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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Staff

Publication details for Professor Geoffrey Scarre

Scarre, Geoffrey (2016). Fallible infallibility? Gladstone's anti-Vatican pamphlets in the light of Mill's On Liberty. Victorian Literature and Culture 44(02): 223-237.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

When W. E. Gladstone published in November 1874 his spirited pamphlet The Vatican Decrees in their Bearing on Civil Allegiance: A Political Expostulation, he seems to have taken many people by surprise. In its issue of the 21st of that month, Punch printed a cartoon, “An Unexpected Cut” (Figure 1) which portrayed the “Hawarden woodcutter” laying an axe to the stout trunk of a tree labelled “Papal Infallibility,” under the bemused gaze of Mr Punch. To the latter's remark “We didn't expect to find you cutting at that tree, you know,” the ex-Prime Minister dourly retorts: “All right, Mr Punch! I choose my own Trees, and my own Time!” In Gladstone's view, the time was ripe to take a stand against the recent pretensions of the Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of its aging pontiff Pius IX, to exercise an absolute and unchallengeable authority over the consciences and actions of Catholics.