Skip to Content
Indiana University

Search Options




View Options


In a Walled Garden. Belloc, Bessie Rayner, 1829–1925.
previous
next
page: 209

DR. MANNING OF BAYSWATER.

IT is more than thirty years since I first saw the great Cardinal. He was then at the head of the oblates of St. Charles Borromeo, and apt to be called in the outer world “Dr. Manning of Bayswater.” He seemed to fill the populous suburb with his greatness. Somebody, I forget whom, who saw that I was tending to the Church, urged me to go and see him, and I remember feeling a strong disinclination to go. I had never spoken to any human being, priest or pastor, on spiritual things; but an appointment was made, and I went, and was shown into a small, narrow room, where I waited a few minutes, and then the tall, thin, severe‐looking priest came in. He was not severe in later years, and, to one who knew him well and loved him much, it is not quite easy to accurately record that first impression. He page: 210 was perfectly polite, but I thought that he disliked speaking to a woman who had taken an active part in a public movement. This may have been a morbid impression on my part, but it caused me to be frightened. I was not long in the room, but though he spoke with the most measured chilly calmness, the few things he said made a deep and lasting effect on me. He told me that “by the mercy of God” he had never doubted of His Personality. He spoke as if perfectly conscious of the Comtist influence then taking possession of English society. It was just at the time when George Henry Lewes and George Eliot were beginning to reign supreme. If one so peculiarly impersonal as Dr. Manning could stoop to a personal revelation, the words and the accent he used may be held to have conveyed this meaning: “Though I am well aware of the length to which the controversy has been carried, still I have never had to concern myself with it. Doubt never touched me in that direction. I have always had an entire faith in a Personal God.”

He then spoke, with a curious divining sympathy, yet not in any way sympathetically, of page: 211 the manner of torments to which sensitive converts were exposed by the change.

He said that the wearing of the round Roman collar in the street had been a misery to him; and he told me of having said to Hope Scott as they walked away from the church where I think they had both been received simultaneously, “Now my career is ended.” And he added, looking at me impressively, “But where I once worked on an acre I now work on a square mile.”

He knew that I had worked hard, and he had some secret wish to console and encourage in a possible loss of influence, though his manner was that of a man of marble.

He then advised me to read up the history of the Reformation on all sides, for he put down several books on a sheet of paper, and among them D’Aubigné, remarking, calmly, “But it is full of lies.” In this interview Dr. Manning gave me no spiritual advice, made no appeal to me. His look seemed to say, “You are an unpleasant young woman, one of the stiff old Presbyterian stock; but I will tell you faithfully what I think, and let it take its chance.” I do not think he page: 212 had any suspicion that I was so impressed and overpowered by his intellect, that when I left the room and the house I ran nearly all the way home, with the sense that I was fleeing from an overmastering brain, and that I dreaded it.

I did not see him again till he was Archbishop of Westminster and I a married woman with a young child, whom I took to him for his blessing one day when I had to call upon him about the subscriptions got up for poorer French exiles in 1870‐71. How good and kind he was about it, writing a letter which I took to Lady Lothian. Since then I have always loved him with a full comprehension of the absolute fitness of the choice of Rome; a fitness which everyone was finally compelled to acknowledge before he died. Other priests and bishops have been good, holy, of old English birth, and assimilated to the type of the Vatican, but it was Henry Edward, Cardinal Archbishop, who was then wanted for England, and he seemed by his whole experience and training to be the appointed man.

Sunday, June 8th, 1890, was his silver Jubilee. He preached in the little Catholic church of St. Edward, Palace Street, Westminster, standing page: 213 for three‐quarters of an hour by the altar rail; his text: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” After a very few doctrinal words, he fell back on the personal example of Jesus Christ our Lord, talking very simply and plainly to his congregation, saying he had no doubt they were “good,” but were they good? A word not to be forgotten. To his Jubilee he made no allusion whatever; but he did say that he had remembered on the previous day that in this church he had said his first mass, or rather in the poor room which then did duty for a church in that parish. And his first pastoral work had also been in that most poor parish, now totally changed by the building of Victoria Street. He said he had worked with the good Sisters of St. Vincent, some of whom he noticed among the audience this day.

In his scarlet robes, and with his fine worn face, he was much less terrible than “Dr. Manning of Bayswater” in the black dress of the oblates. I do not think anybody ran away from him in his closing years.

In the afternoon a goodly gathering took place at Archbishop’s House, and nearly four thousand pounds was given to him for church purposes. page: 214 As he passed through the crowd, in which every layer of the English world was represented, he bore himself with upright dignity, but his tall figure seemed so frail, and its movement so noiseless, that he might have been taken for a visitant from another world than ours. He took his place on the red daïs, and in thanking the subscribers for their gift, and making a special allusion to those who were absent in Ireland, he spoke of his own great age, and as being conscious that he would soon be called away; and instantly from every corner of the vast room rose an interrupting murmur of men’s and women’s voices, of which the sense was an entreating “No, no!” It was a spontaneous and unconventional cry, which no hearer could forget, and for nineteen months longer it prevailed. On the 14th of January, 1892, the old man who had nobly done his work, and the young man on whom so many hopes were set, passed away almost in the same hour.

Seldom has any man more completely conquered prejudice than did Cardinal Manning, and in the slight speech to which allusion has been made, he spoke of times when he had felt page: 215 it his duty to withstand some current of thought popular among his own people, adding, in a tone of intense feeling, “And I bore the reproach.” These words would make a wonderful epitaph for his tomb, for they were like all his utterances, emphatically true. Probably none of the English converts to Roman Catholicism had suffered from interior causes more deeply than he. It used to be said of him that he was an ambitious man, and in the sense in which Pitt and Fox, Gladstone and Beaconsfield, have been ambitious, it was no doubt true. He had taken a great place at Oxford, and was of that stuff of which statesmen are made. How should he not have been ambitious, when he might have been the Becket or the Wolsey of the Church of England? Our country offers great prizes to her worthy sons, and Henry Edward Manning might have been anything he chose. But in 1851 he obeyed the call of conscience, resigned his place and his work, and for fourteen years lived literally in obscurity, like any other ordinary ecclesiastic. As a childless widower, his life had for many years been a lonely one. When he took Catholic orders I believe that a female relative page: 216 of an older generation kept his house in South Audley Street; and when he went to be head of the Oblates in Bayswater, his position, though important and dignified, was not more so than that of a hundred others. In the ten years during which England passed through the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, and when the French Alliance was a prominent political factor, Dr. Manning’s name was literally unheard in the outer world. He had lost himself, and his place knew him no more, so far as his Protestant fellow‐countrymen were concerned; and when, in 1865, he was made Archbishop of Westminster, a post in which Dr. Wiseman’s genial kindness and literary gifts had greatly succeeded in disarming prejudice, the appointment was greeted with a deep murmur of dissatisfaction, of which perhaps the most reasonable element was the feeling that the honour was due to one of those old English families who had held to their faith through centuries of difficulty. And the new Archbishop was known to be far from conciliating. He had the severity of a Wesley; he turned the ladies out of the choirs; he put down florid church music; he detested page: 217 theatres, round dances, and the drinking of wine; and, above all, he never tried to soften dogma. A Frenchman might have said of him, “Qu’il etait plus Royaliste que le Roi.” When a young lady had the audacity to tell him, “But, your Eminence, I like going to balls,” his characteristic answer was, “Better not, my child.” His whole leaning was towards counsels of perfection, and he died when he did because he absolutely refused to take stimulants lest his tempted children should thereby feel themselves ever so slightly loosened from their pledge; and for these and other most unpopular causes he “bore the reproach” with a certain pathetic severity. And little by little, year by year, the ascetic old man, who went about on ordinary occasions like “a shabby curate,” won upon his own recalcitrant people, and upon the outer English world. They came to understand his point of view, which was that if a man saw a good thing he was to strive after it utterly regardless of human respect; and if he saw a bad thing he was to fling himself against it; and if it was clear about a text of Scripture it was to be obeyed in all its length and breadth. His page: 218 natural fastidiousness never stopped him for an instant. To the repentant woman he simply said, “Go and sin no more”; the drunken man he took literally into Archbishop’s House, and set him on his feet again.

Also, in the later years of his life, when all opposition had faded away in the respect and affection gained by his great qualities, the Cardinal himself softened. In nothing was this more evident than in his widened sympathy with other men and their partial conceptions of Christian faith; but it was a sympathy born of perfect security that none could misunderstand him. When it was a question of the submerged millions, he went down into the arena, and the delicate, fastidious Dr. Manning of former times seemed infused with white light and heat of Christian love.

I will conclude by a few extracts from a letter written by a witness of the funeral service at the Oratory, who was stationed in the organ loft of the immense church. It begins by an allusion to the lying in state, when the people stood waiting in the streets in a queue half a mile in length.

“Ah! how I wish you had seen the Cardinal page: 219 lying in death. There was no pomp of any sort, though the size of the great square rooms draped with black cloth gave a certain external majesty to the scene. He lay on a sloping bier clothed in dark purple, and surrounded by tall green palms and wax lights, severe in beauty, and suggesting one of the older monuments in our Abbey, and his delicate, worn face and calm repose majestic as the bronze image of Margaret of Richmond.

“And at the Oratory on Thursday the only pomp was the great array of white‐robed priests of his diocese, each with a lighted taper. Every man represented a world of work. And there also were gathered representatives of every rank, of every profession, of all the services. But what most moved me were the long minutes when I stood by the temporary porch on the pavement and saw the coffin carried out, and the pall slipped from the polished mahogany as it was placed in the small, low hearse, while the bishops and the clergy stood in a circle with bowed heads. There ensued a long halt in the street, amidst the silent crowd; and it seemed an especially fitting farewell to one who had peculiarly been page: 220 the people’s priest. It was the last of Henry Edward, one of our four greatest, Gladstone, Tennyson, and the Queen the other corners of the great English Square; but the Cardinal and the Queen are morally first. He stood out as a landmark or a lighthouse in the troubled sea of public life, and on the day of his burial, all over the world, wherever live the English‐speaking peoples, from Melbourne to San Francisco, from New York to India, went up the prayers of his fellow‐Catholics following the course of the sun. And all the way to the cemetery the three miles of road was lined by the English working‐men; they came by the hundred thousand to see that little low hearse pass by, just as by the hundred thousand they had come to see him lying dead. I have been tempted to destroy this letter lest you should think it of intemperate warmth, not thinking as he thought. But impressions of the hour are worth preserving, and what I have sought to convey is this: The man who so died and so was buried was no emissary of an alien power, no head of an ‘Italian Mission.’ He was peculiarly English—nay, even insular—in the severity of his piety, and every man within or page: 221 without the Oratory Church was almost without exception English. Into the very marrow of the social politics of his time had the English Cardinal penetrated, striving to bring into them the will and words of that only Saviour in whom he believed. And not until Queen Victoria is gathered to her fathers shall we see such an emotion of the popular heart again.”

previous
next