Newman had an ambivalent attitude to the figure of the gentleman, as he was at one and the same time both the best product of a liberal education and an imperfect being – at least when compared with the beau ideal of a specifically Christian education. In one of the most dramatic shifts in the Idea, Newman concludes his lengthy delineation of the excellences and charms of this attractive figure by showing how it falls short of that higher form of excellence which results from grace: sanctity.
‘Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another; good sense is not conscience, refinement is not humility, nor is largeness and justness of view faith. Philosophy, however enlightened, however profound, gives no command over the passions, no influential motives, no vivifying principles. Liberal Education makes not the Christian, not the Catholic, but the gentleman.’ (Idea of a university)