Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life

Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life

by Paul Mariani
     
 

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An insightful and inspirational biography of the heroic and spiritual poet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) may well have been the most original and innovative poet writing in the English language during the nineteenth century. Yet his story of personal struggle, doubt, intense introspection, and inward heroism has never been told fully. As a Jesuit

Overview

An insightful and inspirational biography of the heroic and spiritual poet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) may well have been the most original and innovative poet writing in the English language during the nineteenth century. Yet his story of personal struggle, doubt, intense introspection, and inward heroism has never been told fully. As a Jesuit priest, Hopkins's descent into loneliness and despair and his subsequent recovery are a remarkable and inspiring spiritual journey that will speak to many readers, regardless of their faith or philosophies.

Paul Mariani, an award-winning poet himself and author of a number of biographies of literary figures, brilliantly integrates Hopkins's spiritual life and his literary life to create a rich and compelling portrait of a man whose work and life continue to speak to readers a century after his death.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Few English poets can match Gerard Manley Hopkins for passionate expression of feeling and for inventiveness of form and language. Even fewer have his gift for distilling intense joy and religious feelings into luminous verse. A convert to Roman Catholicism, Hopkins eventually became a Jesuit priest. In Mariani, a poet and accomplished biographer of poets, the Victorian master has found his ideal biographer. The author's profoundly empathetic understanding of his subject's life and work-and of the milieus, secular and cloistered, in which he struggled to flourish-is apparent on every page of this exemplary work."-Atlantic Monthly

"A revealing portrait of a unique talent, a deeply religious artist who saw God's wonder and mystery in all."-Kirkus Reviews

"The strength of this meticulous chronicle of the 19th-century Jesuit is the author's focus on the inner life of a poet who was critically acclaimed after his death and almost unknown in his lifetime…fascinating. There is much to learn from this portrayal of an opinionated, often depressed yet likable priest-poet."-Publishers Weekly

"Mariani retraces a torturous spiritual journey with the same acumen that has won praise for his biographies of Lowell, Williams, and Berryman. Literary scholarship informed by rare passion."-Booklist

"Fantastic, absolutely first-rate; a true page-turner that superbly explains Hopkins's conversion to Catholicism, his poetic genius, and his intellectual daring, while correcting earlier misconceptions that Hopkins was a failure as a Jesuit. With a novelist's eye for the crucial detail, Paul Mariani has isolated the key moments in the life and constructed a narrative that gives evidence on every page that it was written not just from the head but from the heart."-Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy and Exiles

Michael Dirda
There have been several previous biographies of Hopkins, including a fine one by Robert Bernard Martin, an eminent scholar of Victorian poetry. But Mariani's possesses three great strengths: 1) Mariani has lived with Hopkins's poetry his entire life, ever since writing a commentary on the poems as his first book; 2) over the past 40 years, he has produced biographies of American poets who might be loosely viewed as the "sons of Gerard": Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, John Berryman and Robert Lowell; and 3) Mariani is a believing Catholic, with consequent sympathy and insight into Hopkins's religious convictions and experiences. In several ways, then, this is a spiritual biography, intensely focused on the poet's inner life, coupled with close analyses of his major poems.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

The strength of this meticulous chronicle of the 19th-century Jesuit is the author's focus on the inner life of a poet who was critically acclaimed after his death and almost unknown in his lifetime. The resulting lack of context is also the volume's most persistent and occasionally tiresome weakness. A Hopkins scholar and poet who has written biographies of poets William Carlos Williams and Robert Lowell, Mariani has woven together Hopkins's correspondence, sermons, journal entries and other materials to form a frequently fascinating account of the poet's life from his decision to leave the Church of England at age 22 to his death 22 years later. The biographer also analyzes the poet's innovative, idiosyncratic poems and their philosophical, theological and literary roots. The book would have benefited greatly by occasional views of the political, spiritual and artistic environment that influenced Hopkins and his literary contemporaries. Nonetheless, there is much to learn from this portrayal of an opinionated, often depressed yet likable priest-poet who toiled in near obscurity, constantly trying to subordinate his poetic gifts to his calling to serve God. (Nov. 3)

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Library Journal

Poet Mariani (English, Boston Coll.; The Broken Tower: The Life of Hart Crane) presents a new biography of the Victorian poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins. Largely unknown in his own lifetime, Hopkins gained recognition in the 20th century through his novel use of rhythm, poetic language, and romantic imagery. Mariani presents a biography that is more poetic than informative. His day-to-day and week-to-week narrative never strays far from Hopkins's correspondence, notebooks, poems, and other writings, and this leaves the reader wanting for some kind of commentary deeper than Hopkins's own copious observations, as sublime as they can be. Mariani gives readers little insight into Hopkins's close relationships, religious fervor, elusive sexuality, or literary influences beyond that from the poet's own hand. This information is often broken up by extended expositions of Hopkins's poems that are insightful yet don't add much to the task of biography. The poet's life story is beautifully written, but the lack of a strong central theme could make the journey hard going for a reader new to Hopkins's life and work. Recommended for academic libraries.
—Steven Chabot

Kirkus Reviews
The intensely private, pious, sometimes melancholic and tortured life of the English Jesuit whose remarkable poems did not appear until a quarter-century after his death. Mariani (English/Boston Coll.; Death and Transfigurations, 2005, etc.) employs the present tense throughout, no doubt to lend immediacy to the introspective Hopkins (1844-89), who broke, then reconciled with his moderate Church of England family to become a Jesuit priest devoted to the classics and to disciplined adherence to his vows. Using the poet's journal, meditations, sermons and copious correspondence with friends and family as well as his verse, Mariani depicts Hopkins as a revolutionary poet who pioneered the use of sprung rhythm and used the natural world to inform his life, his preaching and his art. The diminutive Jesuit was a vigorous hiker, a voracious reader and a curiously asexual man, though he reportedly stopped a Latin class late in life to inform the surprised (and certainly delighted) students that he'd never seen a naked woman-but wished he had. Beginning in 1866 with the young Hopkins agonizing over his conversion, the narrative then circles back to his birth and proceeds in fairly conventional chronological fashion, each chapter covering a few years. The author takes us through Hopkins's undergraduate years at Oxford, his Jesuit training and various positions within the order, including his final appointment as a professor of classics in Dublin, where he battled melancholy and failing health, writing friends frequently to complain about the onerous burden of marking student exams. Mariani stops periodically to consider in detail-and with considerable insight-the poems Hopkins was composing at thatparticular moment. A revealing portrait of a unique talent, a deeply religious artist who saw God's wonder and mystery in all. Agent: Tom Grady/Thomas Grady Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670020317
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/30/2008
Pages:
496
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.38(h) x 1.51(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Ron Hansen
Fantastic, absolutely first rate; a true page-turner that superbly explains Hopkins's conversion to Catholicism, his poetic genius, and his intellectual daring. (Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy and Exiles)
From the Publisher

“Few English poets can match Gerard Manley Hopkins for passionate expression of feeling and for inventiveness of form and language. Even fewer have his gift for distilling intense joy and religious feelings into luminous verse. A convert to Roman Catholicism, Hopkins eventually became a Jesuit priest. In Mariani, a poet and accomplished biographer of poets, the Victorian master has found his ideal biographer. The author’s profoundly empathetic understanding of his subject’s life and work—and of the milieus, secular and cloistered, in which he struggled to flourish—is apparent on every page of this exemplary work.”-Atlantic Monthly

“A revealing portrait of a unique talent, a deeply religious artist who saw God’s wonder and mystery in all.”-Kirkus Reviews

“The strength of this meticulous chronicle of the 19th-century Jesuit is the author’s focus on the inner life of a poet who was critically acclaimed after his death and almost unknown in his lifetime…fascinating. There is much to learn from this portrayal of an opinionated, often depressed yet likable priest-poet.”-Publishers Weekly

“Mariani retraces a torturous spiritual journey with the same acumen that has won praise for his biographies of Lowell, Williams, and Berryman. Literary scholarship informed by rare passion.”-Booklist

“Fantastic, absolutely first-rate; a true page-turner that superbly explains Hopkins’s conversion to Catholicism, his poetic genius, and his intellectual daring, while correcting earlier misconceptions that Hopkins was a failure as a Jesuit. With a novelist’s eye for the crucial detail, Paul Mariani has isolated the key moments in the life and constructed a narrative that gives evidence on every page that it was written not just from the head but from the heart.”-Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy and Exiles

Meet the Author

Paul Mariani, an award-winning poet, biographer of William Carlos Williams and Robert Lowell, and critic, holds a Chair in English at Boston College. A former professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, he has lectured widely across the country and lives in Montague, Massachusetts.

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