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The Hopkins Society second annual lecture: Gerard Manley Hopkins: reflections after fifty years.

INVITING F.R. Leavis to give the second annual Hopkins Society lecture, Fr. Thomas moved the prestige of the Hopkins Society to a higher academic level. Leavis, a world-class literary critic, was an early admirer of Hopkins's poetry.

An Emmanuel College, Cambridge University scholar, Leavis had a long association as a fellow of Downing College in the same University, during which time his lecturing and writing about literature gave him his distinction as a major critic. One of the founders of the literary magazine, Scrutiny, he edited, with others, nineteen volumes, one of the most notable literary journals of its time. Dr. Leavis also published many books, among the most significant, New Bearings in English Poetry (1932), Revaluation: Tradition and Development in English Poetry (1936), and The Common Pursuit (1952).

Fr. Thomas must have anticipated the importance of Leavis's lecture and he was not to be disappointed. In the opening of his lecture, given at the University of London, March 1, 1971, Leavis told his listeners about his first encounters with Hopkins's poetry, sometime shortly after the first edition was published in 1918. He noted that this personal and informal quality would be the tone of his paper. He then took up a theme he had fully discussed in his earlier books on English poetry, the change in English literature from Tennysonian formality to a revolutionary fresh use of current English in poetic utterance that became the poetic idiom of poetry of the twentieth century. This fresh evocation of modern English speech in twentieth-century poetry, in fact, was a recovery of the rich tradition of the kind of poetic language used by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Hopkins's poetry, he argued, was one of the early instances of this major change in the use of literary English. He caustically pointed out Robert Bridges did not grasp this change in literary culture, a principal reason why he could not read Hopkins's poetry with any deeply critical understanding. One of the most suggestive critical aspects of this rich lecture is that Leavis approached Hopkins's poetry as a powerful instance of these "new bearings" in modern poetry. He commented on both the early and later poems of Hopkins with much subtle analysis and high critical verve, stressing its modernity. In his twenty-one page lecture, Leavis offered rich readings of many of Hopkins's poems, affirming Hopkins's literary genius.

Later in the Hopkins Research Bulletin, Fr. Thomas reported that Leavis's lecture filled the hall to overflowing. This lecture clearly enhanced the status of the English Hopkins Society.


BISHOP Roberts entered The Society of Jesus in 1909, and was ordained a priest in 1925. He served as Rector of St. Francis Xavier's College in Liverpool from 1935-1937. He then went to India for thirteen years where he was Bishop of Bombay. He published two books: Black Popes (1954) and The Story of His Life and a Collection of His Important Writings, Relevant Publications (1966). He was retired when he offered the second annual Hopkins sermon.

Archbishop Roberts confessed at the outset of his sermon that he could not read Hopkins's poetry with any satisfaction. He was not competent to say anything about Hopkins the poet. But he felt comfortable talking about Hopkins the priest. He then proceeded to narrate a brief life of Hopkins. Being born in 1893, just four years after Hopkins's death, Roberts was able to comment from a personal point of view about religious conversion and church life at the close of the Victorian period. Roberts's comments are interesting when he comes to Hopkins's pastoral service at St. Francis Xavier's Parish in Liverpool (1879). He himself was keenly aware of what Hopkins encountered when he came to Liverpool. Roberts served in the parish in the Depression of the 1930s. He noted that he too knew the obstacles to communicating the faith to the parishioners at this large, mostly Irish slum parish. He closed the sermon with a passage from one of Hopkins's sermons on the powers of the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit, surely a spiritual aspiration relevant to both his and Hopkins's times in Liverpool when both, feeling the challenges of large, often indifferent congregations, needed hope and help.
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Title Annotation:Gerard Manley Hopkins
Publication:Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2005
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