London Snow Robert Bridges Essay

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Some words about my editing of the text are necessary. Kenneth Sisam and the staff of the Claren- don Press for their never-failing patience and care. Humphry House kindly tried to solve some of my difficulties, particularly regard- ing early years and friendships, by reference to the poet’s diaries, but unfortunately he could find Ettle that was of help. for allowing me to have far more accurate reproductions of the two photographs of Hopkins than ix b 4010 Preface have been made hitherto, and also for granting my plea that a characteristic sonnet should be included in facsimile. The main outlines of those decisive years at Oxford — he went up to Balliol in 1863 in his twentieth year — already stand out clearly in their temper, friendships, religious bent, and, above all, in the steps leading to his conversion from the doctrines of Pusey to tlie Roman Catholic faith. At one time he was private tutor for the Honours Schodi of Law and Modem History.

With my determination to print all the letters in, full no one vitally int^ested in poetry or in Hopkins will quarrel. The undergraduate note-books and the main diary (1868-75) con- tain, he tells me, very few references to Robert Bridges. A knowledge of the following contractions is necessary to readers of the footnotes: Memoir. How greatly he was influenced by the spirit of time and place and the religious ferment of the hour is apparent too. It was shared at the time by several of his friends. Brii^es I hid it with difficulty while I Stayed at Rochdale, till my going to Birmingham made concealment useless.

I have suppressed one name and, in deference to a family objection, one passage. The few mistakes due to hasty writing have been corrected in the text and the original reading is recorded below. As it was, the Oxford years decided, not only the course of his life but the current and temper of his poetry. The wreck of the Deutschland^ in December 1 875, lifted this self-imposed ban, and he became again a poet. not be gained except at your own and their trouble and grief. He was so good that one scarcely can regret his loss, but for our college it is very sad and dis- astrous. you be so kind as to bring it if you can, though I am afraid I cd.

The letters have been printed from photostats and reference has been made to the original on any difficult point. Bridges corrected her proofs from the originals: mine were done from the photostats. Very occa- sionally a word or letter omitted inadvertently has been supplied in square brackets. Readers may assume that any spelling or punctuation in the text that seems strange belongs to Gerard Hopkins. The question of where to place annotations was difficult. His conversion in 1866 was followed two years later by his entry into the Jesuit novitiate.* He then burnt what verses he had written* — ^probably our loss is not serious— -and ‘resolved to write no more, as not belonging to' my profession, unless it were by the wish of my superiors; so for seven years I wrote nothing but two or three little presentation pieces which occa- » Since the example of Newman counted for much with him it is well to recall that the controvetsy with Charles Kingsley and the resultant Apologia M Titd sud, which brought Newman so effectivdy into sympathetic public mterest, belong to 1864. Not all the verses written before 1868 were destroyed. This will make it plain how I feel that wherever I go I must either do no good or else harm.

My first impulse was to banish notes to tihe end of the book and leave the text free. Enough remain to show the bent of his youthful mind. Walford believed that Dolben had been mobbed in Birming- ham.* He went in his habit without sandals, barefoot I do not know whether it is more furmy or affecting to think of.

This plan, which would have meant number- ing the lines, was^soon seen to be impracticable for several reasons, the chief being that many of the letters are concerned with points of textual criticism needing immediate elucidation. The most signi- ficant of the earliest pieces is A Vision of the Mermaids^ a prize poem written while he was still at school.^ This is far more than a boyish exercise in heroic couplets after the manner of Keats. This quality of sensuous apprehension, later to be disciplined and enlarged by concentration, and uniting with poetic vision certain attributes of painter and musician, is to be one of the main characteristics of Hopkins’s poetry. 4010 XXV d Introduction on such phrases as ‘palate, the hutch of tasty lust’ and ‘feel-of- primrosc hands’ that lean rather to the sensuous than the stem. You were surprised and sorry, you said, and possibly hiurt that I wd. My father and mother are still abroad and are or will soon be at Dinan in Brittany, where it happens that Urquhart* now is, coaching Morris. My mother, my brother says, has some prejudice about Urquhart, I conceive because he is looked upon as Ifeading me over to Rome.

Two letters, written towards the end, he tells us that he burned, but he gives no reason. The fascination of what is difficult and yet more difficult sometimes involved him in a struggle for technical conquest to the detriment of poetry. I forgot to tell you that on my last day coming sof Uy down stairs I overtook him playing the piano. find him doing next was with him as impossible to foretell as with Mother Hubbard’s dog. It curiously happens that I have seen two people we were talking about. st Ul be a simple design) or that with the surmounting handle (like the Maltese cross ones)? be nearly the former not much more than half that, I believe. Keith was not there today and I had to deal with an uninventive youth. With the shield-shape stopper in s Ever’the whole wd. I know you must know who Edward Bond is, I have so often spoken of him. John’s whom I have known ever since I have been at Oxford and rather longer, and inti- mately, for he lives at Hampstead. have a design of mine rather simpler than the other — this wd. 14 22 Dscetnb&r i8^ Letter xii before term begins at the Oratory,* and I am hoping the plan will not cause any pain here which wd.

It seentis probable they were letters of anguish and distress (the prose counterpart of certain of the sonnets) that he knew his friend would not wish to have printed. Despite, therefore, the fresh and characteristic loveliness of poems so various as Pied Beauty and Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves there are weaknesses to remark in this system of sprung rhythm as elaborated and used by Hopkins, attractive though it be. There may be a system implicit in the poems: he was certainly working towards one, though he,never fully formulated it. He feels no bar to the use of stress, alliteration, assonance, internal- and end-rhyme in the same poem. At the station he was most attentive and most umntclli- * Here a superfiuora ‘be’ in MS. The first is the Corpus man whose name I wanted to know. I am to see him on Wednesday how- ever, when there will also be a design of a Maltese-cross stopper wh. I have done all sorts of designs but I cannot send you any as # I want this to reach you without de- lay. He is handsome and very tall and his mother is extremely nice. I saw it all up the City Road, to such a pass have natural phenomena come. be a great deal less expensive; and secondly what I have drawn below, which you may like. I have kept on forgetting to ask you this, to copy out yr. 13 Letter xn Hampstead (harmonised I mean of course) for Johnson’s verses.* Will you please have this for me when we meet?

There are, also, one or two fragments of letters, the other parts df which have evidently been lost by mischance. Often in practice he takes complete freedorh and dragoons words to fit his rhythm by a personal or capricious stress which has no more justification than a private symbolism. This excess is probably more often a loss than a gain. I met him riding in one of our roads a few days ago and I stared at him in order to note his features but not very comfortably, for he plainly recognised my face. Its price I do not know, but if you like it I will ask: I saw a drawing of one which was gilt. As my brother explains to me that I cannot hear fr.

It is difficult to say whether the series is complete, apart from these qualifications; but the evidence seems to show that litde is lost. Beyond that comes a more important qualification: he is too greedy as poet and prosodist, and too anxious to ‘load every rift . He is helped towards what is often a magnificent con- centration by the elimination of weak words and the determina- tion to say nothing at second hand. As far as I can give it this is the description of him: he has plenty of thick rather curly dark auburn hair parted in the middle and eiveas^ whiskers of the same; his eyes are deep set and I think rather near together; the fault of his face is that the features are too broad and depressed; his forehead is wide across and narrow upwards to the hair; he looks happy. I was wrong about his madness or exaggerated, at all events he is sane now, but he had two mad friends, who raged about Oxford. 4010 ' g C utter IX Hampstead to me that you are unusually reticent and certainly have a great respect for reticence. It was a great misfortune that Keith was not at home, in fact it had no business to have hap- pened. you now , before nine tomorrow— and in fact it is now past ten at night — I shall close this.

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