The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Hopkins, Gerard Manley
Gerard Manley Hopkins (b. July 28, 1844 – d. June 8, 1889)
was a British Victorian poet.
Hopkins was born in Stratford, Essex. He was the eldest of nine children. He schooled at
Highgate School and then Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied classics. It was
at Oxford that he forged the friendship with Robert Bridges which would be of importance
in his development as a poet, and posthumous acclaim. He began his time at Oxford as
a keen socialiser and prolific poet but he seems to have alarmed himself with this change
in his behaviour and became more studious and recorded his sins in his diary.
He became a follower of Edward Pusey and a member of the Christian Oxford Movement and in 1866,
following the example of John Henry Newman, he converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism.
After his graduation in 1867 Newman found him a teaching post but the following year he
decided to enter the priesthood.
Influenced by his father who also wrote poetry, Hopkins wrote poetry while young,
winning a prize for his poetry while at grammar school. His decision to become
a Jesuit led him to burn much of his early poetry as he felt it incompatible
with his vocation. Unable to suppress his desire to
describe the natural world, he also wrote music, sketched, and for church occasions
he wrote some "verses," as he called them. Part of his uncertainy about his poetry was probably
concerned with the extent to which it might reveal his homoerotic longings.
Hopkins chose the austere and restrictive life of a Jesuit and was at times gloomy.
The brilliant student who had left Oxford with a first class honours degree failed
his final theology exam. This failure meant that, although ordained in 1877, Hopkins would
not likely progress in the order. He served in various
parishes in England and Scotland and taught at Mount St Mary's College, Sheffield, and
Stonyhurst College, Lancashire. In 1884 he became professor of Greek literature
at University College Dublin.
After suffering ill health for several years, Hopkins died of typhoid fever in 1889 and was
buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Much of Hopkins' historical importance has to do with the changes he brought to the form
of poetry, which ran contrary to conventional ideas of meter. Prior to Hopkins,
most Middle English and Modern English poetry was based on a rhythmic structure inherited
from the Norman side of English's literary heritage. Hopkins became
fascinated with the older rhythmic structure of the Anglo-Saxon tradition.
Hopkins called his own rhythmic structure 'sprung rhythm'.
His work has no strong affinity with either of the contemporary Pre-Raphaelite and neo-romanticism schools,
although he does share their descriptive and deep love of nature and the landscape. His work is more in the mould of the
mystical Christian feeling of Samuel Palmer, seeing god's bounty expressed in an abundant landscape.
An important element in his work is Hopkins' own concept of "inscape" which was derived, in part, from
the Welsh medieval theologian Duns Scotus. The exact detail of "inscape" is uncertain and probably only fully known
to Hopkins alone, but it has to do with the individual essence and uniqueness of every physical thing.
This is communicated from an object by its "instress" and ensures the transmission of the item's
importance in the wider creation. His poems would then try to present this "inscape" so that a
poem like "The Windhover" aims to depict not the bird in general but instead one instance and
its relation to the breeze.
During his lifetime, Hopkins published few poems. It was only through the efforts of
Robert Bridges that his works were later seen. Despite Hopkins
burning all his early poems on entering the priesthood, he had already sent some to Bridges who,
with a few other friends, was one of the few people to see many of them for some years.
After Hopkins' death they were distributed to a wider audience, mostly fellow poets,
and in 1918 Bridges, by then poet laureate, published a collected edition.