I have been reading Newman's works since I was a sophomore in college and I was an English major, used to reading Victorian novels, etc--and I'd taken four years of Latin in high school. I've gotten accustomed to Newman's style, which is definitely Ciceronian. Having read some of Cicero's Orations in Latin class I was already influenced by this style, but it can take some getting used to.
Ciceronian sentences are also called periodic sentences: you have to read all the way to the period ending the sentence to understand what the author is saying. Taking one ready to hand example, so often quoted from Newman's The Idea of a University:
Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.
Newman's Ciceronian style is classically balanced:
Newman's classic style presents examples in sets of three, as in this sentence describing the different aspects of priest, prophet, and king:
Newman's Ciceronian style shows the power of invention, building up examples that demonstrate his point so aptly that the reader shares his conclusion:
To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various history, the many races of man, their starts, their fortunes, their mutual alienation, their conflicts, and then their ways, habits, governments, forms of worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses, their random achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a superintending design, the blind evolution of what turn out to be great powers or truths, the progress of things, as if from unreasoning elements, not towards final causes, the greatness and littleness of man, his far-reaching aims, his short duration, the curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that condition of the whole race, so fearfully yet exactly described in the Apostle’s words, ‘having no hope and without God in the world’,—all this is a vision to dizzy and appall; and inflicts upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery, which is absolutely beyond human solution.
What shall be said to this heart-piercing, reason-bewildering fact?
We know that Newman admired Cicero; he contributed an article to an encyclopedia on his life and works. He praised the orator and politician at the same time that he noted his failures:
What he admired most about Cicero was his philosophical development of the Latin language to explore ideas more deeply and persuasively, which is what he would do in English.
More about Newman and Literature, focused on his writing style, on Monday . . .