Biography Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins

photo of Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • Time Period1844 - 1889
  • Place
  • CountryEngland

Poet Biography

Priest and poet, G.M. Hopkins was born at Stratford in Essex, the eldest of eight children. His father ran a successful marine insurance business in London. The family moved to Hampstead in 1852. Hopkins attended Highgate School where he demonstrated great academic and artistic talent, and where he won a prize for his first surviving poem, 'The Escorial'. In 1863 he entered Balliol College, Oxford where he was a pupil of Walter Pater. He wrote much poetry during this time including 'Heaven-Haven' and 'The Habit of Perfection'. He obtained a first in his degree. In 1866 he converted to Catholicism. After graduation he taught for a while and in 1868 became a Jesuit novice at Roehampton until 1870. He then went on to study at Stoneyhurst (1870-3) and was ordained priest in 1877.

Saddened by the loss of the ship the Deutschland in December 1875, which had seven Franciscan nuns exiled for their faith among its passengers, Hopkins wrote his most ambitious poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland (1876). It was rejected by the Jesuit journal The Month as it was considered too difficult for its readers. It was while studying for his ordination in 1877 that he wrote some of his best-known and talented poems including 'The Windhover' and 'Pied Beauty'. 'Inversnaid' was written during a brief period in Glasgow having visited Loch Lomond. In 1884 he was appointed Professor of Greek at University College, Dublin. He was overwhelmed by his academic and administrative responsibilities there and became very ill and depressed. In 1885 he wrote a number of the so-called 'terrible sonnets' such as 'Carrion Comfort' and 'No Worst, There Is None' which have desolation at their core. In his last years he wrote 'Harry Ploughman' and 'That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire', and 'Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord' (March 1889). He died of typhoid fever in June 1889 without ever publishing any of his poems.