GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS by Robert Bernard Martin


A Very Private Man
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 Martin (English/Princeton) brings his ranging knowledge of English Victorian life and his understanding of the poetic sensibility (Tennyson, 1980; With Friends Possessed: A Life of Edward Fitzgerald, 1985) to the subtle, obscure, introverted, and spare life and works of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), the Jesuit priest whose work, published first in 1918, 29 years after his death, is considered as influential as T.S. Eliot's in initiating the modern movement in poetry. Chapter one, ``The Importance of Being Manley,'' introduces the major struggle in Hopkins's life--a strong sexuality conflicted between what his family expected of him in giving him a name he seldom used and his own homoerotic impulses, suppressed, dislocated, and ultimately projected on nature and God, producing his religiously charged sensual poetry. Educated at Oxford, Hopkins later discovered in the discipline, intellectuality, and fellowship of the Jesuit order a refuge for his quirky personality, querulous nature, and personal style of piety. His subtle and unique philosophy of ``inscape,'' a highly complex sense of identity, and ``instress,'' the thrust of energy that allows one to apprehend the unique identity of each individual, found expression in a cryptic, dense, evocative experimental poetry, manipulating syntax, diction, and rhythm to reflect his sense of himself, his world, and his very personal relationship with God. Beset by melancholy, fears of his own unworthiness, and guilt at his lack of accomplishment, he published only one, nearly inscrutable, poem during his lifetime: The Wreck of the Deutschland (1875), describing the drowning of five nuns in a shipwreck. Along with sympathy, tact, appreciation, and humor, Martin brings new information from previously unpublished sources to elucidate the shadows in which Hopkins's life and poetry had been enfolded by well-meaning friends, scholars, and the critics who have made an industry of him.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1991
ISBN: 0-399-13610-X
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991