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Mine Own Familiar Friend

The Relationship between Gerard Hopkins and Robert Bridges

William Robert Adamson

Mine Own Familiar Friend adds a new dimension to Hopkins Studies through its exploration of the complex and sometimes confounding friendship between the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Hopkins and the editor of his first collected works, the poet and critic Robert Bridges. The divide between the two men is evident in almost every sphere of their lives, in their approach to poetry, reading, criticism and language. Based upon the primary texts of the letters, poetry and critical writings of the two men, the book is aimed at both an academic and a more generalist audience: Hopkins scholars and those readers of Hopkins’s poetry who may want to know more about this unique modernist poet whose collected works were only published, thanks to Bridges, some twenty-nine years after his death.

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My closer interest in the relationship between Gerard Hopkins and Robert Bridges was first sparked at the Gerard Manley Hopkins International Literary Festival in Newbridge, Kildare.1 There had been a discussion on the publication of the first edition of Hopkins’s collected poems edited by Robert Bridges in 1918, some eighteen years after Hopkins’s death, and the crucial question was why, if, as is generally assumed, Bridges was Hopkins’s greatest friend and confident, he had waited such a seemingly inordinate length of time before bringing the assembled poetry that had been entrusted to him to the attention of the literary world? It seemed neither defensible nor fair.

So began my journey into the world of Hopkins and Bridges and the anomalous and often incomprehensible relationship between the two men that was conducted largely through letters, of which only those of Hopkins for the most part exist, Bridges having destroyed those he wrote to Hopkins soon after he took possession of his friend’s literary estate from the Jesuits in Dublin.

The friendship between Robert Bridges and Gerard Hopkins was forged in Oxford and remained intact, apart from an extended period seemingly initiated by Bridges,2 until Hopkins’s death in 1889. Bridges, however, was by no means his only friend. From his school days at Highgate he remained in contact with his fellow pupils Charles Luxmoore3 and Ernest ←xiii | xiv→Coleridge (the grandson of Samuel Taylor Coleridge), with and Richard W. Dixon, who was an assistant master at the...

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