Hopkins' Early Years

Gerard Manley Hopkins - Birth

Gerard Manley Hopkins was born 28 July, 1844 at Stratford, then in Essex, now part of the East End of London. He was the eldest of eight children born to Manley and Kate Hopkins. His father was in marine insurance, and wrote several books on ships, but also wrote poetry and songs. His mother was also musical and fond of literature.

Hopkins' early influences

Family faith

Both parents were religious, belonging to the Church of England, and brought their children up in the Christian faith, too, by church-going and having regular family prayers. Gerard certainly read his Bible daily whilst at boarding school, even though others made fun of him. Later on, one of his sisters, Millicent, became an Anglican nun. The family seemed close-knit and Gerard greatly respected his father, as did all the children.


It was a very artistic family. Gerard was taught drawing by two of his aunts, and went on a drawing holiday with his younger brother Arthur, who later exhibited at the Royal Academy, a sign of a successful painter. His youngest brother, Everard, also became a painter and illustrator, and his sisters were artistic, too. It was left to Cyril, the next oldest, to follow his father into insurance.

Gerard Manley Hopkins - Education

In 1852, the family moved to Hampstead, then a village just to the north of London, on the edge of Hampstead Heath. The poet John Keats had also lived there thirty years previously. Hopkins enjoyed exploring the open countryside.

From 1854 to 1862 he attended Highgate School, not many miles away, and was a boarder there for some of the time. He did well at school, winning several prizes.

In those days, the main emphasis of such schools was on the study of Greek and Latin. One of his teachers for a short time was R.W.Dixon, who was a minor Pre-Raphaelite poet, and later one of Hopkins’ correspondents.