The Shaping Vision of Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Shaping Vision of Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Shaping Vision of Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Shaping Vision of Gerard Manley Hopkins

Excerpt

Readers of Hopkins belong to three groups--those who accept and seek, those who reject, and those who accept or reject with qualifications. The disagreement was established early among the three friends and fellow-poets who corresponded with Hopkins in his maturity: R. W. Dixon, recognizing the importance of what he read, gave unqualified praise; Coventry Patmore could not penetrate beneath the bewildering surface; and Robert Bridges, often offended at the substance of the poems which he cherished nevertheless, praised some things and established dogmas about what he did not like. Hopkins' readers in the 1870's and 1880's also included his parents, two sisters, the editor and sub-editor of the Month who rejected both wreck-poems submitted to them, and two companions in the Society of Jesus (I. 196-7). The three poets with whom Hopkins exchanged critical letters remained the important readers; together they made up a Victorian literary circle mastered by Hopkins' intellect. The unpublished Hopkins was consulted by his published friends for careful criticism of their poetry; they urged him in vain to publish. The fame he recommended to them he rejected for himself, and poetry played g minor role alongside his religious vocation (I. 231; II. 88, 148-9). His was the Way of the Cross: he was to succeed by failure. Not until 1918 were the Poems published by Bridges, then Poet Laureate. The two later editions by Charles Williams in 1980, by W. H. Gardner in 1948, added further poems and enabled Hopkins to reach an ever wider public, from modern poets to common readers. In the 1980's the demand for more Hopkins material was supplied by Lahey's brief life and by a good deal of prose--three volumes of letters edited by C. C. Abbott, and a volume of diaries, journals, essays, sermons, notes in a model edition by Humphry House. Today, with the reissue of the prose volumes in expanded form in 1955-9 and with a prospective life in two volumes,1 . . .

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