John Henry Newman was a man of letters – both literally and figuratively. A writer of copious epistles to family and friends, and an inveterate diarist, he defined himself in relation to the word with both a small and a capital “W.” His identity, reflected in his own speeches and writings, grew out of his relationship to sacred Scripture and secular letters, as well as from his changing appreciation of the writings of the early Church fathers and the seventeenth-century Anglican divines.
As a boy, he composed poems and plays, even penning an opera in which his younger brother Francis recalled being drafted to play the sherman.1 At school, the future Cardinal started a weekly paper called The Spy, the publication of a secret society of which he was grand master.2 inactive in sports, John henry achieved leadership through his precocious ability with letters – a precociousness that is well reflected in diaries that record his reaction to the diverse writings of others – from the Bible to Voltaire. As he says himself, “scrib- bling” was preeminent among his youthful activities.
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