Newman's Campaign in Ireland: A Review of Paul Shrimpton's New Edition

By Vincent and Rebecca Vaccaro
July 28, 2021
4 min read
Newman's Campaign in Ireland: A Review of Paul Shrimpton's New Edition

My Campaign in Ireland Part I: Catholic University Reports and other Papers. BY JOHN HENRY NEWMAN. EDITED BY WILLIAM P. NEVILLE WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY PAUL SHRIMPTON. Newman Millennium Edition Volume XVI. Leominster: Gracewing, 2021. xli + 614 pages. Hardback: £35. ISBN: 9780852444092.

Fearing John Henry Newman’s reputation would be attacked unjustly for the lack of success of the Catholic University of Ireland, in 1896 William Payne Neville (1824–1905), Newman’s former secretary and literary executor, assembled and printed a collection of Newman’s reports, papers, and articles showing what Neville believed actually happened. The printed volume was distributed privately to those Neville thought might be interested in or called upon to explain and defend what Newman did. Known as My Campaign in Ireland Part I, the work remained unpublished for well over a century and is known mostly to Newman scholars in facsimile format or digitally through NINS Digital Collections.

The newest volume in the Birmingham Oratory’s Millennial Edition of Newman’s works published My Campaign Part I for the first time. Edited by British educational historian and Newman scholar Paul Shrimpton, the book contains four valuable treasures. The first is obviously the documents that Neville selected, including letters from the Vatican establishing the university (translated from the original Latin), university reports to the Irish bishops, the original text of Discourses I and V from Newman’s 1852 The Scope and Nature of University Education, and almost 200 pages of additional articles, papers, addresses, and lectures relating to the practical operations of the Catholic University of Ireland. While the publication of various new editions of Newman’s Idea of a University and his Letters and Diaries has made much of the material in this volume more available to the reading public, the Birmingham Oratory Millennial Edition allows the material to be published together for the first time.

The second treasure is the 64-page advertisement essay by Neville. Although Neville’s perspective is far from objective, his advertisement, written six years after Newman’s death, contains a valuable, contemporary memorial of what issues Neville saw as potentially affecting Newman’s reputation. Following Newman’s preferences (Neville was the intermediary in delivering Newman’s materials to biographer Anne Mozley), Neville used Newman’s letters and other writings to guide readers through the materials selected, materials Newman would have approved of because “there was nothing compromising in them to anyone” ([xxxv]).

Third, Shrimpton’s 40-page introduction provides historical and literary context for the work, clarifying the numerous works and events relating to Newman’s seven-year effort to establish the Catholic University of Ireland. Having previously published works on Newman’s Oratory School and the practical aspects of the university—namely, A Catholic Eton and The “Making of Men, both published by Gracewing—Shrimpton is a natural candidate to undertake the publication of My Campaign in Ireland Parts I and II, the second volume which is due for release this fall. Especially valuable is Shrimpton’s discussion of Neville’s motivation for compiling and printing the work and choosing to include Cathedra Sempiterna and Newman’s 1879 Biglietto Speech, neither of which has any direct relationship to the university itself. Although many of Shrimpton’s footnotes are lengthy, they enhance rather than detract the attention of reader, especially readers like ourselves who are not intimately familiar with the history of British and Irish educational reform and their impact on the culture, society, and politics of those countries. Readers who choose to skip or skim the footnotes are missing a real treasure.[1]

Finally, the inclusion of Neville’s supplementary material allows readers to understand Newman’s strategy for marketing the university to the public. Neville’s material makes clear that Newman knew that for the new university to have any chance of success, he needed to sell higher education to upper- and middle-class Catholics in Ireland. The lower class was already sold, having donated much of the £22,000+ in scarce resources to the university prior to its founding. The various articles that appeared in the University Gazette and the Weekly Register show the extent to which Newman was personally involved in marketing the university. Although having obvious historical interest, we believe these documents also have considerable significance for Catholic secondary and post-secondary educators today. With the recent COVID crisis, educators throughout the world face the daunting challenge of examining and redefining why they exist—often referred to as “reinventing themselves.” We suggest that, in My Campaign Part I, Catholic educational leaders could find essential answers for redefining and reasserting the importance of Catholic education.

Shrimpton’s introduction and notes make it easy to connect the numerous documents selected by Neville to Newman’s decisions and actions in bringing the idea of the Catholic University of Ireland into existence. Now educators interested in learning from Newman’s educational framework in The Idea of a University have a companion volume of how that idea needs to work. Thus, My Campaign Part I is a welcome and necessary addition to the library of any serious Newman scholar.

[1] For readers new to Newman’s educational works, we recommend that in addition to Shrimpton’s introduction and Neville’s Advertisement essay, also read Mary Katherine Tillman’s introduction to her Rise and Progress of Universities and Benedictine Essays, volume III of the Birmingham Oratory Millennial Edition (Gracewing/Notre Dame, 2001), xi–lxxvi.

Previous Article
A Pilgrimage with Newman: Reading Patricia O'Leary's The Gentleman Saint
Vincent and Rebecca Vaccaro

Vincent and Rebecca Vaccaro

Vincent Vaccaro is a retired civil servant with over forty years of Federal service. For almost three decades, he annually taught a graduate seminar in the philosophy of education for the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education (Northern Virginia Center).  Rebecca Vaccaro teaches British and American Literature to high school students in Alexandria, VA. Her specialization is Victorian literature with an emphasis in children's and young adult literature. The Vaccaros are currently working on an article on Newman and creating school culture and a book on Newman's lessons for teachers.


Newman Today
New and Noteworthy
© 2024, All Rights Reserved.
National Institute for Newman Studies