Manley Hopkins, Gerald
Gerald Manley Hopkins (28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889), was an English poet, homosexual, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose "20th-century fame established him posthumously among the leading Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him as a daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse."
Manley Hopkins was both an extremely intelligent man - he went Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied classics – but also an unusually sensitive man.
He was obsessed with ‘sin’ and began recording his ‘sins’ in his diary. In particular, he found it hard to accept his sexuality; hence, he began to exercise strict self-control in regard to it. But his homosexuality was brought home to him by his meeting with fellow Etonian Digby Mackworth Dolben, who was nearly four years his junior. His private journal for confessions the following year proves how absorbed he was in imperfectly suppressed erotic thoughts of him. Another indication of the nature of his feelings for Dolben is that Hopkins's High Anglican confessor seems to have forbidden him to have any contact with Dolben except by letter. Their relationship was abruptly ended by Dolben's drowning in June 1867, an event whose impact one can well imagine. So not only do we have angst but grief.
"Ironically, fate may have bestowed more through Dolben’s death than it could ever have bestowed through longer life ... [for] many of Hopkins’s best poems — impregnated with an elegiac longing for Dolben, his lost belovèd and his muse — were the result."
In 1866, Hopkins converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism. After his graduation in 1867, Hopkins was provided a teaching post, but the following year he decided to enter the priesthood. His decision to become a Jesuit, led him to burn much of his early poetry as he felt it incompatible with his vocation. Most of his poetry remained unpublished until after his death.
Hopkins failed his final theology exam and turned again to teaching, but his small stature (5'2"), unprepossessing nature and his homosexual leanings meant that teaching was not easy for him. He was isolated and lonely. His poems of the time came to be known as the "terrible sonnets," not because of their quality, but because they crystallized the melancholy dejection which plagued the latter part of his life.
Both Hopkins and Lawrence were religious not just in the ritualistic sense but in the sense of being obsessed with the word — the word made life and truth — with the need to invent a language as direct as religious utterance.
Both were poets, but outside the literary fashions of their time.
Both felt that among the poets of their time was an absorption in literary manners, fashions and techniques which separated the line of the writing from that of religious truth.
Both felt that the modern situation imposed on them the necessity to express truth by means of a different kind of poetic writing from that used in past or present.
Both found themselves driven into writing in a way which their contemporaries did not understand or respond to yet was inevitable to each in his pursuit of truth.
Here of course there is a difference between Hopkins and Lawrence, because Hopkins in his art was perhaps over-worried, over-conscientious, whereas Lawrence was an instinctive poet who, in his concern for truth, understood little of the problems of poetic form, although he held strong views about them.
He would probably be diagnosed these days as a depressive, but what comes through in his poems is a deep spirituality. What is also very apparent is the terrible conflict caused by his homosexuality – angst and terrible angst. After suffering ill health for several years, Hopkins died of typhoid fever in 1889 [aged 45].
His last words were "I am so happy, I am so happy."
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- Manley Hopkins, Gerald - As Kingfishers Catch Fire
- Manley Hopkins, Gerald - Diamond
- Manley Hopkins, Gerald - Oh the mind, mind has mountains
- Manley Hopkins, Gerald - The Caged Skylark
- Manley Hopkins, Gerald - The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo
- Manley Hopkins, Gerald - The Starlight Night
- Manley Hopkins, Gerald - The Starlight Night - Elves
- Manley Hopkins, Gerald - The world is changed with the grandeur of God
- Manley Hopkins, Gerard - Binsey Poplars