Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Hopkins, Gerard Manley (1844–1889)
Author:
Raleigh, Richard
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

An innovative English poet who has had great influence on twentieth-century poetry, Gerard Manley Hopkins was born in Stratford, near London. In 1866, while studying at Oxford, he became a convert to Roman Catholicism, and two years later entered the Jesuit order. His "terrible sonnets," begun in 1885 while a professor of Greek at University College, Dublin, reflect his unhappy stay in Ireland and his disappointment with himself as a priest and as a poet.

Attempts to show that Hopkins's poetry was influenced by Walt Whitman have as their source this passage from a letter Hopkins wrote to his friend Robert Bridges in 1882: "But first I may as well say what I should not otherwise have said, that I always knew in my heart Walt Whitman's mind to be more like my own than any other man's living. As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a pleasant confession" (qtd. in Hazen 41).

Hopkins read George Saintsbury's review of Leaves of Grass in 1874, and remembered it so well that he referred to it accurately in a letter to Bridges some eight years later. Hopkins also recalled reading Whitman in Bridges's library when he stayed with him in the summer of 1877 or 1878. Reacting to Bridges's suggestion that "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo" resembled Whitman, Hopkins protested in 1882 that he had not read more than "half a dozen" Whitman poems, yet went on to admit that that might be enough "to influence another's style" (qtd. in Hazen 45). James Hazen contends that the "wilder beast from West" in Hopkins's sonnet "Andromeda" (1879) is a direct reference to Whitman, and William Darby Templeman finds echoes of Whitman in Hopkins's rhythm, alliteration, and diction. Indeed, in a letter to Bridges in 1887, Hopkins, who had just reworked an old sonnet called "Harry Ploughman" in which he celebrated the male form, wondered "if there is anything like it in Walt Whitman" (qtd. in Hazen 47).

Bibliography

Hazen, James. "Whitman and Hopkins." American Transcendental Quarterly 12 (1971): 41–48.

Mariani, Paul L. A Commentary on the Complete Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1970.

Martin, Robert Bernard. Gerard Manley Hopkins. New York: Putnam, 1991.

Olney, James. The Language(s) of Poetry: Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1993.

Simkin, Stephen J. "'Extremes Meet': Hopkins and Walt Whitman." Forum for Modern Language Studies 30 (1994): 1–17.

Templeman, William Darby. "Hopkins and Whitman: Evidence of Influence and Echoes." Philological Quarterly 33 (1954): 48–65.


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