In addition to the trivia (I know more than I ever dreamt I would about signalling on Victorian railways), I find the insight provided into the author’s craft particularly interesting. Particularly in the works of Dickens and his contemporaries who wrote their novels as serials we see evidence of plot changes and vestigial traces of plot changes.
On a slightly related matter, whilst reading ‘Is Heathcliff a Murderer?’ I came across the following quotation (in the mouth of Arthur Pendennis) from Thackeray’s ‘Pendennis’:
I see it (truth) … in that man, who, driven by the remorseless logic of hisThe reference is of course to John Henry Newman and his brother Frank. It is one of those ironies, which caused Venerable Newman so much pain, that his assertion that logically one must chose either atheism or the Catholic faith and that any intermediate positions are ultimately inconsistent was played out in the life of these brothers. John Henry moved from the shadows of evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism, whilst Francis William’s religious opinions moved in the opposite direction, through a variety of Christian sects, to find their ultimate home in unbelief.
creed, gives up everything, friends, fame, dearest ties, closest vanities, the
respect of an army of Churchmen, the recognised position of a leader, and passes
over, truth-impelled, to the enemy, in whose ranks he is ready to serve
henceforth as a nameless private soldier: - I see the truth in that man, as I do
I his brother, whose logic drives him to quite a different conclusion, and who,
after having passed a life in vain endeavours to reconcile an irreconcilable
book, flings it at last down in despair and declares, with tearful eyes, and
hands up to heaven, his revolt and recantation.
I am also working my way through the Gracewing/University of Notre Dame published ‘Birmingham Oratory Millennium’ edition of Newman’s ‘The Church of the Fathers’ which has a preface by Marist Francis McGrath FMS. In it he notes that when Newman re-issued the work as a Catholic in 1857 he added a dedication to the recently deceased Robert Isaac Wilberforce (1802-57), one of the most significant converts who crossed the Tiber under Newman’s influence. He was the son of prominent Evangelical social reformer William Wilberforce. (It’s worth noting that three of his sons converted to Catholicism, whilst one became an Anglican bishop.) Having converted in 1854, Wilberforce moved to Rome to study for the priesthood as a Dominican, but died a few weeks before ordination. His funerary stone can be found set into the pavement of S.Maria Sopra Minerva, about three-quarters of the way up the right hand side of the church. Newman’s dedication reads:
TO A FRIEND,/WHO IS AS DEAR TO ME NOW,/AS WHEN HIS NAME STOOD HERE,/AND THREW LIGHT OVER THESE PAGES;/WHOSE HEART IS IN GOD’S HAND,/TO BRING INTO THAT SACRED HERITAGE,/WHICH IS BOTH THE CHURCH OF THE FATHERS,/AND THE HOME OF THE CHILDREN. Newman’s ‘Church of the Fathers’ was an attempt to introduce the Fathers of the Church to an Anglican audience and was later revised for a Catholic readership. Central to Newman’s argument is the assertion that whatever else the Early Church was, it was not Protestant. Consequently, in addition to character sketches of some of the Fathers, we also have Newman at his satirical best – (I have a decided weakness for Newman’s more polemical passages):
When we ask, ‘Where was your Church before Luther?’ Protestants answer, ‘Where
were you this morning before you washed your face?’ But, if Protestants
can clean themselves into the likeness of Cyprian and Iranaeus, they must scrub
very hard, and have well-nigh learned the art of washing the blackamoor white.