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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 5 “Upon the Yellow Sands”: Bridges’s Prefatory Sonnet

Extract

I am putting in a sonnet describing my relations to the poet as friend and editor

Robert Bridges to A. E. Housman, 25 May 1918

No harm. I have done nothing, but in care of thee […] who art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing of whence I am

Prospero, The Tempest, I, ii

Robert Bridges’s sonnet to Gerard Hopkins was written in January 1918 in Chilswell, on Boar’s Hill near Oxford, where Bridges and his family had settled in 1907. The poem was composed specifically for the first edition of Hopkins’s collected verse, which Bridges was then, after many years of procrastination, editing, and it is placed at the beginning of the author’s “Preface” to the Poems of 1918. Norman White tells us that it “replied to his friend’s last poem ‘To R.B.’”, written shortly before his death, stating further that the poem reflects Bridges’s feeling of being “in touch with the dead poet”, and that his purpose was to show their “continuing relationship”.1 However, the fact that it was written some twenty-nine years after receiving Hopkins’s poem2 calls both the context and meaning of this into question.

Another critic, Elgin Mellown, has written that Bridges was the “guardian of Hopkins’s literary remains”;3 the word “guard” might be more appropriate, and a far more probable interpretation than the one provided ←63 | 64→by White might be that rather than being a reply to Hopkins’s “To R.B.”, Bridges’s...

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