29 August 2019, The Tablet

We know that John Newman, John Henry’s father, had been a banker

We know that John Newman, John Henry’s father, had been a banker

Is it true that Newman’s father ran a pub “in an unfashionable district of London”? The passing reference is in the admirable study John Henry Newman: His Inner Life by Dr Zeno, Capuchin, which I first read on a ferry to Santander 30 years ago.

I thought I’d have another look before the welcome wave of St Newmania hits us, and I’m glad I did. The good Franciscan approached his task by sitting in Birmingham for 15 months with Newman’s papers and writing down what struck him about his spiritual life. Not much of that was about pubs. Indeed, the pub came in second hand from Sean O’Faolain’s book from 1952, but where did he get it from?

We know that John Newman, John Henry’s father, who died aged 59 when his son was 23, had been a banker. Newman was quite upset when Thomas Mozley, in his unreliable memoirs, published in 1882 when the cardinal was 81, said that his father’s bank had “failed”. No, it was “stopped”, he explained, and creditors were paid by the end of the month. Then John Newman had taken a position managing a brewery. When that venture did not prosper the putative pub came in. I’d be grateful if anyone could tell me if it existed.

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