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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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Chapter 1 An Odd Couple: Gerard Hopkins and Robert Bridges


Gerard’s failure and melancholy seem to me essentials.

Robert Bridges to Mrs Manley Hopkins, 24 February 1893

I am sorry to hear of our differing so much in taste: I was hardly aware of it.

Gerard Hopkins to Robert Bridges, 25 September 1895

[…] goodness knows the joke that gave you most offence was harmless enough and even kind. You I treated to the same sort of irony as I do myself.

Gerard Hopkins to Robert Bridges, 29 April 1889

Friendship, the sociologists tell us, is the condition of being emotionally attached to another person that arises from mutual feelings of affection. Particularly the social proximity of a close environment in early adulthood (in this case Oxford) would allow intimate friendships to develop. This is, however, contingent upon there being a corresponding set of interests, similar outlooks on life, values, activities, and, importantly, an analogous belief system, all of which are fundamental for a successful and enduring friendship. This being so, then why, we must ask ourselves, did Gerard Hopkins and Robert Bridges, men who by most definitions might be considered an odd couple, develop and maintain a friendship that endured for so long a period of time. Not only were they physically contrasting,1 they were also divided by many religious, ←5 | 6→emotional and aesthetic differences: Bridges did not share Hopkins’s Catholic commitments, and was in fact highly critical of his friend’s religious sentiments, and emotionally Bridges...

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