It was on October 9, 1845 that the English academic,(and Anglican
priest) John Henry Newman, was received into the Roman Catholic church,
his action being both cause and effect of this Victorian trend. One
reason he cited as leading to his conversion to Catholicism was his
study of the English saints. He wrote on them in a book, "The Lives of
the English Saints", 1843, 1844. Our quote below about St. Wulfstan is
taken from Newman's book. Wulfstan died in 1096 and this different social setting
is necessary to appreciate the context of this narrative.
Wulstan lived to a good old age, reverenced by the stern strangers who so hated his countrymen. [Wulfstan as Bishop of Worcester, was the only English clergyman allowed to keep his post after the French conquered England in 1066. William the Conqueror said that it was obvious Wulfstan was devoted to those in his care.]
Still these must have been mournful days for Wulstan. He had made the best of the old English system ; he was cast in its mould ; it had all his sympathies ; and now that he was old, it was rudely broken off, its evil sternly exposed and put to shame, its ways of doing good despised...
he was still the blunt, unaffected, good-humoured Saxon, who avoided all show,
either of austerity or pomp,... He would say his grace before drinking,
as the English always used to do, though he was dining at the royal
table; and he would persist in coming into the company of great lords
in a very ordinary dress—intruding his common lamb-skin among their
rich furs. The rich and courtly Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances, once
[tried], to set the simple Englishman right; ... he expostulated with him on the unsuitableness, in a man of his dignity, of his usual appearance;" He could well
afford, and really ought, to wear something more respectable ; some
more costly fur, sable, or beaver, or fox-skin." But the old Englishman
had some shrewd humour in him. " The skins of such shifty animals," he
said, " might do for experienced men of the world, but for himself, he
was a plain man, and content with lamb-skin." "Then at least," said
Geoffrey, " you might wear cat-skin."
We get such a believable glimpse of a certain type of person in this incident, and a nice glance of cats functioning in a primitive agricultural society.