The Spirit of the Oxford Movement
Works of Christopher Dawson
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
"This is the book we have been waiting for… a permanent enrichment of our understanding of the Oxford Movement" proclaimed The Downside Review upon the publication of Christopher Dawson’s masterwork in 1933, exactly 100 years after John Keble’s sermon "National Apostasy" stirred a nation. Dawson himself regarded the book as one of his two greatest intellectual accomplishments.
Dawson and John Henry Newman were Oxonians and both were converts to Catholicism; both stood against progressive and liberal movements within society. In both ideologies, Dawson saw a pathway that had once led to the French Revolution. Newman, for Dawson, was a kindred spirit.
In The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, Dawson goes beyond a mere retelling of the events of 1833 - 1845. He shows us the prime movers who sought a deeper understanding of the Anglican tradition: the quixotic Hurrell Froude, for instance, who "had none of the English genius for compromise or the Anglican faculty of shutting the eyes to unpleasant facts." It was Froude who brought Newman and Keble together and who helped them understand each other. In many ways, Dawson sees these three as the true embodiment of the Tractarian ethos.
Dawson probes deeply, though, to provide a richer, clearer understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of the Oxford Movement, revealing its spiritual raison d’être. We meet a group of gifted like-minded thinkers, albeit with sharp disagreements, who mock outsiders and each other, who pepper their letters with Latin, and forever urge each other on. Newman came to believe, as did Dawson, that the only intellectually coherent bastion against secular culture was religion, and the "on" to which they were urged was the Catholic church. The Spirit of the Oxford Movement provides insights into why Newman, and Dawson, came to this understanding.