Genius is not a rhetorical convention when applied to John Henry Newman, and Ian Ker, the preeminent biographer of this multiple genius, uses select passages of some of the subject’s most important works as evidence that, in the entire history of English letters, he was arguably “the very greatest writer of non-fiction prose in the language.” He cannot be confined to his own century, whose years he virtually spanned (1801–1890), for that would almost satirize him as the “Eminent Victorian” seen through the small lens of the cynical Lytton Strachey. He casts a shadow longer than Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, Mill, and Ruskin. As Ker fairly judges, he was “one of those very few Christian thinkers who may be mentioned in the same breath as the Fathers of the Church.” I was taken aback by a headline in the Sun Sentinel of Florida: “Cardinal Gibbons Overpowers Cardinal Newman.”...

 
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