Harkive: Harkness, Cardinal Manning and ‘John Law’s Religion’


This month we continue our series of Harkive entries chronicling Margaret Harkness’s relationship with the Pall Mall Gazette (PMG).

When W.T. Stead resigned from the editorship of the PMG in 1889 in order to found the Review of Reviews, the newspaper became increasingly conservative. While Harkness’s association with the PMG continued into the early 1890s, she often made use of its pages to express her disapproval of its lurch towards social and political orthodoxy.

This month’s entry includes two pieces authored by Harkness that were published in PMG between autumn 1891 and winter 1892. The first is a letter to the editor, clarifying her personal relationship with religion, and the second is a reflection on the life and work of Cardinal Manning, who had died in January 1892.

Harkness had been frank about her rejection of organised religion in a letter to the editor of the PMG in March 1891: she explains, with a playful delight in her own deviance, that she has ‘seen so much humbug amongst religious people that it makes [her] physically ill even to look at a Bible‘. In this month’s entry, Harkness reiterates this ‘rejoice in her heresies’, but also seeks to contextualise her personal engagement with – but spiritual rejection of – both the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church. Harkness’s persistent efforts to clarify her personal beliefs indicate this was an issue of some disputation among her readership. In suggesting that John Habberton’s All He Knew was the ‘high-water mark’ her her religion, she explains her enduring belief that most organised religions ‘pay too much attention to the letter and ignore the spirit’ (Habberton 195). 

Harkness’s personal tribute to her ‘best friend’ is unlike a traditional obituary in its emphasis on her personal relationship to a man who seems to have been to her both spiritual and secular father-figure. In ‘The Cardinal as I Knew Him’ Harkness aims not to aggrandise Manning in commemoration, but attest to his humility and humanity. And in an introductory paragraph that seems to compete with her novels for its inauspicious beginning, Harkness opens with not one death, but three.

Plate made from a painting of Cardinal Manning by John McLure Hamilton. From John McLure Hamilton, Men I Have Painted (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1921), p. 88.

The second section of ‘The Cardinal as I knew Him’, titled ‘As a Clubman’, was not written by Harkness but by a member of the Athenaeum.


Source: ‘John Law’s Religion’, The Pall Mall Gazette, 1 September 1891, p. 1. Available via Gale Newspapers.



SIR, – Please give me space to contradict the report that I have joined the Salvation Army. If I became a member of any religious organization, it would be the Catholic Church, because Cardinal Manning has been so good to me, and I think it would please him. But, in the words of his Eminence,

To become a Catholic has only one legitimate motive – belief in the truth. Without that I would not receive you into the Church.

Let me draw the attention of those who circulate, and print, that I have joined the Salvation Army, to a little book by John Habberton, just published. It is called “All He Knew.” This represents the high-water mark of my religion at present. – I am, &c.,

185 Fleet-street, W.C. August 31.                                                                                      JOHN LAW

Source: ‘The Cardinal as I knew Him.’ The Pall Mall Gazette, 18 January 1892, p. 2. Available via Gale Newspapers.


I – By John Law

My best friend is dead.

The last time I saw the Cardinal was a few days before Christmas. I waited for him in the big room beside the chapel, and while sitting there I noticed how old the furniture was getting. The chair I say in had lost an arm, and the armchair by the fire had lost a leg. The carpet was very old, and so was the table-cloth. A new face had met me at the door. Faithful old Newman, the butler who had served the Cardinal so long, who had been with Cardinal Wiseman, had died a few weeks previously; and the footman had fallen down dead on the staircase while showing a visitor upstairs. I knew the faces of those two servants so well!

While I was thinking abut them the Cardinal came into the room. He walked briskly to the fireplace, and would have sat down in the armchair with the broken leg had I not drawn his attention to it. “How well you look,” I said to him. He answered, “I feel it.”

Then he back to talk about Labour questions. “Tell Mr. Charles Booth that I want to make his acquaintance,” he said. “Mr. Booth’s work is very important. I should like to work with him.” “Have you seen Mr. Mann?” was his next question. He looked at his thin hand with the ring on it, and laughed; for this Labour leader in particular had a way of wringing his hand until is ached. “It hurts,” the Cardinal told me, “but I like it.”

We sat beside the fire, talking; and I can see him now as he liked them. The thin face, with the kind, gentle smile on it, the bright eyes that showed his brave spirit, the clear, distinct words spoken in a low voice. These things come back to me now, and I know that he was more than a father to me, although he had so many to think about, and he held such a unique position in England. He was first an Englishman and then a priest; and we – the heretics – forget this latter part of the business. People will never know all that Cardinal Manning did for individuals. The peer and the docker went to him for advice, and no one was turned away. “How do you find time for it all?” I asked him once. “I make time,” he answered.

There is near London a Dominican convent the prioress of which knew Cardinal Manning before he became a Catholic. She speaks of this time “when we all went over;” and how she visited Mr. Manning, who was then a Puseyite clergyman, to tell him that she must join the Catholic Church as she no longer believed in the Church of England. He told her to kneel for his blessing, and she refused to accept it. Six months after that, Cardinal Manning became a Catholic.

A wonderful friendship existed from that day forth between this nun, Cardinal Manning and Cardinal Newman. Once a year, until quite lately, the two Cardinals used to meet at the convent and talk of the time “when we all went over.” Tea was placed in the little bare room, where Cardinal Newman’s books are arranged in cupboards and Cardinal Manning’s photograph hands on the wall. “Bring a loaf” Cardinal Newman used to say after the thin bread and butter was finished. This talk over old times always gave him an appetite.

At the time of the dock strike I happened to be at the Wade Arms when a general strike was suggested. That night I could not sleep; for I thought if the gas-stokers were called out, and London was left in darkness, there might be bloodshed. Before eight o’clock the next morning I went to Cardinal Manning’s house. He was in bed.

“Religion?” asked old Newman, pointing to the chapel – “No,” I replied, “politics.”

“The Cardinal isn’t as young as he was,” said Newman thoughtfully, – “Nevermind,” I answered, “you must send him up this note with his breakfast.”

Half an hour later I saw Cardinal Manning and explained to him that I thought the Lord Mayor and the Home Secretary out to be told the state of things in East London. Then I went away to fetch a list of the dock directors. When I came back he was saying Mass. I spent a quarter of an hour looking at a book of saints. After that I had the satisfaction of seeing him drive off to the City in his carriage.

“How did you feel when the men cheered you?” I asked him afterwards.

“An Englishman, “ he said smiling. From that time he took a keen interest in labour questions sympathizing with the men and their leaders, but always counselling patience, insisting on law and order. Letters came to him about labour questions from all parts of the world. He read every item of labour news, and knew more about union meetings than the men did themselves. The Labour Commission interested him very much. He followed all the evidence. Up to the very last he was busy writing about these things, seeing deputations, and advising individuals.

“I am heart and soul with the workers,” he wrote to me just before Christmas. His successor may be more popular with Catholics; for Cardinal Maning was punctilious with the faithful, and very strict with the nuns and priests. I have seen the Catholics in his ante-room, have watched them kneeling to kiss his ring, and I have rejoiced in my heresies.

“Pride has kept you from religion,” he once said to me; “and from sin,” he added.

I looked up, and I saw that his eyes were full of tears. Of course, he was by nature ascetic. This fact made him a priest; for Nature rules people in these things. But he knew the world, the flesh, and the devil very well; and he gave to each its right place. He judged people by their temperament and their surroundings; and his judgement was just. If he said harsh things it was because this treatment alone would take effect. He always preferred to use kindness.

He is gone from us; but he will not be forgotten. The patients in London Hospital, where he endowed a bed, the dock-labourers, and the heretics will keep his memory green and fresh when he lies in the grave. Such a Cardinal will never be seen again in England. But he will be “the Cardinal” with the English, and “our Cardinal” with the few who forgot the priest and loved the man.


We have so few picturesque figures on our public stage that we can but ill spare any of the list. They can be counted upon the fingers. These are the sympathetic, interesting men, who have a charm in their bearing voice and utterances; we look after them in the street; they say a few words to us, which linger in our ears. These personages have the note of “distinction.” How few they are! Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Henry Irving, the late Cardinal Manning, and it may be one or two more.

At the Athenaeum Club the Cardinal was seen – all the associations, lay and clerical, were congenial to him. There was a faint redux of the old Oxford life. He would arrive in his little brougham about five o’clock, and step in jauntily, arrayed in his comfortable great-coat of of a dressing-gown cut and a hat of special patter, very broad of brim, but beat down “fore and aft.” It had nothing of the professional “shovel,” yet it suited the well cut, clerical, sad-toned face that it sheltered. He mad his way to the library; but it was a slow progress, as he was sure to encounter many an acquaintance. He knew most political and official personages there, with whom he always had a smiling, half-confidential talk; and it was pleasant to not their deferential and cordial bearing towards him. But his chief acquaintance seemed to be among the bishops, deans, canons, and other dignitaries. With some, notably with the Bishop of Gloucester, he was on affectionate terms. On a ballot-day he was sure to attend and there were many who seized the opportunity of being presented to him. His manner was really irresistible on these occasions: there was the old musical tenderness in his voice, and, with his head a little on one side, he held your hand at a distance with a curious still grasp, yet cordial. He would then betake himself to the shelves of new books, and deliberately select what appeared to him most attractive. He would retire with it to some well-sheltered corner, his hat well down, and glass “on,” and read on till he was interrupted or grew tired. He had many intimate conversations with all sorts and conditions of men: he like a regular talk – on on the cushioned bench, on the stairs – and he would say jocosely, on the subject of actors and the stage, “Well, you must fix a day, and we’ll have it out.” He was altogether a charming, engaging man, and really quite irresistible with he wished to have something done.


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