Gaining a view of life

Newman’s insights into the importance of university for a student to gain a view of life are brilliantly conveyed in his first novel Loss and gain: the story of a convert (1848). Running through this partly autobiographical tale is the theme of how this comes about – or fails to do so – in a university setting, when young people are establishing their view of life by putting together the pieces of the jigsaw of experience.

While he cautioned others about the dangers of forming views too quickly, nevertheless Newman urged students and others to strive at forming a view, where possible, and not to take the easy and lazy way out.

The historian J. A. Froude describes what it was like as a student conversing with Newman:

Newman’s mind was world-wide. He was interested in everything which was going on in science, in politics, in literature. Nothing was too large for him, nothing too trivial, if it threw light upon the central question, what really man was, and what was his destiny. […] He seemed always to be better informed on common topics of conversation than anyone else who was present. He was never condescending with us, never didactic or authoritative; but what he said carried conviction along with it. When we were wrong he knew why we were wrong, and excused our mistakes to ourselves while he set us right. Perhaps his supreme merit as a talker was that he never tried to be witty or to say striking things. […] He was lightness itself – the lightness of elastic strength – and he was interesting because [….] he had something real to say. (Short studies on great subjects (1883)

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