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Boston College collection of John Henry Newman

Collection MS-1986-039: Boston College collection of John Henry Newman


  • Creation: 1836 - 1945
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1868 - 1890

Scope and Contents

The Boston College collection of John Henry Newman comprises correspondence, photographs, pamphlets and two commemorative portrait medallions. The correspondence includes over fifty letters sent by Newman to various recipients. More than half of the letters date from 1881-1890 and are addressed to George T. Edwards, an ecumenically-minded Anglican who was the secretary of the London Evangelisation Society. Eleven letters dating from 1853-1870 are addressed to William J. O'Neill Daunt (1807-1894), an Irish politician and author who was a convert to Catholicism. Almost all of the letters have been published as part of the series The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman edited at the Birmingham Oratory; unpublished letters have been noted as such. Of particular note among the unpublished correspondence are a letter to Dr. Ellis regarding administrative details at the medical school (at the Catholic University in Dublin); three letters to Mrs. Bethell concerning the schooling of her two sons Augustus and Henry, with general remarks on education and vocations; a note to the Dean of Wells declining to comment on the "subject of eternal punishment."

There are also portraits of Newman at various ages. Two photographs of Newman were received paired and framed with unpublished signed letters, one of which contains the text for a telegram sent from Leghorn, Switzerland on Newman's return trip from Rome in 1879 after being made a cardinal.

The remainder of the collection consists images of Newman on medallions, engravings, paintings, and photographs. It also includes a selection of pamhlets about Newman, as well as one pamphlet by him, "The Dream of Gerontius." There are also photographs of places where Newman lived and worked, including the Oratory at Birmingham, Campion Hall at Oxford, Newman's rooms at Oriel, and St. Mary's Church at Oxford.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

John Henry Newman was born in London on February 21, 1801, the eldest of six children. His early education was at the Ealing School, a private boarding school. He entered Trinity College, Oxford, in 1817 and went on to become a fellow of Oriel College in 1822.

A profound conversion experience in 1816 animated Newman's spirituality and eventually led to his ordination to the Anglican priesthood in 1825. Newman remained at Oxford, serving as a tutor, and in 1828 became vicar of the University Church of St. Mary's. In 1833 while on a sea voyage returning from Italy, Newman wrote the famous poem "Lead Kindly Light." During the 1830s, Newman became associated with high churchmen including John Keble and Richard Hurrell Froude and began to write and publish tracts of dissension in what became known as the Tractarian or Oxford Movement. In 1842, following the controversial publication of Tract 90 which argued that the founding articles of Anglicanism were compatible with Catholicism, Newman moved from Oxford to Littlemore. He resigned his post as vicar of St. Mary's and ultimately converted to Catholicism on October 9, 1845.

In 1847, Newman was ordained in Rome as a Catholic priest and subsequently founded the Oratory (a pastoral apostolate of secular priests also engaged in educational and intellectual work) in England, initially in Maryvale and in 1849 in Birmingham. Between 1851 and 1853, he was sued for and found guilty of libel in the Achilli case. Newman served as rector of the newly established Catholic University in Dublin from 1854 to 1858 and authored a series of lectures defending the idea of a liberal education within a religious context which became the basis of the Idea of a University. He also edited a popular lay Catholic magazine,The Rambler. In 1864, responding to a personal attack upon his integrity and that of Catholics in general, Newman published as a series of pamphlets Apologia Pro Vita Sua, an autobiographical account of his conversion, which became a financially successful best-seller. In 1865, Newman authored another of his best known works, the poem the "Dream of Gerontius." Pope Leo XIII elevated Newman to Cardinal on May 12, 1879. During the last years of his life, Newman lived at the Oratory in Birmingham, where he died on August 11, 1890.

In addition to Newman's prolific published writings which include poems, sermons, novels, tracts, and essays, an immense output of private correspondence also survives.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II declared Newman venerable, in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI beatified him, and in 2019 Pope Francis canonized him.

Source: Ian Ker, “Newman, John Henry (1801–1890),” in Oxford Dictonary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004), (accessed May 26, 2006).


1.75 Linear Feet (2 containers )

Language of Materials



The collection includes correspondence and one published pamplet by John Henry Newman, an English theologian and poet who became cardinal in 1879. It also includes portraits, pamphlets, and photographs of him and places of significance in his life. The bulk of his letters are addressed to two correspondents, English ecumenical evangelist George T. Edwards and Irish author and Catholic convert William J. O'Neill Daunt.


The collection has been arranged into four series: I. Correspondence; II. Images of Newman; III. Pamphlets; and IV. Photographs.


Acquired through various donors prior to 1986, including: M. Binder; Terence Connolly, S.J.; David Horn; J. Harry Lynch; and Honor McCusker. Gift of Gregory Winteston, 1989. Also a purchase from E.K. Schreiber, 1988.

Related Materials

Coventry Patmore collection, MS.1986.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

James Spencer Northcote papers, MS.2004.048, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Boston College collection of John Henry Newman
1836-1945 (bulk 1868-1890)
Joseph W. Constance, Jr., Elizabeth Delarey, and Susan Rairville, 1994; Elizabeth Dube, June 2006; and Rachael Young
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States