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The Anti-Papal Movement
by [?]

The letter therefore, had it been solemn and austere in the degree suitable to an unsimulated panic, would have taken a different direction. Gossip may be addressed to anybody. He that will listen is sought for; and not he that can co-operate. But earnest business, soaring into national buoyancy on the wings of panic, turns by instinct to the proper organs for giving it effect and instant mobility. Yet, on the other hand, if the letter really had been addressed to the Primate (as in all reason it would have been, if thoroughly in earnest), that change must have consummated the false step, diplomatically valued, which Lord John Russell has taken. Mark, reader! We are told, and so often that the very echoes of Killarney and Windermere will be permanently diseased by this endless iteration of lies, that His Holiness has been insulting us. Ancient Father of Christendom, under whose sheltering shadow once slept in peace for near a thousand years the now storm-tossed nations of Western and Central Christendom, couldst thou indeed, when turned out a houseless[1] fugitive like Lear upon a night of tempest, still retain aught of thy ancient prestige, and through the might of belief rule over those who have exiled thee?


The famous Durham Letter which excited so much controversy, and re-opened what can only be called so many old sores, was addressed by Lord John Russell, the Prime Minister, to Dr. Maltby, in November, 1850. At first it was received with great approbation, as presenting a decisive front against Papal assumption; the Pope having recently issued a Bull, dividing England into twelve Sees, and appointing Dr. Wiseman, who was made a Cardinal, Archbishop of Westminster. But some expressions in Lord John’s letter, especially the expression ‘unworthy sons,’ applied to High Churchmen, aroused the active opposition of a class, with whom, he never had much sympathy, looking on the attitude and spirit of Drs. Pusey and Newman with unaffected dislike. Catholics, of course, and with them many moderate Roman Catholics, set up an agitation, and soon the Durham Letter was in everybody’s mouth. De Quincey, of course, writes from his own peculiar philosophic point of view; and when he somewhat sarcastically alludes to the informality of addressing such a letter to the Bishop of Durham, and not to one or other of the Archbishops, he was either ignorant of, or of set purpose ignored, the exceptionally intimate relations in which Lord John had for many years stood to Dr. Maltby, such relations as might well have been accepted as explaining, if not justifying, such a departure from strict formal propriety. Lord Russell’s biographer writes:

‘Dr. Maltby, who in 1850 held the See of Durham, to which he had been promoted on Lord John’s own recommendation in 1836, was one of Lord John’s oldest and closest friends. He had been his constant correspondent for more than twenty years; he had supplied him with much information for the religious chapters of the “Affairs of Europe,” and he had been his frequent counsellor on questions affecting the Church, and on the qualifications and characters of the men who were candidates for promotion in it. It was natural, therefore, to Lord John, to open his mind freely to the Bishop’ (ii. 119, 120).

Lord John had added in a postscript: ‘If you think it will be of any use, you have my full permission to publish this letter.’


[1] ‘A houseless fugitive.’ No one expression of petty malice has struck the generous as more unworthy, amongst the many insolences levelled at the Pope, than the ridicule so falsely fastened upon the mode of his escape from Rome, and upon the apparently tottering tenure of his temporal throne. His throne rocked with subterraneous heavings. True, and was his the only throne that rocked? Or which was it amongst continental thrones that did not rock? But he escaped in the disguise of a livery servant. What odious folly! In such emergencies, no disguise can be a degradation. Do we remember our own Charles II. assuming as many varieties of servile disguise as might have glorified a pantomime? Do we remember Napoleon reduced to the abject resource of entreating one of the Commissioners to whistle, by way of misleading the infuriated mob into the belief that l’empereur could not be supposed present in that carriage when such an indecency was attempted? As to the insecurity of his throne, we must consider that other thrones, and amongst them some of the first rank (as those of Turkey and Persia) redress their own weakness by means of alien strength. In the jealousies of England and France is found a bulwark against the overshadowing ambition of Russia.