For those of you caught up by our Newman Day seminar on September 18 and/or the beatification ceremonies of September 19 and asking what Newman introductions and biographies are available, here are some rambling notes;
The best books on Newman come for the most part in two forms – very large or very short.
If you are drawn to “short” books you’ll certainly want to check the various sections in The Cambridge Companion to John Henry Newman, Edited by Ian Ker and Terrence Merrigan (Cambridge,2009), but even before you do so, I would suggest initially turning to two earlier studies, many still easily available. The first is by the Anglican historian Owen Chadwick and is simply entitled Newman (Oxford, 1983 – a mere 75 pages) and the second by C. S. Dessain, Dessains book goes under several titles, Newman’s Spiritual Themes, as well as The Spirituality of John Henry Newman and was first published in 1977. It is a succinct well-written piece of ony 146 pages, a very short work when one considers that Dessain’s major accomplishment was to begin and see through the larger part of Newman’s Letters and Diaries, now complete in 31 volumes – London, 1961-2008. Then too there is the remarkable brief pamphlet John Henry Newman (London, 1963; only 36 pp. if you are really pressed for time) by the British-Canadian “man of letters,” J. M. Cameron, and if Cameron’s style attracts, you might want to go on to read his article, “The liberal Newman” in his collection Nuclear Catholics (Grand Rapids, 1989) and what may be the best reflection on the modern university inspired by Newman, simply titled On the Idea of a University (Toronto, 1978 – but 88pp in length)
If you are interested in a medium-length book, perhaps the best recommendation is Louis Bouyer’s Newman’s Vision of Faith: A Theology for Times of general Apostasy (San Francisco, 1986) Rushed readers (an oxymoron?) will wish to know that Bouyer’s work fills 210 pages and if they find that too large, they will certainly wish to flee the 500-page Newman and his Age in the immaculate prose of Sheridan Gilley (London, 1990) and the 800 pages of John Henry Newman: A Biography by the modern dean of Newman studies. Ian T. Ker (Oxford, 1988).
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