Francis William Newman
|Born||June 27, 1805|
|Died||October 4, 1897|
Born in London, Newman and his brother were both educated at Ealing, and subsequently at Oxford, where he had a distinguished career, obtaining a double first class in 1826. He was elected fellow of Balliol in the same year. In 1827 he went to Delgany, co. Wicklow, where for a year he tutored the sons of Edward Pennefather and fell under the influence of Pennefather's brother-in-law, the Rev John Nelson Darby, one of the nascent group of Plymouth Brethren, who he describes in Phases of Faith as "the Irish Clergyman". Conscientious scruples respecting the ceremony of infant baptism led him to resign his fellowship in 1830, and he went to Baghdad as assistant in the faith mission of Anthony Norris Groves. This journey, which included wives, a baby in arms, and an elderly woman, has been described as "a mad jaunt whose real tragedy — two of the wives died and the men of the party were many times near death — is blurred by silly incompetence and downright nonsense of most of its members." In 1833 he returned to England to procure additional support for the mission, but rumours of unsoundness in his views on the doctrine of eternal punishment had preceded him, and finding himself generally looked upon with suspicion, he gave up the vocation of missionary to become classical tutor in an unsectarian college at Bristol. His letters written home during the period of his mission were collected and published in 1856.
Newman's views matured rapidly, and in 1840 he became Classics Professor at Manchester New College, the dissenters' college lately returned from York, parent of Manchester College, Oxford, and at the time linked to London University. In 1846 he moved to become a professor of Latin at University College, London, where he remained until 1869. During all this period he was assiduously carrying on his studies in mathematics and oriental languages, but wrote little until 1847, when he published anonymously a History of the Hebrew Monarchy, intended to introduce the results of German investigation in this department of Biblical criticism. In 1849 appeared The Soul, her Sorrows and Aspirations, and in 1850, Phases of Faith, or Passages from the History of my Creed, the former a tender but searching analysis of the relations of the spirit of man with the Creator; the latter a religious autobiography detailing the author's passage from Calvinism to pure theism. It is on these two books that Professor Newman's celebrity will principally rest, as in them his intense earnestness has kept him free from the eccentricity which marred most of his other writings, excepting his contributions to mathematical research and oriental philology.
Newman described himself as "anti-everything". "The perfection of the soul, he said, lay in its becoming woman. He believed in woman's right to vote, to educate herself and to ride astride". He sought to make life rational in all things, including clothing. He wore an alpaca tailcoat in summer, three coats in winter (the outer one green), and in bad weather, he wore a rug with a hole cut for his head. When it was muddy, he wore trousers edged with six inches of leather.
Newman's work covered many spheres: he wrote on logic, political economy, English reforms, Austrian politics, Roman history, diet, grammar, the most abstruse departments of mathematics, Arabic, the emendation of Greek texts, and languages as out of the way as the Berber and as obsolete as the dialect of the Iguvine inscriptions. In his numerous metrical translations from the classics, especially his version of the Iliad, he attracted the irreverent criticism of Matthew Arnold. His miscellaneous essays, some of much value, were collected in several volumes before his death. His last publication, Contributions chiefly to the Early History of Cardinal Newman (1891), was generally condemned as deficient in fraternal feeling.
His character is vividly drawn by Carlyle in his life of John Sterling, of whose son Newman was guardian: a man of fine attainments, of the sharpest-cutting and most restlessly advancing intellect and of the mildest pious enthusiasm. George Eliot called "our blessed St. Francis" and his soul, "was a blessed yea".
After his retirement from University College, Francis W. Newman continued to live for some years in London, subsequently removing to Clifton, and eventually to Weston-super-Mare, where he died in 1897. He had been blind for five years before his death, but retained his faculties to the last. Although for most of his life, he preached a kind of rational-mystical agnosticism., in his old age, he returned to the Church of England. He was twice married.
Newman joined the Vegetarian Society in 1868. Newman was President of the Society from 1873-1883. He was opposed to the dogmatic ideas of raw foodism and objected to the disuse of flavourings and salt. He commented that "the number of dogmatic prohibitions against everything that makes food palatable will soon ruin our society if not firmly resisted." In 1877, Newman criticized a raw food book of Gustav Schlickeysen.
He made an associate membership possible for people who were not completely vegetarian, such as those who ate chicken or fish. Between 1875-1896 membership for the Vegetarian Society was 2,159 and associate membership 1,785.
Newman did not like the term "vegetarian" because it implied someone who ate only vegetables. Instead, he preferred the Greek term "anti-creophagite" or "anti-creophagist" (anti-flesh eater). This idea was not supported by other members of the Society, as few people knew what the term meant. He used the phrase "V E M" diet (vegetables, eggs, milk). Newman consumed some dairy and eggs. In 1884, a hostile review of his book Essays on Diet commented that he "is no vegetarian himself in the strict acceptation of the word, for he takes milk, eggs, butter, and cheese." Newman believed that abstinence from meat, fish and fowl should be the only thing the Vegetarian Society advocates. Some members believed that Newman was not strict enough.
Newman was an anti-vaccinationist and supported the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League. In 1869, an article in The Lancet journal criticized Newman for holding this opinion and tried to convince him to withdraw his support for the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League. Journalist Wilfrid Meynell commented that Newman was as a "deist, vegetarian, anti-vaccinationist, to whom a monastery is even as a madhouse." Literary critic Lionel Trilling described Newman as a "militant vegetarian, an intransigent anti-vivisectionist, an enthusiastic anti-vaccinationist."
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Francis William Newman
Translations Into Latin:
• A Handbook of Modern Arabic: Consisting of a Practical Grammar, with Numerous Examples, Dialogues, and Newspaper Extracts; in a European Type • Francis William Newman • Trübner and Company, 1866
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