Thursday, December 7, 2023

Pugin’s Illustrations of Newman’s Lives of the English Saints

 From NINS:

Two major pieces of literature on Augustus Welby Pugin (1812–1852), the renowned Gothic Revivalist and Catholic convert who designed Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, six cathedrals, and more, state, in summary fashion, that Pugin illustrated St John Henry Newman’s Live of the English Saints.[1] The late Professor Margaret Belcher, however, provided a great deal of detail on this subject in the second volume of her The Collected Letters of A.W.N. Pugin, published in 2003.[2] This essay republishes, for the first time since 1914, all eleven of Pugin’s illustrations[3] and does so for the first time ever in a single document.[4]

The period in question is mid 1842 through the end of 1844.[5] During this time, Pugin was, among other things, doing his typical traveling (Scotland, Ireland, and the Continent),[6] worked on his home in Ramsgate,[7] and on several churches, including three cathedrals.[8] He also published An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England (1843) and Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume (1844).[9] For his part during this time, Newman (1801–1890) was in the throes of converting to Catholicism and had relocated from Oxford to Littlemore, a few miles away, in February 1842.[10] Among other things, he was busy drafting An Essay on The Development of Christine Doctrine (1845).

With respect to Newman’s Lives of the English Saints, the first thing to notice is that any and all illustrations were by Pugin, no one else, and they were not attributed to anyone at the time of original publication. Second, Newman himself may not have written any of the Lives.[11] He edited the first two numbers: St Stephen Harding and St Richard.[12] The introduction to the 1900 edition, the first comprehensive edition, stated that the work is described as Newman’s because he initiated the effort.[13]

Here is how the work came about: Newman’s thoughts on the subject started at least as early as 4 April 1841, when he wrote to his friend, J.W. Bowden, about English saints, the “National Church,” and the desirability of someone writing a biography of St Anselm (1033/34–1109).[14] In the summer of 1842, Newman had a conversation with publisher James Toovey about “publishing the Lives of the [English] Saints … thinking it would be useful, as employing the minds of persons who were in danger of running wild, and bringing them from doctrine to history, from speculation to fact; again, as giving them an interest in the English soil and English church, and keeping them from seeking sympathy in Rome as she is”.[15] On 3 April 1843, almost precisely two years since Newman had first written Bowden on the subject, he wrote Bowden again, stating that he intended the work “to be historical and devotional, but not controversial.”[16]

As of 18 May 1843, “Many men are setting to work [researching and writing biographies].”[17] There were 30 such men. A few months later, in early fall of 1843, Newman published a prospectus describing the anticipated Lives.[18] He envisioned a monthly publication written by various authors, each writing independently of the others.[19] He identified 300 saints![20]

At some point in 1843, Newman asked J. R. Bloxam, previously a curate to Newman, to find out from Pugin what he wanted to do about illustrations for Saints Stephen and Richard.[21] Pugin initially declined the work.[22]

In late 1843, Anglican Father and Oxford Professor E. B. Pusey saw some pre-publication proofs of the first Life, that of St Stephen Harding, by J. D. Dalgairns who lived in community with Newman at Littlemore. Pusey’s objections to these proofs caused Newman great anxiety. Newman had wanted the Lives to present facts with total detachment but realized that “miracles, or monkery [monasticism], or popery”[23] would unavoidably seep in. Newman consulted James Hope, a young barrister and William Gladstone, then a Member of Parliament (and future Prime Minister), both of whom shared Pusey’s concerns.[24]

By December, Newman decided to withdraw from the project but desired that individual biographies, many of them in process, would be published one at a time and that enough of them would eventually constitute a series.[25] As soon as the first, on St Stephen, came into print, it was clear that the project of publishing lives of English saints was incompatible with Anglicanism.[26] After the second biography (of St Richard[27]) was published, Newman gave public notice in January 1844 that he was withdrawing as editor.[28] He declared that only those biographies completed or nearly completed would be subsequently published.[29]

There was a flurry of correspondence—28 letters identified and summarized by Belcher—between Pugin, Newman, Toovey, and the new editor Frederick Oakeley (then minister at Margaret Chapel, the predecessor of All Saints, Margaret Street, and the author of the draft life of St Augustine of Canterbury) from the last half of January through November 1844, some of which may have crossed in the mail. The subjects included employing Pugin to illustrate individual lives as well as the design of a “Wrapper,” or frontispiece, that is, a title-page illustration that would be used for every number in the series, Pugin’s fees, the colors of the illustrations, the status of the work of the engraver, Orlando Jewitt, and comments on Pugin’s illustrations. For example, Toovey wrote Newman on February 9 that Pugin had supplied a “beautiful” design for St Augustine.[30] (Read more.)


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