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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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As one who has heard him lecture to great effect on the subject, I am very pleased that Dr Adamson has finally decided to bring his thoughts together in book form. An important collection of essays this, and one which in throwing light on that puzzling friendship between Robert Bridges and Gerard Hopkins, makes a real contribution to what has been called “the new wave of Hopkins scholarship”.

What sort of man was Bridges? Why the friendship between an old-fashioned Victorian writer and the daring genius of someone credited – with Whitman – of having been responsible for a revolutionary modern movement in poetry? Why, most vexingly of all, did it take Bridges more than a quarter of a century to publish Hopkins – and even then, with a begrudging Preface and some unforgivable editorial interference?

Adamson approaches such questions piecemeal and relentlessly. His impressive authority over the wide range of Hopkins scholarship is immediately apparent – and no surprise to anyone who has heard him lecture at The Hopkins Festival in Newbridge College – and provides continuous support to his argument as he elaborates a damning criticism of Bridges in different, relevant, areas.

In Chapter 1 he focusses on the important differences in their friendship. Bridges was a bigot, blindingly prejudiced against Catholicism in general and the Jesuit order in particular. Hopkins, on the other hand, was warm, generous and impartial in his attitude towards someone immured in the Anglicanism which Hopkins had just found wanting. This narrow-mindedness...

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