Hopkins, Gerard Manley, 1844-1889, Jesuit priest and poet

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Hopkins, Gerard Manley, 1844-1889, Jesuit priest and poet

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  • Hopkins, G M

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28 July 1844-08 June 1889

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Born: 28 July 1844, Stratford, Essex, England
Entered: 07 September 1868, Hodder, Stonyhurst, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
Ordained: 1877, St Beuno's, Wales
Professed: 15 August 1882, Manresa, Roehampton, London
Died: 08 June 1889, University College Dublin - Angliae Province (ANG)

by 1884 came to UCD (HIB)

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Early education was at Cholmeley Grammar in Highgate. He later studied Classics under the famous Dr Jowett at Balliol, Oxford. He had a keen interest in drawing, ever since his aunt introduced him to Layard, and he never ceased drawing and painting, as well as studying Art and Architecture - such as Butterfield, the architect of Keble. He also had a great interest in music, and possessed a lovely voice. He won a school Exhibition, and an Exhibition at Balliol in 1863.
1866 He became a convert under the influence of Jowett and especially John Henry Newman, and two years later Entered the Society.
1884 After an arduous career on the mission in various parts of England, Scotland and Wales, he came to UCD as Professor of Greek. he taught there for five years, and then contracted typhus, and he died there in 1889, buried in Glasnevin.

Though constantly engaged by both the criticism of Poetry, and composing his own, he never published anything during his lifetime. He sent all his poems to his great friend Robert Bridges, who after his death set about having them published. He exercised great judgement, in terms of timing in the culture, for these publications, allowing only a few at a time, lets they be considered oddities. It was not until 1918 that he decided that they be published in an edition. Only at the publication of the 2nd edition in 1930, and after Bridges’ death, was he considered a master of the art. The publication of Hopkin’s correspondence with both bridges, and later Richard Watson Dixon were very well received. The only disappointment was that the letters from Bridges have not survived, especially when he had written questioning Hopkins about the value of his continuing to write poetry, since we have Hopkins’ tender reply. He in fact valued Bridges’ poetry hugely. In addition his correspondence with Coventry Patmore has also been published. The published correspondences show how ill at ease Hopkins was in the world, but also that faith was the strongest and happiest part of him. (”MT” Irish Independent. March 1935)

“Letters and Notices”
He Ent at Hodder 07 September 1868, and his fellow Novices well recalled his panegyric on St Stanislaus as brilliant and beautiful.
1873 After Philosophy he went back to the Juniorate for Regency. he then went for Theology at St Beuno’s and was Ordained there 1877.
1878 He began life as a Missioner in London, Liverpool and Oxford, showing a great love of the poor and young, and devotion to the Vincent de Paul Society.
1881-1882 He made Tertianship at Manresa Roehampton and took Final Vows there 15 August 1882.
1882-1884 He taught the “secular Philosophers” at Stonyhurst.
1884 Came to Dublin and UCD, having been made a fellow of the Royal University, and he taught Latin and Greek there, and examining the Classics for the Royal. He liked teaching but hated examining. Although he hated it, he was assiduous in his attention to this duty.
Most of his spare time was devoted to literature. He had prepared for publication a work on idioms and dialects in Ireland, and wrote some articles for the “Classical Review”. At the time of his death he was engaged in work dealing with difficult passages in Aristophenes. He read literature extensively, though it was said he would be happy only to have his Breviary. He also composed some fugues, which were well thought of by Sir Robert Stewart, an Irish composer : “On everything he wrote and said, there was the stamp of originality, and he had the keenest appreciation of humour. I think the characteristics which most struck all who knew him were firstly his priestly spirit....and secondly his devotion and loyalty to the Society of Jesus.
A day or two after Low Sunday 1889 he fell ill of typhoid. he was fully aware of the seriousness, but hoped he would pull through. His condition deteriorated seriously on June 5th, and he was attended to with great care by Thomas Wheeler. hearing that his parents were coming from England, he dreaded their arrival, because of the pain it would cause them to see him like this. Once arrived he was happy they had come. He knew that he was dying and asked each day for the Viaticum. On receiving the Last Rites on the day of his death, he was heard to say “I am so happy”. He was then too weak to speak, but seemed able to follow the prayers that Thomas Wheeler spoke, and he was joined by his parents for these.

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Hopkins, Gerard Manley
by Patrick Maume

Hopkins, Gerard Manley (1844–89), poet and Jesuit, was born 28 July 1844 at 87 The Grove, Stratford, Essex, eldest of nine children (eight of whom survived to adulthood) of Manley Hopkins (1818–1897), marine insurance adjuster, and his wife, Catherine, or Kate (née Smith; 1821–1920). His parents encouraged their children's artistic interests, inspired by the Ruskinian view that close observation of the natural world was intimately linked to moral perception; Gerard developed a talent for drawing, and two of his brothers became professional artists. His interest in poetry dated from his mid-teens. Hopkins was educated at Highgate School (1854–63), where he was regularly and brutally flogged, and Balliol College, Oxford (1863–7), where he thrived. Here he moved in Anglo-Catholic ritualist circles, whose views went beyond those of his high-church family. He began to practise auricular confession, and his religious faith centred on sacramental belief in the real presence of Jesus in the eucharist. Anglo-Catholic ritualism sometimes had a certain homoerotic element; there is little doubt that Hopkins's orientation was homosexual and that he was troubled by his fascination with the male body. He was a small and slightly built man who suffered from persistent health problems; some acquaintances regarded him as mildly effeminate, but others disputed this.

In the summer of 1866 Hopkins came to believe that the anglican claim to be a part of the one church founded by Christ was untenable; on 21 October 1866 he was received into the Roman catholic church by John Henry Newman (qv). After graduation he taught for two terms at Newman's Oratory school at Birmingham, but then decided to enter the religious life. After making this decision, on 11 May 1867, he burned his manuscript poems, believing them to be a possible obstacle to his religious vocation, but they survive in copies that he had sent to friends. In the ensuing years he continued to keep journals of his observations from nature.

In September 1868 Hopkins entered the novitiate of the English province of the Society of Jesus at Roehampton. In undertaking for the first time the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius Loyola he experienced a spiritual crisis (which he later recalled in his poem ‘The wreck of the Deutschland’). It appears that the Ignatian method both exercised his powers of observation (the Ignatian meditant is encouraged to visualise precisely the scenes on which he meditates) and heightened his tendency to morbid introspection and depression. After taking his vows on 8 September 1870 he spent 1870–73 in further training at St Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst, Lancashire, and 1873–4 teaching classics and English to junior novices at Roehampton. In August 1874 he was sent to St Beuno's College in Wales to study theology; he developed a special devotion to St Winifred, whose shrine is nearby, studied Welsh – a pursuit that combined an interest in prosody with a desire for the conversion of Wales – and continued his observations of nature. He also discovered the writings of the medieval scholastic Duns Scotus, who taught that each individual thing has its own distinct essence, by contrast with the Thomist view that matter is in essence undifferentiated; this accorded with his own view of the physical world as a sacramental medium through which God makes his presence known. Hopkins's aesthetic rejected ‘Parnassian’ regularity and tried to deploy words to bring out afresh the inherent design and energies of the sensual world. His adherence to Scotism, rather than Thomism, which was the officially favoured school, is believed to have hindered his advancement in the Jesuit order. Hopkins made the most of the fact that Scotus – unlike Aquinas – had been a zealous advocate of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which Pius IX had declared binding on all catholics in 1854. On 28 August 1874 he received the four minor orders of doorkeeper, lector, acolyte, and exorcist.

In December 1875 Hopkins was fascinated by newspaper accounts of the deaths of five German nuns, while escaping to America from Bismarck's Kulturkampf, in a shipwreck off the English coast; in response to a casual remark from his superior about the possibility of writing a poem on the subject, he composed an ode ‘The wreck of the Deutschland’, which combines an account of Hopkins's own submission to God with the story of the nuns’ deaths, and hails them as martyrs whose end will hasten the return of England to catholicism. Hopkins was acutely aware of the conflict between the catholic church and temporal powers across Europe; he believed that English civilisation faced imminent disintegration as a long-term effect of the Reformation, and hoped that his poetry might be an instrument of God in the subsequent reconstruction. The ode was completed by June 1875 and submitted to the editors of the Jesuit journal, The Month, who found its metrical and stylistic experiments incomprehensible and turned it down. Hopkins regarded their response not merely as an ordinary rejection but as an expression of official disapproval; after The Month refused a more conventional ode on a shipwreck, ‘The wreck of the Eurydice’ in 1878, he came to realise that his work would probably not be published in his lifetime. He continued to write – though in less complex forms – and to send copies of his poems to a small circle of friends, the most important of whom were Robert Bridges, an Oxford contemporary who became poet laureate and served as Hopkins's literary executor, and the anglican canon R. W. Dixon, a poet who had briefly taught Hopkins at Highgate.

After his ordination to the major orders of subdeacon, deacon, and priest (21–3 September 1877) Hopkins began a period of movement from place to place. He found this profoundly disturbing, though he accepted it in accordance with the Jesuit self-image of soldiers removed from inordinate attachment to their surroundings and willing to go where they were sent without hesitation. He taught at Mount St Mary's College, near Sheffield (October 1877 to April 1878), and was curate at the fashionable Jesuit church in Farm Street, London (July to November 1878) and at St Aloysius’ church, Oxford (December 1878 to October 1879); this experience of appearing as a revenant in the setting of so many fond memories produced a number of poems on transience and mortality.

In October 1879 Hopkins was assigned as curate to St Joseph's church at Bedford Leigh in Lancashire. This appointment saw the start of a period of service in the slums of the industrial north, which the nature-loving southerner found oppressive, particularly after he moved to St Francis Xavier, Liverpool (January 1880 to August 1881). His ornate style of preaching was ill suited to audiences more responsive to the direct style of Father Tom Burke (qv), in whose honour he composed some Latin verses. Hopkins once reduced a dining-room full of Jesuits to laughter by an extended comparison between the shape of the Sea of Galilee and that of the human ear, and he unintentionally scandalised a Farm Street congregation by comparing the church to a cow with seven teats – the sacraments. On a temporary posting to St Joseph's church, Glasgow (August to October 1881), he found ‘the poor Irish’ at Glasgow ‘very attractive . . . though always very drunken and at present very Fenian, they are warm-hearted and give a far heartier welcome than those at Liverpool’. In October 1881 Hopkins began his tertianship at Roehampton, and on 15 August 1882 he took his final vows, after which he was sent to teach at Stonyhurst.

In December 1883 Hopkins was invited to Ireland by Father William Delany (qv), who wished to raise the standard of teaching at University College, Dublin, the remnant of Newman's Catholic University, newly taken over by the Jesuits, and to recruit Jesuit staff whose salaries could be ploughed back into the college. Delany sought several English Jesuits but was able to get only Hopkins (who was regarded as eccentric and expendable). In February 1884 Hopkins was elected to a Royal University of Ireland classics fellowship, which enabled him to take up the position of professor of Greek at University College. His election produced a dispute between Delany and the future archbishop of Dublin William Walsh (qv), who believed that RUI fellowships should be spread among the catholic secondary schools around Dublin and not reserved for University College; there was also some resentment at the importation of an Englishman.

Hopkins, his expectations shaped by Oxford, was dismayed at the low standard of learning and the utilitarian attitude to education found among his pupils, who treated him with considerable irreverence. His English voice and mannerisms grated on colleagues as well as pupils; his closest friend was a Jesuit lay brother debarred from ordination by epilepsy, and he found occasional solace on visits to upper-class catholic families, notably the Cassidys of Monasterevan, Co. Kildare. Scrupulous attention to vast piles of examination scripts intensified his depression; an unfinished ‘Epithalamium’ for a brother's marriage, incongruously centred on an image of nude male bathers, was jotted on an answer book while Hopkins invigilated an examination in 1888. The six ‘terrible sonnets’ of 1885, never sent to friends and found among his papers after his death, are classic expressions of mental desolation and despair. He planned various scholarly projects which were never finished (sometimes hardly begun).

Hopkins was further divided from colleagues and pupils by his political views. The only other English Jesuit in the college, Joseph Darlington (qv), was pro-nationalist. Hopkins was despised as hysterical and effeminate – ‘a merely beautifully painted seashell. I never found any mollusc inside it of human substance’. Although Hopkins believed Britain had done injustice to Ireland in the past, he regarded the methods used by Irish agitators as immoral; he thought home rule was inevitable and should be accepted on the basis of getting the worst over as soon as possible, but he felt a visceral hatred for Gladstone for destroying the empire. Even after the exposure of the Pigott forgeries he continued to believe that Charles Stewart Parnell (qv) had been complicit in the Phoenix Park murders, adding that even if the accusations against Parnell were false they were less libellous than the claim made by William O'Brien (qv) that Arthur James Balfour (qv) deliberately caused the deaths of prisoners. Hopkins contrasted the sincere faith of Irish congregations with what he regarded as their immoral political activities, referring to ‘the unfailing devotion of the Irish, whose religion hangs suspended over their politics as the blue sky over the earth, both in one landscape but immeasurably remote’. Some of Hopkins's most assertively English poems date from his residence in Ireland. A number were encouraged by watching military displays in Phoenix Park – Hopkins was always fascinated by soldiers.

In the middle of 1889 Hopkins contracted typhoid, probably transmitted by the defective drainage system of University College (which was renovated shortly afterwards). This developed into peritonitis, from which he died 8 June 1889 at 86 St Stephen's Green; he was buried on 11 June in the communal Jesuit plot at Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin. In subsequent decades Bridges, his literary executor, tried to prepare the ground for the acceptance of Hopkins's work by submitting examples of his poetry to anthologies. In December 1918 Bridges published Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, on which Hopkins's fame is based. His attention to language as a medium led him to be hailed as a forerunner of literary modernism. More recent critics emphasise his Victorianism.

Some accounts of Hopkins see his religious vocation as having provided structure and meaning to his life and enabled his poetic achievement; in this interpretation the dark years in Ireland are seen as a sacrifice offered to God. Other readings see him as fleeing from self-knowledge into an externally imposed discipline, which crippled and ultimately destroyed him; in this view the darkness of his later years reflects a painfully resisted awareness of frustration and futility. To a great extent this dispute reflects disagreement about the truth or falsehood of the faith to which Hopkins devoted his life, and the question of whether suffering is utterly futile or capable of redemption; neither side can deny the centrality of faith to Hopkins’ self-image, nor the intensity of his pain, and both can wonder what greater achievement might have been his had his superiors been receptive to his literary gifts.

Paddy Kitchen, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1978); Robert Bernard, Martin Gerard Manley Hopkins: a very private life (1991); Norman White, Hopkins: a literary biography (1992); Norman White, Hopkins in Ireland (2002)

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 9th Year No 1 1934

Leeson St :

Monday, November 20th, was a red-letter day in the history of Leeson street, for it witnessed the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the House's foundation. In November, 1833. the Community came into being at 86 St Stephen's Green, where it remained until 1909, when the building was handed over to the newly constituted National University. The Community, however, survived intact and migrated to a nearby house in Lesson Street, where it renewed its youth in intimate relationship with the Dublin College of the University.
Its history falls this into two almost equal periods, different, indeed, in many ways, yet essentially one, since the energies of the Community during each period have been devoted to the same purpose, the furtherance of Catholic University Education in Ireland.
A precious link between the two eras is Father Tom Finlay, who was a member of the Community in 1883, and ever since has maintained his connection with it. His presence on Monday evening, restored to his old health after a severe illness was a source of particular pleasure to the whole gathering. It was also gratifying to see among the visitors Father Henry Browne, who had crossed from England at much personal inconvenience to take part in the celebration. Not only was Father Browne a valued member of the Community for over thirty years, but he acquired additional merit by putting on record, in collaboration with Father McKenna, in that bulky volume with the modest title " A Page of Irish History," the work achieved by the House during the first heroic age of its existence. It was a pleasure, too, to see hale and well among those present Father Joseph Darlington, guide, philosopher and friend to so many students during the two periods. Father George O'Neill, who for many years was a distinguished member of the Community, could not, alas. be epected to make the long journey from his newer field of fruitful labor in Werribee, Australia.
Father Superior, in an exceptionally happy speech, described the part played by the Community, especially in its earlier days of struggle, in the intellectual life of the country. The venerable Fathers who toiled so unselfishly in the old house in St. Stephens Green had exalted the prestige of the Society throughout Ireland. Father Finlay, in reply, recalled the names of the giants of those early days, Father Delany, Father Gerald Hopkins, Mr. Curtis and others. Father Darlington stressed the abiding influence of Newman, felt not merely in the schools of art and science, but in the famous Cecilia Street Medial School. Father Henry Browne spoke movingly of the faith, courage and vision displayed by the leaders of the Province in 1883, when they took on their shoulders such a heavy burden. It was a far cry from that day in 1883, when the Province had next to no resources, to our own day, when some sixty of our juniors are to be found, as a matter of course preparing for degrees in a National University. The progress of the Province during these fifty years excited feelings of
admiration and of profound gratitude , and much of that progress was perhaps due to the decision, valiantly taken in 1883 1883, which had raised the work of the Province to a higher plane.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Gerard Manly-Hopkins 1844-1889
There can be few more remarkable stories in the history of literature than that of Fr Gerard Manly-Hopkins.

Born in 1844 at Stratford in Essex, he received his early education at Cholmeley Grammar School at Highgate. From earliest childhood he showed great talent for drawing and painting. He had an exquisite voice, and music absorbed him. He won an exhibition at Balliol College Oxford in 1863. Here, in addition to his ordinary course, he continued his studies of art, especially architecture. His course as a classical scholar was brilliant, under the famous Dr Jowett.

In 1866, under the influence of Newman, he became a Jesuit, and two years later entered the Society. After an arduous career on the mission in various parts of England, Scotland and Wales, he came to Dublin as Professor of Greek in the newly constituted Uiversity College at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. There he laboured with success but increasing strain. The drudgery of correcting examination papers gradually wore him down. He was a man who was not vigorously healthy and so suffered more less continually from nervous depression. “It is killing work” he wrote once “to examine a nation”.

As a Theologian, he greatly admired Scotus, owing to the traces of Plato he found there. This leaning involved him in difficulties with his Thomist and Suaresian professors. It has been suggested by some of his many biographers, that he was uneasy if not unhappy as a Jesuit. That charge is easily answered out of his own mouth. To a friend, he remarked one day that he could get on quite happily with no other book than his breviary. Another friend wrote of him “I think the characteristics in him which most struck all of us who knew him were first, what I should call his priestly spirit, and secondly, his devotion and loyalty to the Society of Jesus”.

He contracted typhoid fever and received the Viaticam, and he was hear to murmur two or three times before he actually expired “I am so happy, I am so happy”. He died with his parents at his bedside on June 8th 1889.

He was first and foremost a poet, though he never published any of his poems while he was alive. He bequeathed them all to a friend, Robert bridges, Poet Laureate of England. The latter published them at forst one by one, gradually preparing the public for their originality. The first full edition came in 1918. By the time of the second edition in 1930, Hopkins was accepted as a master of his art, and is ranked as the most revered and influential poet of the second half of the nineteenth century.

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Angliae Province of the Society of Jesus, 1622- (1622-)

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