Henry Edward Manning, who was born at his grandfather’s home, Copped Hall, Totteridge, Herts, England, was the son of William Manning, M. P. for Evesham and Lymington and sometime governor of the Bank of England. His father’s family was of an old Kentish stock, and though born in Hertfordshire, the future cardinal spent some years of his boyhood at Combe Bank, near Sevenoaks in Kent, whither his father had moved when his son was but seven years old. His mother, William Manning’s second wife, was a daughter of Henry Lannoy Hunter, who was of a French Huguenot family originally known by the name of Veneur. His father’s mother was a Miss Ryan, whose name betrays her Irish origin, and from some old diaries which have only lately come to life it appears that she was a Catholic and faithfully practiced the duties of her religion. This fact, it would seem, was never known to Cardinal Manning himself, as the diaries have only been discovered since his death. After learning his first rudiments at home and at a private school at Totteridge, Henry Manning went to Harrow, in 1822, and on leaving school continued his studies for a time under a private tutor. It had at first been his purpose to follow his father in the banking business and to enter Parliament. But the banker having suffered a reverse of fortune, he was fain to take a different course. In 1827 he went up to Oxford and entered at Balliol College. Although he no longer had a parliamentary career in view, he continued to take an interest in political questions, and his natural powers of oratory soon made him conspicuous in the debating of the Union, where he was succeeded by Gladstone in the presidency. In later life he still cherished pleasing recollections of the memorable debate of 1829, when Monckton Milnes and Hallam and Sunderland came from Cambridge to prove the poetical superiority of Shelley to Byron.
These rhetorical distractions, however, did not interfere with his studies, and in 1830 he took a first class in classics. On leaving Oxford, he accepted a subordinate post in the Colonial Office, and devoted his attention to questions of political economy, a study which stood him in good stead when in later years he took a prominent part in the practical discussion of social problems. But though this time was in no wise wasted, he had not yet found his rightful place and his real work in life. He had scarcely relinquished his dreams of political ambition, when he felt himself called to the service of God and his brethren. For this reason he once more went back to Oxford, where, in 1832, he was elected a Fellow of Merton College. After completing the course of reading required for orders, he was ordained to the Anglican ministry later in the same year and preached his first sermon in Cuddesdon Church on Christmas Day. Soon after his ordination he went to act as curate to the Rev. John Sargent, Rector of Lavington-with-Graffham, Sussex, who was stricken with illness, and in taking what seemed to be a temporary work he found what was to be his home for the next seventeen years. On the death of the rector, he was presented to the living in May, 1833, by the patroness, Mrs. Sargent of Lavington, the mother of the Rev. John Sargent. In November of the same year he married Caroline Sargent, the third daughter of his predecessor in the incumbency. His marriage may be said to have had some part, however indirectly, in leading him into the Catholic Church, for it brought him into a family circle that was destined to be strongly affected by the rising Romeward movement. Of the four famous Sargent sisters, Mrs. Henry Wilberforce and Mrs. George Ryder were received into the Church with their husbands and their children; the other two, Caroline Manning, who died in July, 1837, and her eldest sister, the wife of Samuel Wilberforce afterwards Bishop of Winches-ter, were already dead when the movement had scarce begun; yet one of them eventually gave her husband and the other her daughter to the Church.
In his country parish at Lavington, though Henry Manning had not yet attained to the fullness of the Faith, nor as yet received the sacramental grace and the spiritual powers of the Catholic pastor, he was already, according to the light so far vouchsafed him, serving his Divine master and laboring for the salvation of souls in a true spirit of zeal and generous self-sacrifice, in the spirit that speaks in later days from the pages of his “Eternal Priesthood” and his “Pastoral Office”. In 1841, after some years of simple parish work, a wider field was opened to him by his appointment to the office of Archdeacon of Chichester. The office in his case was assuredly no sinecure. The volume of charges delivered on the periodical visitations of the archdeaconry remains to show the intelligent and tireless zeal with which he entered into these new duties. Here also we may find some things that seem to foreshadow his larger work in later years, notably the pages that bear witness to his love for God‘s poor, his resolute resistance to wrong, and his zeal for reforming abuses. Meanwhile, all this active work was accompanied by a corresponding growth in the knowledge of Catholic truth.
The Oxford Movement was now in full swing, and some of its leaders were already, however unconsciously, well on their way to Rome. Newman had begun to see the light in 1839 (two years before Manning’s appointment as archdeacon), but six more years had to elapse before his final submission to the Holy See in 1845. This fact is worth recalling here, for it reminds us that a conversion is often a matter of some time. Between the beginning of difficulties, misgivings, and fears that may prove illusory, and the period when the misgivings become convictions, and duty becomes clear, a considerable time may often elapse. It is difficult to lay down any general rule; some may see their way clear more speedily than others and may have little need to seek for outward help in coming to a decision, but where, as so often happens, the process of conviction is slow, and some wise counsel is needed, it may be a duty to confide to some competent adviser fears and misgivings which it would be a crime to proclaim in public. In such a position the most candid and consistent writer must needs speak in a different strain in his confidential letters setting forth his difficulties, and in letters addressed to others to whom it would be wrong to make them known. And the reader who can appreciate this position will readily understand the seeming inconsistency between the language of Manning’s private correspondence unfolding conscientious perplexities and that of his public utterances at this time, wherein all doubt is silenced. He has been accused of remaining an Anglican after losing faith in Anglican teachings; and it has been alleged that he became a Catholic for motives of worldly ambition. A change of religion for such unworthy motives is quite out of keeping with the character of the man as revealed in his letters and journals of that date, and is unintelligible if Manning had been the astute and ambitious man imagined by his accusers. When he first began to break away from the Church of England there was no Catholic hierarchy or cardinal archbishop in England, and the position of a vicar Apostolic could not offer any great temptation to an ambitious Anglican archdeacon. And if we once suppose him to be so unprincipled as to change his belief or profession for the sake of preferment, why should he go so far and get so little? There would certainly be less trouble and greater prospect of success in a change of course within the Church of England. An astute and ambitious Archdeacon of Chichester would have broken with the High Church party and taken a line agreeable to the men in high places. The real cause and motive of his conversion to the Church may be plainly seen in the whole history of the Oxford Movement, as well as in his own published writings and his private letters and journals. In common with the Tractarian leaders he had from the first taken hold of great Catholic principles which he found in the writings of the early Fathers. And in his case the truth that came home to him with special force, and dominated and moulded his whole life and character was the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church of God. This, it maybe said, is at once his leading idea in his Anglican sermons, his main motive at the time of his conversion and in the course he took in the Vatican Council, and it forms the favorite theme in his later spiritual and theological writings. At first, like other Anglican divines, he was able to satisfy himself that the Church of England was a part of the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of the Creed, and as such was guided and quickened by the presence of the Holy Spirit. For this reason he looked to the Church to guard and cherish the revealed doctrines committed, as he supposed, to her care.
His faith in Anglicanism had already been somewhat shaken by other doctrinal or historical difficulties. It was finally shattered by the Gorham Judgment of 1850, when the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council directed the Dean of Arches to institute a clergyman who was accused of holding unorthodox views on the subject of Baptismal Regeneration. As Newman had said of the Jerusalem Bishopric, this act of the state Church was for Manning “the beginning of the end”. Even then he did not act with any undue haste, and joined in an attempt to free the Church of England from a compromising association with heresy. His zeal and devotion to the Establishment caused him at this time to be looked up to as the leader of the High Church party as distinguished from the Tractarians in the Anglican body. On January 23, 1847, in reply to Dr. Pusey’s lament over Canon MacMullen’s conversion he had written to him: “You know how long I have to you expressed my conviction that a false position has been taken up by the Church of England. The direct and certain tendency of what remains of the original movement is to the Roman Church. You know the minds of men about us better than I do, and will therefore know how strong an impression the claims of Rome have upon them …. It is also clear that they are revising the Reformation; that the doctrine, ritual, and practice of the Church of England taken at its best does not suffice them …. I say all this not in fault-finding but in sorrow. How to help to heal it I do not presume to say.” Within a few days after the Gorham Judgment (March, 1850) he still clung to the Church of England as a living branch of the Church of Christ, and he was the first to sign a protest calling on the Church to free itself from a heresy imposed on it by the civil power. A bill was introduced in the House of Lords to provide that the ultimate decision as to questions of doctrine should be transferred to the Upper House of Convocation, but was lost by 84 votes to 31, and Manning was driven to consider whether the Church of England could claim to be an unerring guide and teacher of the Faith. He took pains to inform his friends that he was acting with calmness and deliberation. In June, 1850, he wrote from Lavington to his sister, Mrs. Austen: “Let me tell you to believe nothing of me but what comes from me. The world has sent me long ago to Pius IX, but I am still here, and if I may lay my bones under the sod in Lavington Churchyard with a soul clear before God, all the world could not move me.” With Wilberforce and Mill he circulated a declaration that the oath of supremacy only obliged the conscience in matters of a civil not of a spiritual kind; it was sent to 17,000 clergymen, but only about 1800 signed it. When these efforts failed, and the truth was borne in upon him with irresistible force, his own course was at length clear before him. At Michaelmas in the same year he took steps to resign his living, and on Passion Sunday, April 6, 1851, together with his friend J. R. Hope-Scott, Q.C. he was received into the Catholic Church, by Father Brownbill, S.J.
To those who knew the archdeacon’s zeal in the pastoral office for the salvation of souls, there was no doubt of his call to the sacred ministry. It seemed only a matter of course that his submission to the Church should be followed, after the necessary interval of preparation, by his ordination to the Catholic priesthood. Few could have expected that this ordination would come as speedily as it did. Cardinal Wiseman, recognizing that the circumstances of the case were exceptional, decided to let no time be lost, and Henry Edward Manning was ordained priest by his predecessor in the See of Westminster on Trinity Sunday, June 14, 1851, little more than two months after his reception into the Church. There may seem to be a strange irony of fate in this hurried promotion of one who was to lay so much stress on the importance of due preparation for the priesthood. But the want of preparation in this case was apparent rather than real. Whether we regard the theological learning or the spiritual holiness of life required of candidates for the priesthood, Manning had already made no little progress in preparation. In his final years at Lavington he had made good way in the study of Catholic theology and spiritual literature, and, as his journal with its searching self-examination and generous resolutions bears witness, the other side of that preparation was in no wise wanting. At the same time, it was certainly desirable that some more systematic training should be added to this self-education. For this reason his ordination was followed by a course of studies in Rome. These studies, however, were not allowed to prevent that immediate missionary work which had doubtless been one of Cardinal Wiseman’s main motives in hastening the ordination of the neophyte. During these years of Roman study, Manning took advantage of the summer vacation to exercise his pastoral office in London preaching, receiving converts into the Church, and hearing confessions at the Jesuit church in Farm Street. In this church he had said his first Mass on June 16, 1851, assisted by Pere de Ravignan.
By a significant coincidence his ordination took place on June 14, the feast of St. Basil, one of the Fathers who was in a special manner his pattern, and who has left us a great work on the Holy Ghost, and, as he noticed at the time with delight, the Introit of his first Mass (on the feast of St. Francis Regis) was the text: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; wherefore he bath anointed me, to preach the Gospel to the poor he hath sent me” (Luke, iv, 18; Isaias, lxi, 1), words that bring before us both his active work for the poor and the devotion to the Holy Ghost, which was, so to say, the soul of all his life and labor. The priestly labors which thus began were continued on a large field and with fresh advantages when, in 1857, he founded at St. Mary of the Angels, Bayswater, the Congregation of the Oblates of St. Charles. This new community of secular priests was in some sort the joint work of Cardinal Wiseman and Manning, for both had independently conceived the idea of a community of this kind, and Manning had studied the life and work of St. Charles in his Anglican days at Lavington and had, moreover, visited the Oblates at Milan, in 1856, to satisfy himself that their rule could be adapted to the needs of Westminster. In the same year that he became superior of this congregation another office was laid upon him. At the instigation of Dr. Whitty, who was about to enter the Society of Jesus, he was appointed, by Pius IX, provost of the Westminster Metropolitan Chapter. During the eight years of his tenure of these two offices, the provost and superior accomplished a great amount of work both for the diocese and for his own community, and the eloquence which had made him one of the foremost Anglican preachers of the time now helped to spread and strengthen the Catholic Faith in England. His pastoral labor was now no longer hampered by inward struggles or by the uncertainties of doctrinal differences that troubled the Anglican archdeacon.
Though the old time of storm and stress was ended he was now to have trouble of another kind; anti through no fault of his own he found himself involved in a domestic controversy which became the cause of considerable misunderstanding. In the circumstances of the time it was almost inevitable that the new community, partly composed of converts and apparently aiming at a revival in English Catholic ecclesiastical life, should be a subject of some difference of opinion. Men of the old school, who looked with suspicion on any novelties, may be pardoned for feeling alarm at the participation of the new community in the work of the diocesan seminary. Likely enough, neither side quite understood the ideas and motives of the other. Be this as it may, the majority of the Metropolitan Chapter adopted views at variance with those of Wiseman and Manning, and in the controversy that ensued the canons were supported by Archbishop Errington, at that time Cardinal Wiseman’s coadjutor “with right of succession” to the see. In the event the Oblates had to retire from St. Edmund’s College (1861), where their presence had given offense to the chapter. But the most important out-come of the struggle was the removal of Archbishop Errington from his office of coadjutor cum jure successionis. And as this decision of the Holy See followed upon a controversy in which Manning took a conspicuous part, some critics, imperfectly acquainted with the facts, have regarded him as an ambitious aspirant for office removing a rival from his path. But in this they strangely mistake the situation, and forget or overlook the fact that Manning’s part in the controversy was strictly defensive. This can hardly be disputed by any careful and candid student of the documents. For even a reader who shared Archbishop Errington’s unfavorable view of the Oblate Community and its position and influence in the diocese could hardly blame the superior of the Oblates for writing a vigorous vindication of himself and his community.
Though this struggle was certainly not of his seeking, and though he clearly had no thought of securing, the succession for himself; it is none the less true that this controversy with the chapter and the coadjutor did lead in the event to his own elevation. If the rupture had never come to pass there would have been no vacancy on Cardinal Wiseman’s death, since the coadjutor would have succeeded in due course. At the same time, the attack and the vindication had the effect of making Manning’s merits and labors better known in Rome, and marked him out as the man most in sympathy with Wiseman’s policy, and thus suggested him as a suitable successor. Hence, when the vacancy occurred on Wiseman’s death in February, 1865, the natural result followed. This was made more certain when the chapter sent up Archbishop Errington’s name at the head of the terna, and the other candidates did their best to secure his appointment. As the Holy See could hardly accept such a reversal of the decision made a few years before, it was inevitable that the names should be set aside; and the pope himself decided to appoint Msgr. Manning. While the matter still hung in the balance, Manning endeavored to secure the appointment of another, and, in a confidential letter to Msgr. George Talbot in Rome, urged the claims of Bishop Ullathorne and Bishop Cornthwaite. From resolutions which he made as to his future conduct towards the coming archbishop it is clear that he did not anticipate his own appointment.
The new archbishop was consecrated at St. Mary Moorfields, on June 8, 1865, by Bishop Ullathorne of Birmingham. Later in the year he went to Rome to receive the pallium, returning to England by November, when he was solemnly enthroned, and set himself to the great work that lay before him. If the choice made by the Holy See was naturally received with satisfaction by all who really knew him others who had not that advantage regarded it with some misgiving. Yet some who had hitherto misunderstood him may possibly have gained a new sense of his power, and of his fitness for the post, from the sermon that he preached at the funeral of Cardinal Wiseman. In that graphic sketch of his predecessor’s career, wherein he showed how the man had been fashioned and prepared for the work he was destined to do in England, the discerning reader may see how well the preacher had grasped the needs and hopes of the country, and may moreover be led to reflect how he, too, though in other ways than Wiseman’s, had been made ready to carry the Catholic standard forward to further victories. While those who rightly understood Manning’s merits may well have had high hopes for the future, few if any can have anticipated anything like the actual accomplishment. For one thing, his age and his apparently frail health gave little promise of such a long lease of active and laborious life. He said himself that he thought he had twelve years of work in him; and some may have considered this over sanguine. Yet he was to have a life full of strenuous and varied labor for more than a quarter of a century.
He inaugurated a memorial to his predecessor Cardinal Wiseman and determined that it should take the form of a cathedral for Westminster. In 1868 he was able to secure a site, but in after years a more favorable one was determined on. His efforts to procure education for the poor Catholic children of London were unceasing; and in his Lenten Pastoral of 1890 he was able to say that the names of 23,599 Catholic children were on the books of his parochial schools, and that during the previous quarter of a century 4542 children had been provided for in the homes of the archdiocese. He was one of the 500 bishops assembled in Rome to take part in the eighteenth centenary of Sts. Peter and Paul, and he was, therefore, present when Pius IX announced his intention of convoking a General Council. He returned to Rome in 1869, arriving for the opening of the Vatican Council, December 8, and was put on the Committee “De Fide”. To this Committee, in March, 1870, was referred the question of Papal Infallibility, and on July 18 the Decree was passed.
On his return to England, ‘Manning protested in the press against the charges made by Mr. Gladstone against Catholics who accepted the Vatican Decrees, and his three pastoral letters published under the title “Petri Privilegium” did much to remove prejudice and misconception even among Catholics. In 1878 his “True Story of the Vatican Council” appeared in “The Nineteenth Century” in reply to incorrect statements that had obtained credence. In 1875 he was summoned to Rome to receive the cardinalate and the title of Sts. Andrew and Gregory, the church on the Coelian, once the home of St. Gregory the Great, whence St. Augustine and his companions had been sent to convert England. In 1878 Cardinal Manning took part in the conclave that elected Leo XIII, receiving a vote or two himself in the scrutiny; and Pope Leo’s encyclical “On the condition of labor”, to use the words of Bishop Hedley,” owes something to the counsels of Cardinal Manning.”
A matter of importance which took up not a little of his time and caused him some anxiety arose at the Low Week meeting of the bishops in 1877, when he proposed that they should prepare a petition to be sent to Rome asking that the pope should determine the relations which ought to exist between the regulars and the episcopate. The main questions at issue affected the right of the bishops to divide missions already in the hands of regulars and the control bishops had over missions served by regulars in matters concerning visitation and the auditing of funds collected intuitu missionis. After some necessary delay the famous Constitution “Romanos Pontifices” was issued in 1881, and in course of time its provisions have been extended to nearly all English-speaking countries. It deals mainly with matters of jurisdiction and discipline, and treats of many subjects involving nice and complicated points of prudence and equity. To his zeal in the cause of elementary religious education, Cardinal Manning’s later years saw added his efforts on behalf of the poor and outcast. He was invited to join the commission for the better housing of the working classes, he founded his League of the Cross for the promotion of temperance, and the “Cardinal‘s Peace” recalls the success of his efforts at mediation between the strikers and their employers at the time of the great London Dock Strike in 1889. Such are some of the salient works of Manning’s life. And it may be remarked that while anyone of these various lines of activity might have been enough, or more than enough for any ordinary man, all of them together by no means make up the whole life work of Cardinal Manning. Besides these special theological, literary, or social labors, there remain his ordinary pastoral activities. If he had done none of those things that seem at first sight most striking and characteristic, his life would still have been sufficiently full with the administration of the affairs of his diocese, with his care in training the clergy, his daily “solicitude for all the Churches”, with holding ordinations and presiding at diocesan synods, with the building and blessing of new churches. And nothing in the way of special work could make him neglect those primary episcopal du-ties or perform them in a perfunctory fashion. These, it may be safely said, came first and foremost. For him the Catholic bishop was the father of the flock, solicitous in every way for the welfare of his children. It was, therefore, as a bishop sent by the Holy Ghost, the “Pater pauperum”, to rule the Church of God, that he spent himself in works of charity or social reform, or defended the truth against attack from all forms of error, or from the corruptions of an evil life, and spoke in the same spirit, whether addressing dockers in the East End, or agnostics in the Metaphysical Society or bishops and theologians in the Vatican Council.
Theological controversy may be said to hold the first place in the earlier part of his episcopate, culminating in the Vatican Council, and continuing with somewhat abated vigor for a few years longer. Social “work gradually becomes more conspicuous in the years after 1876, and reaches its climax in the Dock Strike in 1889. And most of his active work in the League of the Cross and among working men comes after his elevation to the cardinalate in 1875. For the last two years of his life, his failing health made him for the most part a prisoner. At length the end came, after a few days of illness, and he went to his rest on January 14, 1892. A striking proof of the hold he had on the hearts of the poor and the working people of London was given when thousands thronged to get a last glimpse of him as he lay in state in his house at Westminster, and to follow his funeral to Kensal Green Cemetery. After some years in that field of the dead which he had described so well in his words on Wiseman, he was once more brought back to Westminster and given his last earthly resting place in the crypt of the cathedral.
W. H. KENT