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England (1844 - 1889) Timeline
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Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manly Hopkins was born in 1844 into an Anglican family of insurance brokers. He was an excellent student, gaining notice at Balliol College at Oxford. He seemed ready for a promising career until, in 1866, he announced he was converting to Catholicism. Significant social stigma was still attached to Catholics at the time and he was not allowed to graduate from Oxford. He further surprised everyone by later joining the Society of Jesus -- the Jesuits -- a shocking move in conservative England.

Hopkins had already begun to compose poetry but, becoming a Jesuit, he felt he should abandon all distractions to his religious calling, so he burned all of his poetry.

Ten years later, in 1875, Hopkins came across a newspaper article describing a terrible shipwreck off the coast of Kent, England. Among those who drowned was a group of German nuns who were escaping persecution in their homeland. His superior casually suggested that the event should be memorialized in some way. Taking this to be authorization to return to writing, Hopkins wrote the epic poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland". He used the nuns' death to explore the depths of Catholic faith through suffering and opening to mystery.

Hopkins spent most of his life in obscure religious duties, He taught classics at the Catholic University of Dublin, but he apparently hated the work. He was often ill and suffered from doubts about the value of his work.

Later in life, he wrote a series of "Terrible Sonnets" that reflected his personal struggles with the life he had chosen, poems that were, as he put it, "written in blood... unbidden and against my will."

Gerard Manly Hopkins died in 1889 of typhoid. His last words were reportedly, "I am so happy!"

The dense rhythms and unusual syntax made his poems inaccessible to the few friends he allowed to read them. With little encouragement, he never published any of his poems during his lifetime.

Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Recommended Books: Gerard Manley Hopkins

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time

Gerard Manley Hopkins