[Letter of John James Taylor to Francis William Newman.]
August 26th, 1850
You have good reason to consider me as the most selfish of correspondents; for I have so often written to you, when I had little better to fill my letter with than the asking of a favour. I dare say you suspect already what I am aiming at, and anticipate the words Prospective Review behind the horizon of every sentence, before they actually come into sight.—Two works have recently appeared, with the subjects of which your peculiar studies have made you familiar, either of which would furnish a very acceptable article from your pen for our November or February number—whichever suits you best—"On the Varieties of Man, by Dr. Latham," and "Merivale's Roman Emperors." On the last of these, in a former letter, you expressed an opinion as widely different from some of the author's views; I think particularly in his estimate of Cæsar's character. This is the very state of mind to produce a good review. Good cordial antagonism is a sure source of interest to the reader.—I am enjoying the quiet and leisure of the vacation, and am reading through with some attention two works which deeply interest me: one is Marcus Antoninus's Soliloquies (I don't know how else to render τα εις εαυτoν)—a spiritual diary by a Heathen, full of thought and seriousness, but rather cold and dry; and the other a work on Symbolism, a comparative view of Catholic and Protestant Dogma, by a really learned and liberal Catholic Divine, J. A. Möhler. You know what I think of the Catholic Church as a whole; but considered simply in relation to theological doctrine, I must say that as represented by this very able and enlightened man, she appears to great advantage when compared with the early Protestant Churches—the first Lutherans and the Calvinists—in the horrible extent and remorseless consistency with which they carried out their fundamental principle of the utter extinction of all moral goodness in man by the Fall, and the absolute passivity of the human soul in the work of regeneration. The characteristic tendency of the Catholic Church has been to steer between extreme opinions, not unfrequently to the extent of reconciling the incompatible, and combining the contra-dictory; but this tendency has at least had the effect of giving a certain character of moderation and universalism to her doctrinal system.