Gerard Manley Hopkins' Poetic Career

Hopkins' Welsh inspiration

Hopkins sent his poem to the editor of a Catholic magazine, but it was refused publication. Undeterred, Hopkins began to write a whole stream of poems, mainly nature poems inspired by the beautiful Welsh scenery around St. Asaph. He had learned some Welsh, and found that Welsh poetry, too, influenced his poetic style.

Hopkins - A period of probation

Hopkins’ training as a priest took him to a number of places in the next four years:

  • He undertook brief spells of teaching or parish duties in Chesterfield, Stonyhurst, and London
  • He returned to Oxford, as curate at St. Aloysius’. Here, too, he wrote a number of poems, but he does not seem to have connected with university life in any way, his parish duties absorbing his attention
  • A brief curacy in Leigh outside Manchester (where, from what survives in written form, he preached his best sermons)
  • An appointment as Select Preacher at St. Francis Xavier's, a big Catholic church in Liverpool. The appointment lasted from January 1880 to August 1881
  • A temporary appointment to Glasgow
  • His final retreat, or third part of his novitiate, at Manresa House.

It was only now that he was fully a Jesuit.

Public rejection of Hopkins' work

Hopkins made a few attempts to get poems published, with permission from his superiors, but his poetic style was now so different from Victorian taste that rejection was almost inevitable. Fortunately, he continued to conduct correspondence with:

  • Bridges
  • R.W.Dixon, his old schoolteacher, now a canon in the Church of England, who had published a book of verse
  • the poet and Catholic convert, Coventry Patmore.

It is from this correspondence and from a journal that he had kept from Oxford days till 1875 that we learn of his own poetic and spiritual development.

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