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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: May 2009

1 - Life and writings

Summary

John Henry Newman was born in London on 21 February 1801, the eldest of the six children, three sons and three daughters, of a banker, John Newman, an easygoing member of the Church of England without strong dogmatic convictions, and of his wife Jemima née Fourdrinier, whose ancestry was French Huguenot. Newman was baptized an Anglican in the London church of St Benet Fink on 9 April, though he was only to make his first communion as an undergraduate in Oxford in November 1817. His religious upbringing was a conventional, non-sacramental middle-class one. His childhood religious education was the then commonplace Anglican undoctrinal Bible-reading of his aunt Elizabeth Good Newman, and his paternal grandmother Elizabeth née Good, but he brought to it a profound sense of the superior reality of the supernatural, as in his wish that the Arabian Nights were true and in his imagining that he was an angel and the world was a deception played upon him by his fellow-angels. This state of mind was interrupted by an adolescent reading of the Deist Tom Paine and the sceptic David Hume. His conversion to a more dogmatic form of Christianity, Calvinist Evangelicalism, occurred, according to his own account, at the age of fifteen in the autumn of 1816. It took place during the summer holidays while he was staying on at his boarding school as a result of the failure of his father's bank and under the influence of his Anglican Calvinist schoolmaster mentor, the Rev Walter Mayers. Newman was thereby caught up into the Evangelical Revival, the most vital religious movement of his youth.

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The Cambridge Companion to John Henry Newman
  • Online ISBN: 9781139002448
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521871860
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