Poems Without Frontiers

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John Henry Newman 1801- 1890

Newman was born in London as the eldest child of a banker. He was educated at Ealing and subsequently at Trinity College, Oxford where, owing to overstrain, he achieved only a poor degree in 1821. But he later obtained fellowship of Oriel College.

He advanced in the Church of England from deacon in 1824 through curate to parish vicar; but, from about 1828, founded the Oxford Movement consisting of those clerics who wished the Church of England to re-adopt Catholic beliefs and forms of worship. In 1845 he left the protestant church for the Catholic Church subsequently becoming ordained in 1847 and founding University College, Dublin, the London Oratory and the Birmingham Oratory. He was appointed Cardinal in 1879.

Newman travelled the Mediterranean in 1832- 1833 where he contracted gastric fever his recovery from which he attributed to divine intervention. He wrote several poems including, during this trip, 'Lead, Kindly Light', that was later set to music to become a celebrated hymn.

He also wrote an autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, numerous Tracts and other religious articles as well as several works of poetry but his most famous literary work is The Dream of Gerontius published in two parts in 1865. The poem was adapted by Edward Elgar in 1900 and performed as an oratorio initially to great criticism owing to its Roman Catholic sentiments but is now regarded as ranking amongst the greatest of choral works.

Newman died of pneumonia in Birmingham.