Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ


Born July 28 to Manley and Catherine (Smith) Hopkins, in Stratford, Essex.


Family moves to Hampstead.


At Cholmondeley [pronounced Chumly] Grammar School, Highgate. Wins the poetry prize for "The Escorial"


Enters Balliol College, Oxford. Two of his tutors are Walter Pater (English essayist, literary and art critic, and fiction writer, regarded as one of the great stylists. His work influenced both the Aesthetic Movement and Modernism.) and Benjamin Jowett (incredibly influential British classical scholar and educator who translated the works of Plato and Thucydides).


Received by John Henry, Cardinal Newman into the Roman Catholic Church.


Graduates with a "double-first"; considered by Jowett to be the "star of Balliol."


Enters the Jesuit Novitiate. Feeling that the practice of poetry was too individualistic and self-indulgent for a Jesuit priest committed to the deliberate sacrifice of personal ambition, he burns his early poems.


Discovers the writings of Duns Scotus.


Learning Welsh; writes extensive notes on prosody.


The wreck of the Deutschland, a naval disaster in which 157 people died—including five Franciscan nuns who had been leaving Germany due to harsh anti-Catholic laws—inspires him to start writing again. Writes a poem commemorating the event. It not only depicts the dramatic events and heroic deeds but also tells of the poet's reconciling the terrible events with God's higher purpose. The poem displays both the religious concerns and some of the unusual meter and rhythms of his subsequent poetry not present in his few remaining early works.


Ordained as a Jesuit priest; begins serving as parish assistant.


Curate at Bedford Leigh, near Manchester, then sent to Liverpool to work among Irish immigrants.


Assistant in a Glasgow parish; ten-month retreat in London.


Becomes teacher of classics at Stonyhurst College.


Appointed Fellow of University College, Dublin, and examiner in Greek for the Royal University of Ireland. His English roots, his disagreement with the trends in contemporary Irish politics, and his self-consciousness concerning his small stature (5'2"), as well as his unprepossessing nature and personal oddities meant that he was not a particularly effective teacher.


His work leaves him in prolonged depression. This results partly from the examination papers he has to read as Fellow in Classics for the Royal University of Ireland. He's the poster child for why grading papers is the most onerous task a professor performs. The exams occured five or six times a year, might produce 500 papers, each one several pages of mostly uninspired student translations (in 1885 there were 631 failures to 1213 passes).

More important, however, was his sense that his prayers no longer reached God; and this doubt produced the "terrible" sonnets.

Writing the "terrible" sonnets. His bad experiences of teaching, as well as his isolation in Ireland, deepened his gloom. Hopkins's friend, Canon Dixon, explained that his poems at this time reached the "terrible crystal," meaning that they crystallized the melancholy dejection which plagued the later part of his life.


Meets W.B. Yeats; neither particularly impressed by the other.


Hopkins refuses to give in to his depression. On June 8 he dies of typhoid fever, where his last words were, "I am happy, so happy." He is buried n Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.


The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, notes and introduction by Robert Bridges, then Poet Laureate.

A nun takes the veil

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

Gerard Manley Hopkins icon by William Hart McNichols