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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 7 “Presumptious Jugglery”: Hopkins’s and Bridges’s Critical Views on Each Other’s Works

Extract

I always think however that your mind towards my verse is like mine towards Browning’s: I greatly admire the touches and the details, but the general effect, the whole, offends me, I think it repulsive.

Gerard Hopkins to Robert Bridges, 16 September 1881

For these blemishes in the poet’s style are of such quality and magnitude as to deny him even a hearing from those who love a continuous literary decorum and are grown to be intolerant of its absence.

Robert Bridges, “Preface to Notes”, 1918

As so often with Robert Bridges and Gerard Hopkins, we have again to turn to the letters to establish the context and quality of their relationship. This is no truer than when we look at the critical judgements each passed on the other’s poetry. Both men sent each other verses for comment and criticism throughout their lives; Bridges’s direct observations on the poetry of his friend are not available and only come to us obliquely through Hopkins’s epistolary responses, and the only primary critical remarks that we have are in his “Preface to Notes”, which, as we have seen, are undeniably negative overall. Consequently, much of the following discussion will lie on Hopkins’s abundant criticism of Bridges’s poetry.

Hopkins only became aware of Robert Bridges’s poetry relatively late. The reasons for this were not, as some have suggested, that Hopkins had a lack of interest in his friend’s verse, but that he simply had...

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