British Culture and Society 1700 to the Present – Essays in Honour of Professor Emma Harris
Victorian Englishness and G.M. Hopkins
Whatever theory of national identity and its origin different scholars adhere to (primordial or constructive – see Smith 4–6) when analysing Englishness, they usually agree that the self-image of the English acquired its final and most representative form in the Victorian Age. English national identity of the period had a strong imperial dimension wherein “Englishness” rapidly became “Britishness” and with both variations having a strong impact on the literature of the day. As M. Reynolds puts it, “mid-nineteenth century poets were excited by the new conception of poetry’s nation-building power” (32). The aim of this paper is to show that even poets who seem to be very much detached from the social turmoil of the day and very much absorbed in their inner life could not but represent Victorian Englishness in their writings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889), an Oxford-educated Victorian who converted to Roman Catholic Church and joined the Society of Jesus (thus becoming Father Hopkins) was very little – if ever at all – known in his time. The first volume of his verse was published by his friend Poet Laureate Robert Bridges in 1918, long after his premature death. Today he is considered to have been a creative genius whose technical experiments preceded many twentieth-century poetic innovations. I will try to analyse the feelings and emotions which G.M. Hopkins held for his country, and to outline the image of England he created in his works.
The poems in which Hopkins uses the word...
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