In early 1879 the Vatican communicated the news to Newman that it intended to confer upon him the Cardinal's hat. It was the rule that Cardinals should live in Rome. Sensible though he was of the honour, Newman did not want to live in Rome, and his reply could be, and was, read as a refusal.


'The Oratory, Birmingham:
Feb. 2, Feast of the Purification, 1879.
'My Right Rev. Father,—I trust that his Holiness, and the most eminent Cardinal Nina will not think me a thoroughly discourteous and unfeeling man, who is not touched by the commendation of superiors, or a sense of gratitude, or the splendour of dignity, when I say to you, my Bishop, who know me so well, that I regard as altogether above me the great honour which the Holy Father proposes with wonderful kindness to confer on one so insignificant, an honour quite transcendent and unparalleled, than which his Holiness has none greater to bestow. {440}

'For I am, indeed, old and distrustful of myself; I have lived now thirty years in nidulo meo in my much loved Oratory, sheltered and happy, and would therefore entreat his Holiness not to take me from St. Philip, my Father and Patron.

'By the love and reverence with which a long succession of Popes have regarded and trusted St. Philip, I pray and entreat his Holiness in compassion of my diffidence of mind, in consideration of my feeble health, my nearly eighty years, the retired course of my life from my youth, my ignorance of foreign languages, and my lack of experience in business, to let me die where I have so long lived. Since I know now and henceforth that his Holiness thinks kindly of me, what more can I desire?

'Right Rev. Father,
Your most devoted