Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins


Gerard Manley Hopkins was among the most innovative writers of the Victorian period. Experimental and idiosyncratic, his work remains important for any student of nineteenth-century literature and culture.

This guide to Hopkins' life and work offers:

  • a detailed account of Hopkins life and creative development
  • an extensive introduction to Hopkins' poems, their critical history and the many interpretations of his work
  • cross-references between documents and sections of the guide, in order to suggest links between texts, contexts and criticism
  • suggestions for further reading.

Part of the Routledge Guides to Literature series, this volume is essential reading for all those beginning detailed study of Hopkins' work and seeking not only a guide to the poems, but a way through the wealth of contextual and critical material that surrounds them.


Gerard Manley Hopkins is a rewarding and, if we are to get the best of him, a demanding poet.

It is possible to read him with much pleasure without having a detailed knowledge of his life, of his beliefs, and of the technical means by which he expressed his ideas and feelings. Hopkins, though, becomes a greater and more rewarding artist, the better we know and understand his love and study of nature, his doctrinal beliefs, and his technical innovations. In closely observing and recording nature, in prose as well as poetry, Hopkins developed a language to describe what he perceived – terms such as ‘inscape’ and ‘instress’ [pp. 27; 63]. He developed a poetic language and a new rhythm, which he named Sprung Rhythm [pp. 68–9]. And intimately and necessarily involved with his view of nature and his poetic innovation, are Hopkins’s doctrinal beliefs. It is not only that he became a Catholic, a Jesuit, and a priest. He was also deeply devoted to Mary as Mother of God, above all through the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception [p. 78], and he was deeply moved by the idea that the Incarnation itself, Christ coming as man to share humanity and to suffer, was part of a grand scheme of salvation, preceding the creation of the world [p. 134]. So all nature, as God’s creation, is to be explored, delighted in, and a means to perceive God in his creation and through it the beatific vision of God in his glory. It is not necessary to be a Catholic or even a Christian to enjoy Hopkins, but it is essential in reading the poetry to have an understanding of his beliefs.

This study, designed to explore and illuminate these issues and others, is progressive and cumulative. It begins with the life and contexts, passes to the work, both poetry and prose, and then surveys a range (necessarily only a selection) of critical responses to Hopkins, picking up and developing key issues, the often clashing . . .

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