Written in response to an attack by Charles Kingsley, Newman's autobiography was soon perceived as the most moving and articulate defense of Catholicism in English, showing how his study of the early church fathers convinced him of the need for dogma, a visible church, and return to Rome.
John Henry Newman (1801-90) described writing this account of his religious development as 'one of the most terrible trials that I have had'. Having inspired and led the Oxford or Tractarian Movement before he abandoned Anglicanism for the Church of Rome, Newman regularly found himself the target of virulent anti-Catholic prejudice in Victorian England. The Apologia was his autobiographical response to a public attack by the novelist Charles Kingsley on his personal integrity. With it he not only convinced a suspicious public of the sincerity of his beliefs, but he also produced a literary masterpiece which has often been compared with St Augustine's Confessions. The Apologia, which ends with a brilliant defence of Catholicism, was a turning-point in English cultural history, successfully challenging the dominant tradition of 'no Popery'. For Newman personally the work was a 'mental child-bearing' as he recounted the dramatic story of a conversion which rocked the Church of England to its foundations and which was to have profound consequences for the Roman Catholic Church.
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