History of The Tablet 2
By 1851 Lucas had moved to Dublin. His attitude to Ireland and the Irish had undergone a profound change (one Tablet advertisement had said "An Irish person will not suit"). At first he had supported the 1801 Act of Union, but after a visit to Ireland in 1843 he was converted to the cause of repeal. Irish issues began to dominate the paper. To a series of proposals about Ireland and universities emanating from Westminster Lucas asked: "Are the Bishops awake?": He succeeded in waking them up and the bishops wrote to the government to protest at the proposals.
He became so fascinated with Ireland, coupled with the hostility of the English to this, that he determined to move to Dublin. He announced the move on 10 November 1849 and wrote:
"Those who think that my departure leaves an opening for some cowardly, truckling, time-serving, twaddling Government hack, whose congenial business it will be indite falsehoods and betray the Church, are respectfully informed that no such individuals have the slightest chance of success, and if I can make good my footing in Dublin, I will undertake to keep the field as clear of those peddlars and their packs as ever I have been able to do in London."
Lucas soon turned his attention to politics and became Member of Parliament for Meath on 26 July 1852. Hitherto, according to Lucas's brother, The Times and other English papers had ignored The Tablet. As soon as it moved to Ireland they started quoting from it. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Clarendon, denounced it as "one of the most offensive and virulent newspapers in Europe".
Lucas's last journalistic battle involved Ireland. The Vatican's Congregation of Propaganda had long been anxious about the involvement of Irish clergy in the movement for repeal of the Act of Union. Lucas did not have a high regard for the abilities of the Irish bishops, but admired the parish clergy greatly, who were, to his mind, the only articulate spokesmen for the Irish poor. He was annoyed when the hierarchy stopped them taking part in political meetings. Lucas published a letter from the cardinal prefect Giacomo Fransoni, supporting priestly interference in politics where religion or charity impelled them to do so. Cardinal Cullen and the hierarchy remained opposed and Lucas determined to plead the case of the clergy in Rome. He passed through London where he received testimonials of support, even from Cardinal Wiseman. He arrived in Rome in December 1854, but had to return home suddenly in May 1855 broken in health. He died in Windsor on 22 October. He was 53, and had edited the paper he founded for 15 years.
Lucas's successor was also a convert, this time from Anglicanism, the 34-year-old John Wallis who had been called to the Bar in 1847. He went to Dublin to buy The Tablet on Lucas's death, but was no friend of Irish national aspirations. He quickly relocated the paper in London. His political views were as trenchant as those of Lucas, but as a Tory. There was dissension among the paper's staff, some of whom were embarrassed by Wallis's attacks on the Catholic liberals in Parliament.
Wallis was on good terms with Cardinal Wiseman, and the paper remained a semi-official forum for publication of papal documents. The title-piece became bold and undecorated gothic, aping the major establishment newspapers of the day. Like The Times, news and features became intermingled. It was still an expensive purchase. The Tablet's closest Catholic rival was The Weekly Register, owned and edited by another convert, Henry Wilberforce. He was in trouble at the beginning of the 1860s and attempted to sell his paper to The Tablet. But The Tablet itself, supported by a Mr Keating, was declining in circulation. Keating felt it was the paper's views on English Catholic Whigs (or Liberals), Irish MPs and the Archbishop of Westminster which was causing the decline. The partnership ended early in 1868 and Wallis withdrew to become secretary of the Catholic Union. He later entered the consular service in Egypt where he eventually rose to be a judge in Alexandria.
The new owner was Father Herbert Vaughan who was Catholic to the core, and his family had an honourable tradition of recusancy. The eldest of 13 children, where all five girls had become nuns and six of the eight boys priests (and three of them bishops), Herbert Vaughan was pious, energetic, imaginative, well travelled and well educated, though not notably intelligent. Vaughan was in favour of the definition of papal primacy and infallibility, shortly to be proclaimed at the First Council of the Vatican. Reasonably wealthy, he was able to buy The Tablet for a modest sum.
He had travelled in the United States and was impressed by the power of newspapers there. In 1878 he was given the Dublin Review, which remained in the possession of successive archbishops of Westminster for nearly a century.
Vaughan was inexperienced in editorship but played a large part in editing the paper, working late at night translating papal documents. The emphasis of the paper was changed from a newspaper format to that of a serious magazine and it began to call itself a 'Weekly Review'. The pages were more generously set, type faces were altered from modern to old style and the paper was better printed. The new editor proclaimed a new liberalism, supporting Gladstone's efforts to disestablish the Irish Church. However, he lost none of The Tablet's vituperative style, writing of Benjamin Disraeli: "Mr. Disraeli, with that crookedness of conduct which is habitual to him but unparalleled in any other public man, stiles his convictions for the interest of party".
Opposed to the "spurious Liberalism" of the Continent, Vaughan supported the "great truths" of Pius IX, such as the Syllabus of Errors of 1864, which rejected the belief that the "Roman Pontiff can and ought to reconcile and adjust himself to progress, liberalism, and modern civilisation".
He announced that there would be freedom of speech in The Tablet but on papal infallibility, there was no debate. He was convinced that it would become a Catholic dogma. Other journals, particularly the Weekly Register, published letters opposing the doctrine, but The Tablet only did so when it became clear that the definition of infallibility of the Pope would become victorious.
During the council itself Vaughan produced a supplement called "Vatican", which was so ultramontane that criticism even emanated from Rome. The Pope, however, naturally approved and Vaughan returned from a trip to Rome in 1870 with a commendation from Pius IX, which was to adorn the head of The Tablet for the next 66 years. Vaughan's ultramontane convictions cost him very many readers.
Previous / Next