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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 3 With a Friend Like that … : Robert Bridges’s “Preface to Notes” in Hopkins’s Poems, 1918

Extract

It is a good thing to make the light-footed reader work for what he gets.

I. A. Richards, Dial, 1926

We expect some measure of difficulty in modern verse; indeed we are suspicious when we find none.

F. R. Leavis, The Listener, 1932

Every true poet, I thought, must be original and originality a condition of poetic genius; so that each poet is like a species in nature […] and can never recur. That nothing shd. be old or borrowed however cannot be.

Gerard Hopkins to Coventry Patmore, 6 October 1886

To say that recent studies on Robert Bridges, Britain’s poet laureate from 1913 until his death in 1930, are rare is overstating the issue: there is none. The last biography dates from 1992,1 with four other works dedicated to Bridges appearing sporadically between 1914 and 1962.2 However, in the 1970s and 1980s one man, the American critic Donald E. Stanford, devoted a great deal of time to research on Bridges, resulting in no less than seven books either authored or edited. Stanford’s most important work is arguably In the Classic Mode: The Achievement ←35 | 36→of Robert Bridges, which appeared in 1978.3 In chapter five, “The Critic”, in just over two pages,4 he assesses Bridges’s critical relationship to Hopkins, based solely upon his “Preface to Notes” in the 1918 first edition of Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Stanford’s exercise in apologetics is studied. He...

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