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Callista

John Henry Newman

Book Overview: 

Callista, A Tale of the Third Century, was written by John Henry Newman, who was a scholarly and personable Anglican theologian who became a Catholic priest and cardinal, bringing a good number of Protestant friends along with him into the Roman faith. He wrote Callista as the fruit of a challenge (dare we say “bet”?) with Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman that each man would write a novel about the early church. Wiseman wrote Fabiola and Newman wrote Callista, publishing it in 1855. The title character is a beautiful and talented, but unhappy Greek woman living in pagan Roman North Africa in the third century. She is wooed by a lonely young Christian man, for whom she shows little interest, though she deeply desires to know more about his Christian faith. However, the third century was a dangerous time for Christians, with the onset of persecution under the Emperor Decius. The colorful cast of characters react to the persecution in different ways, but some are put to the ultimate test of whether they will maintain their faith at the price of torture and painful death. Cardinal Newman's writing style is often lively, and occasionally humorous, especially in his conversations. But there is no denying that modern readers may find parts of it quite wordy, particularly in the descriptions of geography (beware Chapter 1!). Most readers are likely to find themselves caring very much about the characters, and cheering for their victories, in addition to learning quite a bit about 3rd century history along the way.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . “to be [pg 66]sure! yet why shouldn’t he worship a handsome Greek girl as well as any of those mummies and death’s heads and bogies of his, which I should blush to put up here alongside even of Anubis, or a scarabæus?”

“Mother thinks she is not altogether the girl you take her for,” said his nephew.

“No matter, no matter,” answered Jucundus, “no matter at all; she may be a Lais or Phryne for me; the surer to make a man of him.”

“Why,” said Juba, “mother thinks her head is turning in the opposite way. D’you see? Strange, isn’t it?” he added, annoyed himself yet not unwilling to annoy his uncle.

“Hm!” exclaimed Jucundus, making a wry face and looking round at him, as if to say, “What on earth is going to turn up now?”

“To tell the truth,” said Juba, gloomily, “I did once. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Well, after starting this book three different times, I finally made it through. This isn't my normal subject matter: I read it solely because of the title, as it is one of the earliest recorded uses of this name.

Presuming it is roughly historically accurate in the setting and feel of...more

Newman's scholarship, wit, and understanding of the human condition shine through in this book. It's a bit heavy-handed in parts, especially with respect to "extra ecclesiam [Romam!] nulla salus", which is one of the central themes. However, if you can get past that, a faithful Christian will gre...more

Probablemente éste sea una de las mejores novelas históricas que retratan la época de los mártires. Personalmente no había leído nada tan bello e interesante desde "Quo Vadis?"

Y lo es ante todo por el curioso estilo del autor y porque fácilmente se puede extrapolar la novela al tiempo...more

In all respects Newman's fiction is Joris-Karl Huysmans's fiction for the poor man. The same themes are dealt with more beautifully, powerfully, and inventively and with less kitschy, delirious, saccharine sentimentality in Huysmans's 'Against the Grain,' 'The Damned' and 'The Cathedral.'

Tako je jedna Grkinja dosla u Afriku ukrasavati poganska svetista, sluziti uzurpacijama Zloga i ojacati davnasnje veze sto covjeka zarobljavaju grijehom; iznenada je pronasla spasenje.

Excellent history, both church & secular.

Terrific and absorbing story from the third century AD. This was a time when Christians were either forced to sacrifice to the Roman gods or face torture/martyrdom. It was also a time when the church grew despite the hardships. Face forward to today when Christians in the West willingly sacrifice...more