John Henry Newman’s Lives of the English Saints
in Making and remaking saints in nineteenth-century Britain
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John Henry Newman Lives of the English Saints was hugely controversial. The publication of its few issues marked a significant transition in Newman’s own path away from the Church of England. Individually, however, the Lives themselves, published anonymously, were also vehicles for the divergent approaches to history and church authority of their authors, who included J.A. Froude, Mark Pattison, Frederick Faber and Frederick Oakeley. They were thus central both to the articulation of what it meant to be Anglican in the nineteenth century and also to the conversions of several prominent figures to Catholicism. Drawing on Newman’s strangely underexamined Anglican poems and sermons on the saints, the texts of the Lives, and responses in the periodical press, this essay suggests that one of the key issues for Anglicans in reading the Littlemore saints’ lives was their adumbration of a form, neither critical history nor moral literature, that seemed impossible to reconcile with conventional Anglicanism. The Lives continued to elicit criticism for many years, but they also remained resonant for contributors who had long since departed from their earlier opinions. By examining the hagiographical musings of Froude, Faber, Pattison and others, this essay demonstrates the centrality of hagiography, and its discontents, to debates about Anglicanism, Englishness and the uses of religious biography.

Editor: Gareth Atkins

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