Lytton Strachey > Eminent Victorians > Cardinal Manning: Part VIII.
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Lytton Strachey (1880–1932).  Eminent Victorians.  1918

Cardinal Manning

Part VIII


IN 1875 Manning’s labours received their final reward: he was made a Cardinal. His long and strange career, with its high hopes, its bitter disappointments, its struggles, its renunciations, had come at last to fruition in a Princedom of the Church.
        Ask in faith and in perfect confidence [he himself once wrote], and God will give us what we ask. You may say, “But do you mean that He will give us the very thing?” That, God has not said. God has said that He will give you whatsoever you ask; but the form in which it will come, and the time in which He will give it, He keeps in His own power. Sometimes our prayers are answered in the very things which we put from us; sometimes it may be a chastisement, or a loss, or a visitation against which our hearts rise, and we seem to see that God has not only forgotten us, but has begun to deal with us in severity. Those very things are the answers to our prayers. He knows what we desire, and He gives us the things which we ask; but in the form which His own Divine Wisdom sees to be best.
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  There was one to whom Manning’s elevation would no doubt have given a peculiar satisfaction—his old friend Monsignor Talbot. But this was not to be. That industrious worker in the cause of Rome had been removed some years previously to a sequestered Home at Passy, whose padded walls were impervious to the rumours of the outer world. Pius IX. had been much afflicted by this unfortunate event; he had not been able to resign himself to the loss of his secretary, and he had given orders that Monsignor Talbot’s apartment in the Vatican should be preserved precisely as he had left it, in case of his return. But Monsignor Talbot never returned. Manning’s feelings upon the subject appear to have been less tender than the Pope’s. In all his letters, in all his papers, in all his biographical memoranda, not a word of allusion is to be found to the misfortune, nor to the death, of the most loyal of his adherents. Monsignor Talbot’s name disappears suddenly and for ever—like a stone cast into the waters.   2
  Manning was now an old man, and his outward form had assumed that appearance of austere asceticism which is, perhaps, the one thing immediately suggested by his name to the ordinary Englishman. The spare and stately form, the head, massive, emaciated, terrible, with the great nose, the glittering eyes, and the mouth drawn back and compressed into the grim rigidities of age, self-mortification, and authority—such is the vision that still lingers in the public mind—the vision which, actual and palpable like some embodied memory of the Middle Ages, used to pass and repass, less than a generation since, through the streets of London. For the activities of this extraordinary figure were great and varied. He ruled his diocese with the despotic zeal of a born administrator. He threw himself into social work of every kind; he organised charities, he lectured on temperance. He delivered innumerable sermons; he produced an unending series of devotional books. And he brooked no brother near the throne: Newman languished in Birmingham; and even the Jesuits trembled and obeyed.   3
  Nor was it only among his own community that his energy and his experience found scope. He gradually came to play an important part in public affairs, upon questions of labour, poverty, and education. He sat on Royal Commissions, and corresponded with Cabinet Ministers. At last no philanthropic meeting at the Guildhall was considered complete without the presence of Cardinal Manning. A special degree of precedence was accorded to him. Though the rank of a Cardinal-Archbishop is officially unknown in England, his name appeared in public documents—as a token, it must be supposed, of personal consideration—above the names of peers and bishops, and immediately below that of the Prince of Wales.   4
  In his private life he was secluded. The ambiguities of his social position and his desire to maintain intact the peculiar eminence of his office combined to hold him aloof from the ordinary gatherings of society, though on the rare occasions of his appearance among fashionable and exalted persons he carried all before him. His favourite haunt was the Athenæum Club, where he sat scanning the newspapers, or conversing with the old friends of former days. He was a member, too, of that distinguished body, the Metaphysical Society, which met once a month during the palmy years of the Seventies to discuss, in strict privacy, the fundamental problems of the destiny of man. After a comfortable dinner at the Grosvenor Hotel, the Society, which included Professor Huxley and Professor Tyndall, Mr. John Morley and Sir James Stephen, the Duke of Argyll, Lord Tennyson, and Dean Church, would gather round to hear and discuss a paper read by one of the members upon such questions as “What is death?” “Is God unknowable?” or “The Nature of the Moral Principle.” Sometimes, however, the speculations of the society ranged in other directions.
        I think the paper that interested me most of all that were ever read at our meetings [says Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff] was one on “Wherein consists the special beauty of imperfection and decay?” in which were propounded the questions “Are not ruins recognised and felt to be more beautiful than perfect structures? Why are they so? Ought they to be so?”
Unfortunately, however, the answers given to these questions by the Metaphysical Society have not been recorded for the instruction of mankind.
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  Manning read several papers, and Professor Huxley and Mr. John Morley listened with attention while he expressed his views upon “The Soul before and after Death,” or explained why it is “That legitimate Authority is an Evidence of Truth.” Yet, somehow or other, his Eminence never felt quite at ease in these assemblies; he was more at home with audiences of a different kind; and we must look in other directions for the free and full manifestation of his speculative gifts. In a series of lectures, for instance, delivered in 1861—it was the first year of the unification of Italy—upon “The Present Crisis of the Holy See, tested by Prophecy,” we catch some glimpses of the kind of problems which were truly congenial to his mind.
        In the following pages [he said] I have endeavoured, but for so great a subject most insufficiently, to show that what is passing in our times is the prelude of the antichristian period of the final dethronement of Christendom, and of the restoration of society without God in the world. My intention is [he continued] to examine the present relation of the Church to the civil powers of the world, by the light of a prophecy recorded by St. Paul.
This prophecy (2 Thess. ii 3 to 11) is concerned with the coming of Antichrist, and the greater part of the lectures is devoted to a minute examination of this subject. There is no passage in Scripture, Manning pointed out, relating to the coming of Christ more explicit and express than those foretelling Antichrist; it therefore behoved the faithful to consider the matter more fully than they are wont to do. In the first place, Antichrist is a person. “To deny the personality of Antichrist is to deny the plain testimony of Holy Scripture.” And we must remember that “it is a law of Holy Scripture that when persons are prophesied of, persons appear.” Again, there was every reason to believe that Antichrist, when he did appear, would turn out to be a Jew.
        Such was the opinion of St. Irenæus, St. Jerome, and of the author of the work De Consummatione Mundi, ascribed to St. Hippolytus, and of a writer of a Commentary on the Epistle to the Thessalonians, ascribed to St. Ambrose, of many others, who add, that he will be of the tribe of Dan: as, for instance, St. Gregory the Great, Theodoret, Aretas of Cæsarea, and many more. Such also is the opinion of Bellarmine, who calls it certain. Lessius affirms that the Fathers, with unanimous consent, teach as undoubted that Antichrist will be a Jew. Ribera repeats the same opinion, and adds that Aretas, St. Bede, Haymo, St. Anselm, and Rupert affirm that for this reason the tribe of Dan is not numbered among those who are sealed in the Apocalypse…. Now I think no one can consider the dispersion and providential preservation of the Jews among all the nations of the world and the indestructible vitality of their race, without believing that they are reserved for some future action of His Judgment and Grace. And this is foretold again and again in the New Testament.
  Our Lord [continued Manning, widening the sweep of his speculations] has said of these latter times: “There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, insomuch as to deceive even the elect”; that is, they shall not be deceived; but those who have lost faith in the Incarnation, such as humanitarians, rationalists, and pantheists, may well be deceived by any person of great political power and success, who should restore the Jews to their own land, and people Jerusalem once more with the sons of the Patriarchs. And there is nothing in the political aspect of the world which renders such a combination impossible; indeed, the state of Syria, and the tide of European diplomacy, which is continually moving eastward, render such an event within a reasonable probability.
Then Manning threw out a bold suggestion. “A successful medium,” he said, “might well pass himself off by his preternatural endowments as the promised Messias.”
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  Manning went on to discuss the course of events which would lead to the final catastrophe. But this subject, he confessed,
        deals with agencies so transcendent and mysterious, that all I shall venture to do will be to sketch in outline what the broad and luminous prophecies, especially of the Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse, set forth; without attempting to enter into minute details, which can only be interpreted by the event.
While applauding his modesty, we need follow Manning no further in his commentary upon those broad and luminous works; except to observe that “the apostacy of the City of Rome from the Vicar of Christ and its destruction by Antichrist” was, in his opinion, certain. Nor was he without authority for this belief. For it was held by “Malvenda, who writes expressly on the subject,” and who, besides, “states as the opinion of Ribera, Gaspar Melus, Viegas, Suarez, Bellarmine, and Bosius that Rome shall apostatize from the faith.”
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