.  My oldest friend, mine from the hour. [Guardian Angel] (1853.) 1853, p. 12.
7.  The holy monks conceal’d from men. [S. Philip Neri.] (1850.) 1853, p. 134.
8.  The one true Faith, the ancient Creed. [The Catholic Faith.] 1853, p. 140.
9.  This is the saint of sweetness and compassion. [S. Philip Neri.] 1853, p. 136. Rewritten (1857) as “This is the saint of gentleness and kindness” in the Birmingham Oratory Hymn Book, 1857, No. 49.
iii. Birmingham Oratory Hymn Book, 1857.
10.  Help, Lord, the souls which Thou hast made. [The Faithful Departed.] (1857.) 1857, No. 76.
iv. Birmingham Oratory H. Book, 1862.
11. I ask not for fortune, for silken attire. [S. Philip Neri.] (1857.) 1862, No. 54.
12.  Thou champion high. [S. Michael.] (1862.) 1862, No. 41.
v. Dream of Gerontius, 1866.
13. Firmly I believe and truly. [The Faith of a Christian.] 1866, p. 9;  Verses, 1868, p. 318; The English Hymnal 1906. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

–John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)