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Hopkins and Newman: two disagreements.

Gerard Manley Hopkins rarely recorded disagreements with statements in published works of John Henry Newman. The small number of cases that are extant probably highlights his normal agreement with Newman or an inhibition toward dissenting from a revered figure who had facilitated his reception into the Catholic Church. This lack of expressed differences did not arise from an incomplete or superficial experience of Newman's work which he knew well during a period of some twenty-five years, from his days at Highgate to his death in Dublin. (1) During the years after 1864 he remained, in Newman's words in 1888, "among the cardinal's friends and well wishers" (Hopkins, Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins 414; Newman, Letters and Diaries 31:246). Five instances of disagreement, possibly all that are recorded, date from 1878 to 1887.

Three of these concern literary matters. The first is a "blunder" Hopkins decried in a letter to Canon Richard Dixon: Newman's instancing the gain in smoothness and correctness of versification" Robert Southey showed over John Milton (Hopkins, Correspondence 13). (2) In the second incident, which he mentioned in a letter to A. W. M. Baillie, Hopkins found Newman guilty "of a usage clearly mistaken" when employing the word scope (Further Letters 284). Seven months later he paradoxically informed Coventry Patmore that Newman did not "know what writing prose was" (Further Letters 380). These differences of opinion, incidental remarks in letters, are presented in atone that varies from philological precision, charming disbelief, and rhetorical analysis. Hopkins maintains his certitude in each case, but there is always an implied regret about disagreeing with so great a literary figure and so respected a person.

The two remaining disagreements, which are the subject of this essay, are more intellectually serious and personally meaningful for both authors, who have had an abiding influence on the nineteenth century's understanding of Christianity and literature. These two disagreements are interrelated, not least of all, by the circumstance that Hopkins addressed both of them to Coventry Patmore, a recognized older poet and, like Hopkins, a convert from Anglicanism. Their friendship had begun in 1883 and acquired a level of understanding that made for greater frankness in discussing Newman who, after his long career, was the revered veteran of the Roman Catholic cause in Great Britain. Hopkins, because of the values he shared with Patmore, was less inhibited in criticizing Newman's opinions, which Hopkins treated more cautiously with his two other correspondents: the agnostic Baillie and the Anglican Canon Dixon. Another element in the criticisms Hopkins forwarded to Patmore was his uncertainty that the positions he found wanting in Newman were actually the ones Newman espoused. After all, Hopkins could be certain in his argumentation but hesitant after twenty years of reading and reflecting on presentations Newman had made before Hopkins had been born. These had never been systematically revised although often reprinted. Hence, in the two disagreements to be examined, the debate is not always with Newman but rather with a position that seems to be present in his writings. Hopkins knew from experience how the understanding of a moral or philosophical issue might change by degrees in the transitions both he and Newman had made in the course of their experiences as Anglicans and Catholics.

An Intolerable Doctrine

The doctrine that Hopkins unequivocally rejected concerned a moral principle which, if Newman did not actually countenance, he left Hopkins with the "superficial impression" of doing so (Hopkins, Further Letters 341-42). This assertion on Hopkins's part seems, at its strongest, to defend Newman on the grounds that he expressed himself inadequately on a moral issue, which led to intolerable conclusions in the practical order.

Hopkins locates the offensive doctrine of Newman "in his well known sermon about Demas" and concludes that it implicitly maintains "that a man may somehow sin mortally by no particular mortal sin" Hopkins's citation of the source presumably was adequate for his correspondent, Coventry Patmore, and for other contemporaries in 1883, even though it does not indicate the title of the sermon or the collection in which it appeared. The mention of Demas summons up a person mentioned in 2 Tim. 4:10; Col. 4:14; Philem. 24, and named only in two of Newman's sermons but never in their titles. The earlier of the two citations is in "The Duty of Self-denial," which Newman delivered in 1830 and printed in various editions of Parochial and Plain Sermons between 1834 and 1869. (3) The later appearance of Demas is in "The Neglect of Divine Calls and Warning" the first of his Catholic sermons, published in 1849 and reissued in a sixth edition in 1881 (Discourses 39).

The first norm for specifying Hopkins's citation is his description of the sermon as well known, which seems to point to the later sermon. In it Demas, as a type of unfaithful Christian condemned to eternal punishment, gives his name to a passage of about three pages developed with such "scornful irony ... till the reader drops the book in horror and sickness of heart" (Hutton 195). Undoubtedly R. H. Hutton was hot alone in this reaction, which would seem to support the possibility that Hopkins also refers to the 1849 sermon. Furthermore, by contrast, the 1830 passage is only a short sentence, but there is a possibility that it was nonetheless better known by reason of the great popularity of the new edition of 1868, with its frequent reprintings, of Parochial and Plain Sermons, in which the brief treatment of Demas appeared. Newman noted the revival of interest in these sermons, which, when republished in 1857, he had sadly admitted were "simply unknown, unheard of by the younger generation" (Letters 18:94). But by 1870 the new edition caused Newman to judge that "The sales is wonderful," (Letters 28:196) and in the following year, when informed by Pusey that 26,000 copies had been sold, replied: "I rejoice, as you say, to know so many copies have been dispersed about" (Letters 28:319 and note 3).

However, what more strongly corroborates that Hopkins was referring to the 1830 sermon emerges from his describing the conclusion implicit in the sermon he had in mind. In it the possibility that Newman appears to countenance and Hopkins rejected was "that a man may somehow sin mortally by no particular mortal sin:' Hopkins, it can be inferred from his remarks to Patmore, critiques part of a sermon in which Newman gives plausible grounds for concluding that some actions, which the commandments do not ban, can be sins even if they innocently contribute to some other action that is forbidden. Hopkins illustrates his meaning by giving a concrete moral case of Adam and Eve. The position he rejects in Newman supposes that Adam's love for his wife was a sin because it brought him, at the fatal moment of choice, to join her in eating the forbidden fruit. In this hypothesis, seemingly implicit in a sermon by Newman, Adam's act of loving his wife was sinful because he arrived at the decision to be disobedient "for, or through love of his wife" This case, as presented, is not an analysis of the Genesis account in which Adam makes no such chivalrous defense, as Hopkins is careful to note.

Whichever sermon to which Hopkins objects it must be capable of implying that moral acts which at the time they are performed, neither extrinsically nor intrinsically forbidden, can in hindsight be judged sinful because they contributed to an evil act, even though unintentionally. Hopkins implies that by this logic Adam should have restrained his quite legitimate love for Eve because of the possibility that without such restraint he would run the risk of joining in her later disobedience. Any nexus, possible or actual, between an act good in itself and an evil act changes the good act into a sin. Hopkins does not allege that Newman explicitly concluded this but uneasily confirms that such an allegation is "the superficial impression left." The presence of such an impression will determine which of Newman's sermons on Demas earned Hopkins's misgivings.

The 1849 sermon is straightforward in treating sins that lead to damnation and hell. The sermon, preached in the "gloomy distillery" in which the Oratory had only recently opened its chapel in Birmingham, was quite a conventional Catholic warning about the danger of dying in sin. Newman's approach was robust and reflected a strategy based on the principle that "no one can hope for heaven, who has not feared and contemplated damnation" (Letters 13:341). (4) Newman deals with clearly defined notions of sin: one or many, first or last, great or commonplace, committed by Christians who excuse their serious sins by a comparative standard that they claire diminishes the possibility of their condemnation. This attempt is illustrated by the dramatic complaint of Demas suffering the pains of hell for his defection from Paul because of love of the world and by his defense that, whatever his sin, it does not reach the gravity of those committed by other disloyal disciples: Judas, Nicolas, Alexander, Philetus, or Diotrephes. Newman, with scorn, makes Demas the very prototype of the respectable Victorian church-goer who cannot imagine that a few sins mar general respectability. It is not for this handling of sin that Hopkins criticizes Newman.

What Hopkins had in mind was the content of the 1830 sermon on "The Duty of Self-denial" in which he found an intolerable doctrine. Hopkins, it can be inferred from his remarks to Patmore, feared that the sermon advocated Christian abstention from lawful things not as an ascetical counsel but as a required protection against their sinful use. Newman had warned against "surrounding ourselves with comforts,--to have things our own way,--to be the centre of a sort of world, whether of things animate or inanimate, which minister to us." As exemplars of such self-denial, Newman gives a short, descriptive list of Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, John the Baptist, Christ himself, and contrasts them with "the soft luxurious men in Scripture":
 There was the rich man, who "fared sumptuously every day" and then
 "lifted up his eyes in hell, being in torments" There was that
 other, whose "ground brought forth plentifully" and who said,
 "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years," and his soul
 was required of him that night. There was Demas, who forsook St.
 Paul, "having loved this present world." ("The Duty of Self-denial"
 PPS 7.7, 98-99)

Newman accuses Demas not merely of his ultimate apostasy, but says his condemnation, like others in the same category of the damned, sprang from comforts and easy circumstances, not evil in themselves but conducive to corruption and seduction. If this interpretation was not precisely Newman's, Hopkins feared that it could easily be so understood. Hopkins feared that Newman's language throughout the sermon does not exhort a prudent abstinence but, in fact, "enjoins a certain refraining, not merely from sin, but from innocent comforts and enjoyments of this life, or a self-denial in things lawful" ("The Duty of Self-denial" PPS 91). Newman concludes from the near impossibility of always correctly using the lawful things of life that self-denial is a duty in the presence of any allowable good, abstention from which may strengthen the will when facing a clear case of evil: "Therefore, he must abstain from it as if it were in itself a sin (though it is not), for it is practically such to him" ("The Duty of Self-denial" PPS 45). Hopkins reacted uneasily to such a presentation, which he does not explicitly cite, because from it could be concluded "that a man may somehow sin mortally by no particular mortal sin."

The immediate context of his concern arose from a request from Coventry Patmore to critique his The Unknown Eros (Further Letters 333). Hopkins had detected in "Tristitia," part 6 of this poem, the expression of a scruple prompted by a rigorist interpretation of self-denial to which Newman's sermon could lead. In the passage to which Hopkins objected, Patmore hypothetically imagined that, at his death, his intense love for his wife in life had prevented his going to the perfect bliss in God's heaven but had condemned him rather to "a twilight of natural felicity" (Further Letters 341) because in loving her so much he failed to love God above all things and thus could not win the fullness of heaven's reward.

Hopkins dismisses the hypothesis as a '"Spanish Case' one that cannot arise" (Further Letters 341). Hopkins likewise dismisses Patmore's erroneous idea of heaven and concentrates on rejecting the doctrine he found possibly derived from Newman in concluding that a husband sins in not retrenching from loving his wife in order to avoid diminishing the fullness of his love of God.

Hopkins insists that a Christian can sin only by sinning against the light, that is with full knowledge that an act is required or prohibited. In Patmore's poetic case, a husband sins mortally by no particular mortal sin in not curtailing his love for his wife when that love, good in itself, involves no turpitude. Hopkins cannot accept that married love is ever, in itself, in opposition to the love of God. The two loves are simultaneously compatible. That marital love does not in itself involve the rejection or diminution of the love of God, Hopkins illustrates from the example of Adam who "sinned by love of his wife, that is he sinned for, or through love of his wife; but, formally speaking, the sin was one of disobedience and its act eating the apple" (Further Letters 342). Adam did not sin because he loved his wife, but because he erroneously decided on the basis of that love to be ungenerous toward God's prohibition and to be chivalrous towards his wife in sharing her sinful decision. His sin was extrinsic to the goodness of his love for Eve; he drew a wrong conclusion from a good premise. Hence Hopkins rejects the notion that any self-denial in loving Eve was a sin because it failed to school Adam in self control and led to the sin that "ruined a race for the sake of two." (5)

Hopkins's summary judgment on the passage in "Tristitia" is that it is "the lovely expression of an overstrained mood and, what is so common, an insight coupled with an oversight" (Further Letters 342). Hopkins does not suggest that Patmore change the passage but that he somehow make clear that the passage is an emotional and exaggerated insight into love's intensity and absorption. At the same time, however valid as a description of a possible response, the passage involves the oversight that for a husband love of God and wife are intimately related, and in expressing this truth "Tristitia" is less successful than Patmore's earlier treatment from which Hopkins approvingly quotes: '"God most, but her most sensibly' and the rest." The first part of the verse in full was: "Him [God] loved I most / But her I loved most sensibly." The rest of the passage mirrors Hopkins's thought and develops Patmore's theme: "I loved her in the name of God,/ And for the ray she was of Him" (Patmore, The Angel in the House, canto 10.4: "Going to Church," 3-4). For Hopkins this is a far better insight than the one expressed in "Tristitia" that refers to the relationship with a wife as a "gracious-seeming sin" of not curbing his love for his wife, an omission of a safeguard a la Newman. Hopkins insists in this matter that "excess of love" is not a sin unless it "fall under one of the Commandments." As such, it would be specified as an act committed against a particular prohibition and not merely a failure to curb a love whose only defect was its possible occasion of diminishing a husband's love for God. When Patmore wrote that he loved his wife "most sensibly," he was not describing a reasonable restraint but the fullness of physical satisfaction. Both Victorians, the poet, at least in this earlier poem, and the priest viewed sexuality as no obstacle to the love of God, as Patmore had done in his later poem.

Hopkins's uneasiness regarding the whole question Patmore had raised about its possible basis in Newman's sermon perhaps sprang from a practical sense that the question was hypothetical, and his response may reflect a sense of pastoral realism he derived from his parochial work, both in Britain and in Ireland. His expressions to Patmore about marriage reflect well on his thoughtful application of the moral theology he had studied at St. Beuno's and of his ascetical principles derived from Ignatian spirituality with its ideal of seeing God in all things. In his remarks to Patmore there may be a hint that Hopkins was applying the Jesuit moral position of Probabilism to Patmore's poetic case. In this application, Hopkins would say that, even if it were probable that not to practice self-denial in married love could lead to diminishing love for God, any reasonable probability that it would not leaves the husband free to exercise that love. Probabilism resolves the doubt in the case of several moral options, outside of questions involving the validity of an action, by leaving the person free to choose any solidly probable option even if the opposing opinion is more probable. (6)

His careful analysis of Newman's presentation of the need for self-denial may reflect also the effects of his fuller experience of Catholicism as a corrective to the Anglican heritage that had earlier formed his spirituality. It is possible to read Newman's sermon of 1830 in the rejected sense Hopkins tentatively extracted from it as an instance of the moral rigidity of Newman's early Calvinism expressed with a certain Evangelical narrowness (Ward 1:41). One source of nervousness for Newman as a Catholic in republishing these Anglican sermons without alteration of text was the lack of opportunity to indicate where he had changed his mind or would alter his expression. (7) However, there is no evidence that the Demas sermon caused Newman such nervousness and Hopkins found Newman's treatment generally present in spiritual writers, without distinction because of denomination.

It is also possible to suspect that Hopkins's dissent about the sermon reflects an unfortunate experience in applying to his own life the ascetical perfectionism Neman almost mandated. There is question of a moral ideal from Hopkins's Anglican period that extended into his Catholic and early Jesuit period and involved Hopkins's attitude and decisions concerning the role of poetry in his life. This possible complication seems bolstered by the accounts of the years it took him to liberate himself from a conviction that a career connected with poetry was at variance with God's will for him personally.

The decision to abandon poetry had not come suddenly on May 2, 1868, when, during a retreat at Roehampton, he surmised that his prayer and reflection on this topic had enabled him to make a resolution: "This day, I think, I resolved. See supra last 23rd of August and infra May 2 and 11" (The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins 164). The editorial references Hopkins later added serve to confirm the fact of the resolution and to reveal its content. On August 23, 1867, he had provisionally "made my resolution 'if it is better'" and provided the further information that "now, Sept. 4, nothing is decided" (Journals 152). It was this provisional resolution that had become somewhat fixed in the August of the following year. His journal entry for May 11, 1868, finally gives some clue to the matter involved by announcing the "Slaughter of the Innocents" (Journals 165), which has reasonably been taken to refer to his explanation to Bridges three months later: "I cannot send you my Summa for it is burnt with my other verses" (Letters 24). The description of the action involved in the "Slaughter of the Innocents" suggests a rueful comment in which he recognized the irrationality of his act in destroying the darling children of his mind (Correspondence 8). (8)

What needs stressing is that the question of abandoning the writing of poetry arose during his Anglican days and was not the consequence of his Jesuit vocation. The first inkling of a scruple dates to November 6, 1865, when the devout Anglican undergraduate entered in his diary: "On this day by God's grace I resolved to give up all beauty until I had his leave for it" (Journals 71). His frame of mind at this time can be deduced from his transcribing into his journal Newman's "Lead, kindly light" shortly before his renunciation of beauty. The influence of Newman is in some sense present.

Hence, the origin and formation of his resolution to reject poetry as a serious enterprise antedates his conversion in 1866 and his entrance into the Jesuit novitiate in 1868. The final resolution came three days before his determining to enter a religious order, which was also to include ordination to the priesthood, leaving undetermined, for the moment, whether to be a Benedictine or a Jesuit (Journals 165). (9) Consequently, the decision about poetry was related to past deliberations rather than a result of future plans. It is possible to conclude from his diary that Hopkins, even if he had remained a layman, had ruled out poetry as an option compatible with his openness to God's direction. His rejection of poetry was later confirmed by the realities of his Jesuit vocation, not mandated by its requirements. In fact, it was the action of his superior that ended his self-imposed ban on writing poetry during his first seven years as a Jesuit.

The encouragement he received from the rector of St. Beuno's to begin The Wreck of the Deutschland in 1875 ended his previous scruple that writing poetry was, at best, only allowable for "little presentation pieces which occasion called for" (Correspondence 14). He marked the change in his attitude as a liberation from his earlier thinking: "After writing this I held myself free to compose, but cannot find it in my conscience to spend time upon it" (Correspondence 15). The ban on writing poetry, self imposed before he became a Jesuit, no longer existed, but his assignments as a Jesuit had a priority that determined the amount of time would be available for poetic pursuits.

It was only in 1881, during the time of his tertianship that he finally fashioned a workable formula governing the specific area of poetry within the ideals and demands of his Jesuit vocation. While this formula reflected the state of his mind in 1881, its stipulations remained unaltered during the seven and a half years of life that remained for him. A partial record of this formula survives in a letter Hopkins wrote to Canon Richard Dixon shortly after finalizing it (Correspondence 92-96). The letter was a second reply to questions Dixon had asked about Hopkins's plans as a poet. Hopkins's first reply had been sent in late October after arriving at Roehampton to begin his year of tertianship, which he explained as a "Schola affectus and is meant to enable us to recover that fervour which may have cooled through application to study and contact with the world" and also intended as a respite from occupations with which "unhappily the will too is entangled, worldly interests freshen, and worldly ambitions revive" (Correspondence 75-76). Dixon's questions gave added motives for Hopkins to clarify his future activities as a poet and to be more specific about his freedom to write, which he had experienced, since 1875, when he rid himself of the prohibition he had brought with him into his Jesuit life. This change in attitude since 1875, which removed any moral qualm about his writing poetry, and the prospect of what was to come at the end of his probationary period of Jesuit training after this year of tertianship understandably prompted him to look for guidelines that would direct any exercise of his poetic abilities.

Guidelines of such importance for him he would normally seek from his superior, as he explained to Dixon. That superior, in this year of tertianship, was Fr. Robert Whitty, who would become aware of Hopkins's situation, especially in the course of the Long Retreat with its usual private consultations. Beyond Whitty there was Fr. Edward Purbrick, who, as provincial, would interview the tertians later in the year. (10) 0bviously the more comprehensive exchange would be Hopkins's discussions with Whitty. The reconstruction of any such exchanges can be extracted from the subtle remarks Hopkins recorded in his letter to Dixon, significantly dated December 1, 1881, on a "break or day of repose" between the third and fourth weeks of his retreat, at a point when the most important decisions of a retreat had already been formulated and were in the process of confirmation.

Hopkins's letter precisely but circumspectly states that his determinations "about anything, about my poetry" were not at this time, as would be the normal expectation for a Jesuit, the result of guidance from his superior but were conveyed "by direct lights and inspirations" Hence the guidelines he was recording for Dixon were the product of his own reflection. Apparently Whitty had not been helpful in their formulation. The basic principle of these guidelines Hopkins had devised was that he would continue to write verses, as spare time from duties allowed, but he would not take the initiative to publish them. His basic motivation was to cut off the possibility of individual fame St. Ignatius looked on as the most dangerous and dazzling of all attractions." The frankness with which he acknowledges his talent and its attendant dangers for his religious ideals is stunning. Thus he precluded publication of his works, but he did not rule out sharing his manuscripts with a few for evaluation, and he left the ultimate judgment and disposition of his poems to "our Lord. And if he chooses to avail himself of what I leave at his disposal he can do so with a felicity and with a success which I could never command" (Correspondence 93). (11) At last, Hopkins had achieved a formula that was specific in its stipulations that he would outwardly cultivate the commonplace life of a Jesuit and rigorously avoid the show and brilliancy that do not suit Jesuits. He noted that this theory was easy when written in the seclusion of Roehampton, "but when one mixes with the world and meets on every side its secret solicitation, to live by faith is harder, is very hard."

It should be stressed that Whitty was a third party to this exchange with Dixon. Hopkins knew that Jesuit censorship could extend to a Jesuit's correspondence, sent or received. With a hint of actual experience at Roehampton, Hopkins recorded that "the right to read our letters claimed by the Society of its subjects but mostly not exercised is here a realized fact" (Letters 141). Hence Hopkins would presume that Fr. Whitty would read his remarks to Dixon. Hopkins, under the circumstances of writing to Dixon, was restating what Whitty knew from Hopkins's consultations with him. Hopkins supplies the impression that Fr. Whitty had little advice to offer him and his own formula for the future modified and enhanced the only advice he had received from a Jesuit about poetry, long before any session with Fr. Whitty, that "the best sacrifice was not to destroy one's work but to leave it entirely to be disposed of by obedience" (Correspondence 88). Forced to make his own judgment, he came to a confident clarity that replaced the vague principle he round latent in Newman's type of advice to forgo the good for fear of the consequences not necessarily connected with it. Rather, he saw what was needed was to forestall such consequences by preventing them by appropriate actions. With God's help there was no need to reject the innocence of poetry, a moral application in agreement with Newman's sermon on Demas.

The Matter is Philosophical

The previous instance of Hopkins's disagreement with a statement by Newman shows that the difference of opinion developed during a long period before it was expressed. Hopkins recorded these differences long after he first noticed them, and so he was not precipitous or casual in stating his disagreement. The second instance also bears this out. Its occasion was an article on "Real Apprehension" that Coventry Patmore had published in the St. James Gazette for January 20, 1888, a copy of which he sent to Hopkins. In early May, Hopkins expresses his dislike of it (Further Letters 387-89). The article took as its starting point a quotation from Cardinal Newman: "Man is not a reasoning animal: he is a seeing, feeling, contemplating, acting animal" With candor Hopkins dismissed the article: "I did not like the text of it, from Newman, and so I could not like the discourse founded on it" After a second reading of Patmore's article, Hopkins's reaction was even stronger: "I have read the paper again, but indeed I cannot like it at all. The comment makes the text worse" His final remark was equally disapproving: "You see, dear Mr. Patmore, that I am altogether discontented with this paper and can do nothing but find fault" Hopkins explains that Patmore's fault is to take seriously Newman's paradox that man is not a reasoning animal rather than to treat it as an introductory ploy and "then, when it had served that end, if as mostly happens, it is not only unexpected but properly speaking untrue, it can be, expressly or silently, waived or dropped."

But Hopkins does not completely exonerate Newman in this matter: "I always felt that Newman made too much of that text" Hopkins's attitude toward Newman clearly antedates the provocation Patmore provided in 1888. Hopkins had not encountered Newman's text for the first time in reading Patmore's newspaper article. Nor, presumably, had he encountered it in its original context in The Times as a direct riposte to Sir Robert Peel's remarks at the opening of the library at Tamworth on January 19, 1841. It is possible, but unlikely, that he read the passage when Newman republished the original article in 1872 (Discourses and Arguments on Various Subjects 292-97). It is certain that Hopkins at least encountered the text when it reappeared in 1870 in An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (92 [65.1468.25]), where it was reprinted, almost in its entirety. There is evidence that Hopkins was reading this book in August 1873 (Further Letters 58).

In describing his objection to Patmore's citation of Newman's passage, Hopkins insists that his reaction was of long standing and insinuates that Newman used the controversial statement not merely as a rhetorical paradox but also as a substantive assertion of fact. Newman, quoting in 1870 remarks made in 1841, admitted that he now found them a second, almost independent support for his current exposition of the distinction between "notional and real assents." The earlier context was a fresh and forceful rebuttal of Peel's conviction that literature and science could achieve for the masses the beneficent results of religion, without any formal instruction in religion. Newman in 1841 was stressing the logical flaw in Peel's argument: "The ascendancy of faith may be impracticable, but the reign of knowledge is incomprehensible." Thirty years later Newman recognized his "hardihood of assertion, befitting the circumstances of its publication, nay, as far as words go, inaccuracy of theological statement." It should be remembered that Newman originally wrote his rebuttal for a newspaper as a debater's retort to a proposition framed by Peel.

Surely Hopkins cannot object to this earlier statement in support of Newman's proposition that "Secular Knowledge [is] not a Principle of Action," as he titled the reprint in 1872. What Newman publicly had trumpeted in an 1841 controversy, Hopkins, as an undergraduate had discovered and was to maintain throughout his sometimes painful debating with Bridges that there was a disjunction between moral ideas and moral imperatives (Schlatter, Fragments 62-72). While it is true that Newman and Peel argued about the educational effects on literate masses and that Hopkins was recording the milieu of the university educated, still his reaction is a fortiori evidence of the same conclusion Newman drew about the general population.

Was Hopkins, in his strictures on Patmore, perhaps inferring that it was in the context of 1870 Newman made too much of the paradox that humans are not intellectual? In the Grammar of Assent, Newman quotes his earlier words to support the new essay, no longer polemical but philosophical, that painstakingly examined every nuance of the cognitive process, while recognizing that "we are so constituted that faith, not knowledge or argument, is our principle of action" (96 [67.40-68.25]). In the statement Hopkins thought exaggerated, Newman is developing the idea that "logic makes but a sorry rhetoric with the multitude; first shoot around corners, and you may not despair of converting by a syllogism" (94 [66.29-31 ]). Hence Newman concludes that humans are too complex to arrive at certitude by the sole exercise of reasoning.

It is difficult to see how in citing his earlier statement Newman made too much of that text, and, in the absence of any other instance in which Newman used the same statement, we are left perplexed at Hopkins's displeasure over Newman's citation. Was this passage one that Hopkins wished to clarify by supplying a commentary to the Grammar of Assent, as he proposed to Newman rive years before his remarks to Patmore (Further Letters 412)? His letter to Patmore certainly isolates his remark to the Grammar of Assent and by insisting that he always felt these reservations, he seems to date them to the rime of his first reading the book in 1873. Then, for fifteen years, he had quietly harbored this criticism of which he left no trace elsewhere. At the time he first read the text he reacted to its content as evidence of "the justice and candour and gravity and rightness of mind" Hopkins found in all of Newman's writings. Hopkins's only reservation to the work, at the time, was its style, a problem apparently separate from its content but perhaps indicating that Hopkins did not find the offending passage as strong a support for the argument in Grammar of Assent to justify quoting it from another context. His strong criticism of the development Patmore made from Newman's text does not implicate Newman beyond suggesting to what inanities the pursuit of Newman's paradox had led Patmore. Hopkins, perhaps betraying the same bad mood that contributed to his blunt statement about Newman, even more bluntly told Patmore: "I cannot follow you in your passion for paradox: more than a little of it is torture."


This excursion into two instances in which Hopkins showed the independence of his judgment from the record of Newman's expression leaves Newman's assertions undisturbed in the second instance. In the first, Hopkins provided a corrective worth the effort. Newman, of course, remained unaware of Hopkins's dissent in these matters, but there are at least two instances in which Newman, for his part, had differences of opinion with Hopkins and forthrightly expressed them to him. One was his polite, amused, but firm refusal to allow Hopkins to write a commentary on his Grammar of Assent (Hopkins, Further Letters 412 and Newman, Letters and Diaries 30:191, 197). His reasons for his refusal were cogent, on the grounds that the commentary would be "at once onerous and unnecessary." There lurked here the objection that in proposing an unnecessary commentary Hopkins saw obstacles to understanding the work that its success belied. Furthermore, in refusing the commentary on grounds that it would be onerous, Newman perhaps betrayed an unfavorable impression of Hopkins's powers of performance based on an experience of Hopkins as a schoolmaster at the Oratory in 1867-1868 and as an occasional correspondent during the ensuing fifteen years. From the beginning, Newman saw that Hopkins would not flourish in the home-like structure and atmosphere of the Oratory and the distinct place it afforded to literary studies and literary pursuits and the fine arts (Ker 429-30). He knew enough about Hopkins at twenty-four to conclude that he needed discipline in all aspects of life and so countered Hopkins when he described "Jesuit discipline hard" by insisting that, hard or not, it was suitable "to bring you to heaven" (Hopkins, Further Letters 408 and Newman, Letters 24:73). It is possible to go beyond a hint of explanation: Newman perhaps divined the inability of Hopkins to complete a task without complications and delays. In the same month he made his proposal to Newman, Hopkins was admitting to a friend that "I fall into or continue in a heavy, weary state of body and mind in which my go is gone" (Hopkins, Letters 24:251). Newman, either wittingly or unwittingly, was correct in replying to Hopkins that the project of the commentary would be onerous. Two years before, Newman had sadly told Hopkins, as a response to one of his letters: "You are leading a most self-denying life" (Further Letters, 411 and Newman, Letters 29:340).

The second reservation Newman had toward an item in Hopkins's letters concerned his inability to comprehend Irish politics in 1887. Newman accepted Hopkins's account of the appalling situation but commented on his insensitivity to the legitimacy of Irish resistance since "Irish Patriots hold that they never have yielded themselves to the sway of England and therefore have never been under her laws, and have never been rebels" The English cardinal concluded: "If I were an Irishman, I should be (in heart) a rebel" (Hopkins, Further Letters 414, and Newman, Letters 31:195). Newman in Birmingham, whose direct experience of Ireland had been thirty years prior, showed a greater perspicacity at political analysis than Hopkins in Dublin, whose "Englishry" made him "spiritually a bird of passage" as a student remembered much later (Howley 503).

Gonzaga University


Feeney, Joseph J. "Hopkins's 'Failure in Theology': Some New Archival Data and a Reevaluation." The Hopkins Quarterly 13.3-4 (1987): 99-114.

--. "A Jesuit Classmate Remembers G. M. Hopkins: An Unpublished Letter of Joseph Rickaby S. J." The Month N.S. 34 (April 2001): 170-71.

Grafe, Adrian. Rev. of Hopkins in Ireland, by Norman White. The Hopkins Quarterly 30.3-4 (2003): 127-31.

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. The Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon. Ed. C. C. Abbott. London: Oxford UP, 1955.

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(1) Michael David Moore has treated this topic. See also Jude Nixon.

(2) Newman's statement on the versification of Milton and Southey is in Idea of a University 266-67.

(3) This sermon was first published in volume rive of the Tractarian anthology, Plain Sermons (1839-1848). When Newman's sermons in that volume were incorporated into PPS, it appeared in volume seven.

(4) Nixon (142, note 79) takes the 1849 sermon as Hopkins's reference and strangely finds in it "the teaching of degrees of condemnation based on degrees of knowledge" That understanding of "the intolerable doctrine" is an inaccurate description of the topic Hopkins and Patmore discussed, but it is not in the 1849 sermon, which deals rather straightforwardly with mortal sin and damnation.

(5) This exegesis was not new for Hopkins nor was it the first time he had shared it with Patmore. Three years earlier, in 1883 (Further Letters 323), he had used it similarly correcting a moral view Patmore expressed in "The Scorched Fly" later omitted in Amelia.

(6) For evidence of Hopkins's interest in Probabilism, see his remarks on Cicero, De officiis, 1.9.28, a text he taught in Dublin around 1885 (Schlatter, Poetic Fragments 81 and 91.) There is evidence that moral theology, the area of probabilism, was Hopkins's forte during his study of theology at St. Beuno's. One of his classmates recalled, fifty years later, that during those years Hopkins enjoyed a reputation for "good, solid judgment" in these matters and "was accounted the best moral theologian in his class," from a letter of Joseph Rickaby to G. F. Lahey, 29 February 1927 (Feeney, "Hopkins's Failure" 101; "Classmate" 170-71).

(7) To avoid these problems, Newman had turned over the copyright to the sermons to W. J. Copeland, an Anglican friend who had been his vicar at Littlemore. In publishing them, Copeland, at the prompting of Newman, in his preface had included this notice that "the republication of these sermons by the Editor is not to be considered as equivalent as a re-assertion by their Author of all that they contain; inasmuch as being printed entire and unaltered, except in the most insignificant particulars they cannot be free from passages which he certainly now would wish were otherwise, or would, one may be sure, desire to see altered or omitted" (PPS 1: viii-ix).

(8) The most careful analysis of this aspect of Hopkins's life remains the one by Graham Storey, "Appendix V: Hopkins's Resolutions" and "Slaughter of the Innocents" (Hopkins, Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins 537-39).

(9) See entries for May 5 and 7 (Journals 165). Note also his statement in 1881: "I destroyed the verse I had written when I entered the Society and meant to write no more" (Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson 88).

(10) This provincial, two years later, recognized Hopkins as "very clever and a good scholar" but showed no awareness of his poetry and, in general, dismissed him as "so eccentric" (White 159).

(11) Understandably, but still incorrectly, Adrian Grafe (130) concludes that Hopkins "seems hot to have bothered one way or the other about them [superiors], as far as his poetry goes in the late years at least." Hopkins, in the absence of directions he sought from Whitty, and possibly from Purbrick, was left by the end of tertianship in 1882 to his own lights, which were at least tacitly approved until the superior said otherwise and were left to the action of providence which might with no effort on his part change the silent status of his poetry. His showing of his manuscripts to Bridges and others was not, as Grafe intimates, "bypassing his superiors" (130). Hopkins's constant vigilance against any form of publication made clear that his poetry was a private affair awaiting the ultimate disposition of his superiors. Nor was there any evasiveness toward Jesuit supervision on his part in not showing "the poems written during the 1885 retreat to the retreat-giver" (130). Prescinding from the fact of such composition, there was no director: it was normal for Jesuits to make retreat privately after ordination and tertianship.
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Title Annotation:Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Henry Newman
Author:Schlatter, Fredric W.
Publication:Christianity and Literature
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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