Page 6, 30th April 1993

30th April 1993
Page 6
Page 6, 30th April 1993 — A Catholic dictionary
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A Catholic dictionary

Christian Writers Revisited

DICTIONARIES are quite as much written as other books; if more obliquely, they carry no less inevitably the mark of the mind that makes them.

The name of Thomas Arnold (1823-1900) is indissolubly linked with that of William Addis, as co-author of Arnold and Addis more properly, A Catholic Dictionary.

Yet nothing in his early life remotely suggests such a fate. Second son of Arnold of Rugby and younger brother of Matthew, Thomas spent boyhood holidays at Fox How in Westmoreland, where he met Southey and saw Wordsworth at Rydal Mount reciting his recently composed sonnet "Is then no nook of English ground secure?"

He was a scholar at University College, Oxford, where he came in contact with Jowett and the poet Clough. Arnold appears as "Philip" in Clough's '13othie of Tober-na-Vuolich" (1848) who takes off for New Zealand, as Arnold did in 1847. After a failure at farming, Arnold started a school in 1849 near Nelson, where his friend was Alfred Domett (Browning's "Waring"). In 1850 he became inspector of schools in Tasmania.

In June of the same year he married the well-connected Julia Sorell. All was fine until he was received into the Catholic Church by the Bishop of Hobart in 1856, an act which "incensed" (as the Dictionary of National Biography puts it) the colonist community.

A contrived 18 months' leave was welcomed by all parties. In 1857 Arnold was asked by Cardinal Newman to go to Dublin as a likely professor of English Literature at the proposed Catholic University of Ireland, and in 1862 he published his Manual of English Literature. Historical and Critical. In October 1884 Gerard Manley Hopkins contributed to the fifth edition a short article his only piece of criticism published in his lifetime — on the works of his friend Canon Dixon.

In 1862 Arnold followed Newman (who had resigned tie Irish rectorship in 1858) to the Birmingham Oratory as first classical master, and about this time he met Acton.

By early 1865 his increasing liberalism was making for difficulties with the Oratorians. When Newman refused to allow a boy to receive Dollinger's The Church and the Churches which Arnold had selected as a prize, he left Birmingham, and Rome and took up exile in Oxford.

In 1876 he was a candidate for the professorship of Anglo-Saxon until it became known he had returned to Catholicism.

Arnold sold the house and returned to teaching in Dublin, as fellow of the Royal University in 1882 and professor of English. This is when he knew Hopkins and wrote a number of historical and critical books.

The DNB is again silent on his major achievement, the Catholic Dictionary. First published in 1883, it was welcomed by Manning and Newman (who had himself intended to produce such a work but lacked the leisure how different would that.have been!).

My copy of the tenth edition of 1928 has now been superseded to a large degree by later scholarship but is never far from my desk for the freshness and vigour of man of its entries.

Arnold's contribution was the articles on medieval and modern history. the religious orders and canon law. It is bracingly frank in some of its personal preferences, as when it describes the De La Salle Brothers as "an admirable institution".

Addis, incidentally, was an Oxford friend of Hopkins, converted to Catholicism a fortnight before him. and they were confirmed together by Manning; he joined the London Oratory in 1868 but 20 years later renounced the Faith, married and moved to Australia.

In 1901 he returned to England and Anglicanism, becoming vicar of All Saints, Ennismore Gardens, in 1910.

John McDermott




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