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My Dear Mr. Patmore,

In your son Henry you have lost a mind not only of
wonderful promise but even of wonderful achievement. In
the poems you have kindly lent me there may indeed be
found some few immaturities, many expressions the echoes
of yours and one or two perhaps of those of other poets,
and the thought, both in its spontaneous play and also
from the channel of reading and education it had of course
run in, such as well to mark the writer for his father's son ;
still the general effect of their perusal is astonishment at a
mind so mature, so masculine, so fresh, and so fastidiously
independent: '^ sed erat" as the Breviary says of St. Agnes,
" senectus mentis immensa." It is no disparagement to see in
this (what I have seen in a remarkable degree in a young
child) the unnatural maturity of consumption and the clear-
sightedness of approaching death, forestalling by the refine-
ment of the body what would otherwise have come with

What first strikes in the poems is the spontaneous
thoughtfulness, the utter freedom from the poetical fashion
and poetical cant of this age, and all that wilderness of
words which one is lost in in every copy of magazine verses
one comes across. Your example was however here a
natural safeguard. The love of paradox, carried even to
perversity, is due also to his birth or his breeding. The
disdainful avoidance of affectation and vulgar effect leads
sometimes to the ineffective, as in the last couplet of the
line " O for that afternoon " : he would have come to feel this.
To me the three most beautiful pieces seem to be the
Sunset-poem, the lines on Flora's violin, and the Prologue.
But, if the poems have a shortcoming beyond points of
detail, it would be in flow, in the poetical impetus, and also
in richness of diction ; they are strong where this age is
weak — I mean Swinburne and the popular poets and, I may
say, Tennyson himself, — in thought and insight, but they
are weak where the age is strong. He might have strength-
ened in this respect with growth, or have compensated for
the want by weight and mastery of thought; but I have an
impression that, had he lived, he would have laid his chief
stress elsewhere than in poetry. Naturally, being who he
was, to write poetry came to him first, — his mind had been
cradled in it ; and even the metres he employs are those


he was familiar with in you. But it seems to me, though
it may look strained, that nowhere in these poems is
there such a stroke of genius as the title of the piece on
sunset.^ I should say he had, and would have found himself
to have, a command of prose style by which he could have
achieved more even than by that of poetry. The finest
prose style is, in English at least, rarer, I should say, than
the finest poetical. . . .

Believe me, dear Mr. Patmore,
Yours very sincerely,

Gerard M. Hopkins, S.J.

The poems alluded to in the follov^ing letter are
the " Psyche Odes" to which Mr. de Vere objected.

Jan. 3, 1884.
My Dear Mr. Patmore,

. . . This poem and the two next are such a new
thing and belong to such a new atmosphere that I feel it
as dangerous to criticise them almost as the " Canticles."
What I feel least at my ease about is a certain jesting
humour, which does not seem to me quite to hit the mark in
this profoundly delicate matter. ... A single touch in such
a matter may be " by much too much." I repeated to some-
one what I had read in the life of St. Theresa or Blessed
Margaret Mary, that the saint had been at one time believed
possessed, and was exorcised and drenched with holy water:
our Lord comforted her, telling her that the exorcisms were
not directed against him, and could do her no harm, and
that he liked holy water. This, for a great familiarity, is
credible. But I heard my friend repeat it " that he rather
liked " etc. — which is shocking. . . .

Yours very sincerely,

Gerard Hopkins, S.J.

University College,

85, 86, Stephen's Green,

Dublin, Easter Eve, 1885.
My Dear Mr. Patmore,

It is very long since I wrote to you : I now take the
opportunity of holidays and wish you a very happy Easter.

^ See vol. i., p. 304.


Some time back I wrote you a longish letter, but repented
of it, as I often do, and did not send it.

Part of it was to spur you on with your poem, and to that
I return. You will never be younger : if not done soon it
will never be done, to the end of eternity. Looking back
afterwards you may indeed excuse yourself and see reasons
why the work should not have been done — but it will not
have been done : what might have been will not exist. This
is an obvious and a homely thought, but it is a good one to
dwell on. You wait for your thoughts voluntary to move
harmonious numbers. That is nature's way ; possibly (for I
am not sure of it) the best for natural excellence ; but this
poem was to be an act of devotion, of religion : perhaps a
strain against nature in the beginning will be the best
prospered in the end.

You think, as I do, that our modern poets are too volumin-
ous : time will mend this, their volumes will sink. Yet,
where there is high excellence in the work, labour in the
execution, there volume, amount, quantity tells and helps
to perpetuate all. If you wrote a considerable poem more
it would not only add to your works and fame its own
weight or its own buoyancy, but it would bulk out and buoy
up all the rest. Are Virgil's Georgics and Bucolics read
more or less for his having written the yEneid ? Much more.
So of Shakspere's and Dante's sonnets. It was by provid-
ence designed for the education of the human race that great
artists should leave works not only of great excellence but
also in very considerable bulk. Moreover you say in one
of your odes that the Blessed Virgin seems to relent and
promise her help to you to write in her honour. If this is
not to be followed, it is but a foolish, scandalous saying.
You will not venture to say heaven failed to do its part, or
expect others to say so ; either then you deluded yourself
with groundless hopes or else you did not take the pains of
correspondence with heaven's offers. Either way the words
would better have been left unsaid. This is presumptuous
language on my part, yet aimed at the Blessed Virgin's
honour and at yours. . . .
Believe me.

Dear Mr. Patmore,

Very sincerely your friend,

Gerard M. Hopkins, S.J.


University College,

Dublin, May 14, 1885.
My Dear Mr. Patmore,

Thank you very much for the " Angel in the House,"
which reached me the night before last : to dip into it was
like opening a basket of violets. To have criticised it looks
now like meddling with the altar-vessels ; yet they too are
burnished with washleather. . . .

Your very sincere friend,

Gerard M. Hopkins, S.J.

University College,

Dublin, Aug. 21, 1885.

My Dear Mr. Patmore,

... I write to give you and Mrs. Patmore and the
Miss Patmores my best thanks for your kindness to me
during my happy stay at Hastings.

I am glad you let me read the autobiographical tract ; ^
it will be a valuable testimony. . . .

Believe me very sincerely and gratefully yours,

Gerard M. Hopkins, S.J.

The Royal University of Ireland,

June 4, 1886.

My Dear Mr. Patmore,

I have been meaning and meaning to write to you, to
return the volumes of Barnes's poems you lent me and for
other reasons, and partly my approaching examination work
restrained me, when last night there reached me from Bells'
the beautiful new edition of your works. I call it beautiful
and think it is the best form upon the whole for poetry and
works of pure literature that I know of, and I thank you for
your kindness in sending it. And I hope the bush or the
bottle may do what little in a bush or bottle lies to re-
commend the liquor to the born and the unborn. But how
slowly does the fame of excellence spread ! And crooked
eclipses and other obscure causes fight against its rise and

Your poems are a good deed done for the Catholic Church
and another for England — for the British Empire, which now
trembles in the balance, held in the hands of unwisdom. . . .

The "Autobiography," printed pp. 40-56.


What marked and striking excellence has England to show
to make her civilization attractive ? Her literature is one of
her excellences and attractions, and I believe that criticism
will tend to make this more and more felt ; but there must be
more of that literature, — a continued supply, and in quality
excellent. This is why I hold that fine works of art, and
especially if like yours, that are not only ideal in form but
deal with high matter as well, are really a great power in
the world, an element of strength even to an empire.

Believe me your sincere friend,
Gerard M. Hopkins, S.J.

University College,
St. Stephen's Green,

Oct. 20, 1887.
My Dear Mr. Patmore,

. . . During the summer examinations, one of my col-
leagues brought in one day a " St. James's Gazette," with a
piece of criticism he said was a rare pleasure to read. It
proved to be a review by you of Colvin's book on Keats.
Still, enlightening as the review was, I did not think it really
just. You classed Keats with the feminine geniuses among
men ; and you would have it that he was not the likest, but
rather the unlikest of our poets to Shakespere. His poems,
I know, are very sensuous, — and indeed they are sensual.
This sensuality is their fault, but I do not see that it makes
them feminine. But at any rate (and the second point in-
cludes the first) in this fault he resembles, not differs from
Shakspere. For Keats died very young, and we have only
the work of his first youth. Now, if we compare that with
Shakspere's early work, written at an age considerably more
than Keats's, was it not? such as " Venus and Adonis," and
" Lucrece," it is, as far as the work of two very original
minds ever can be, greatly like in its virtues and its vices ;
more like, I do think, than that of any writer you could
quote after the Elizabethan age, which is what the common
opinion asserts. It may be that Keats was no dramatist
(his " Otho," I have not seen), but it is not for that, I think,
that people have made the comparison. The " Cap and
Bells " is an unhappy performance, so bad that I could not
get through it ; senselessly planned to have no plan, and


doomed to fail ; but Keats would have found out that. He
was young ; his genius intense in its quality ; his feeling for
beauty, for perfection, intense ; he had found his way right
in his Odes ; he would find his way right at last to the true
functions of his mind. And he was at a great disadvantage
in point of education compared with Shakspere. Their
classical attainments may have been much of a muchness,
but Shakspere had the school of his age. It was the
Renaissance : the ancient classics were deeply and enthusi-
astically studied, and influenced directly or indirectly all,
and the new learning had entered into a fleeting but brilliant
combination with the mediaeval tradition. All then used the
same forms and keepings. But in Keats's time, and worst
in England, there was no one school, but experiment, divi-
sion, and uncertainty. He was one of the beginners of the
Romantic movement, with the extravagance and ignorance
of his youth. After all, is there anything in " Endymion "
worse than the passage in "Romeo and Juliet'" about the
County Paris as a book of love that must be bound and I
can't tell what? It has some kind of fantastic beauty, like
an arabesque, but in the main it is nonsense. And about
the true masculine fibre in Keats's mind Matthew Arnold
has written something good lately. . . .

Believe me very sincerely yours

Gerard M. Hopkins.
Oct. 24, 1887.

Milltown Park,
Milltown, Dublin.

May 6, 1888.
My Dear Mr. Patmore,

Your news was that you had burnt the book called
" Sponsa Dei,"' and that on reflexion upon remarks of mine.
I wish I had been more guarded in making them. When
we take a step like this we are forced to condemn ourselves :
either our work should never have been done or never un-
done, and either way our time and toil are wasted — a sad
thought, though the intention may at both times have been
good. My objections were not final : they were but con-
siderations (I forget now, with one exception, what they
were) : even if they were valid, still if you had kept to your

' Act I., Sc. 3. - Cf. vol. i., p. 318.


custom of consulting your director, as you said you should,
the book might have appeared with no change or with slight
ones. But now regret is useless.

Since I last wrote, I have re-read Keats a little, and the
force of your criticism on him has struck me more than it
did. It is impossible not to feel with weariness how his
verse is at every turn abandoning itself to an unmanly and
enervating luxury. It appears too that he said something
like " O, for a life of impressions instead of thoughts ! "
It was, I suppose, the life he tried to lead. The
impressions are not likely to have been all innocent,
and they soon ceased in death. His contemporaries, as
Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, and even Leigh Hunt, right
or wrong, still concerned themselves with great causes, as
liberty and religion ; but he lived in mythology and fairy-
land, the life of a dreamer : nevertheless, I feel and see in
him the beginnings of something opposite to this, of an in-
terest in higher things, and of powerful and active thought.
On this point you should, if possible, read what Matthew
Arnold wrote. His mind had, as it seems to me, the dis-
tinctly masculine powers in abundance, his character the
manly virtues; but, while he gave himself up to dreaming
and self-indulgence, of course they were in abeyance. Nor
do I mean that he would have turned to a life of virtue —
only God can know that — but that his genius would have
taken to an austerer utterance in art. Reason, thought,
what he did not want to live by, would have asserted itself
presently,and perhaps have been as much more powerful than
that of his contemporaries as his sensibility or impression-
ableness, by which he did want to live, was keener and richer
than theirs. His defects were due to youth — the self-indul-
gence of his youth, its ill-education, and also, as it seems
to me, to its breadth and pregnancy, which, by virtue of a
fine judgment already able to restrain but unable to direct,
kept him from flinging himself blindly on the specious
liberal stuff that crazed Shelley, and indeed, in their youth,
Wordsworth and Coleridge. His mind played over life as
a whole, so far as he, a boy, without (seemingly) a dramatic
but still with a deeply observant turn, and also without any
noble motive, felt at first-hand, impelling him to look
below its surface, could at that time see it. He was, in my
opinion, made to be a thinker, a critic, as much as a singer
or artist of words. This can be seen in certain reflective


passages, as the opening to " Endymion," and others in his
poems. These passages are the thoughts of a mind very
ill-instructed and in opposition ; keenly sensible of wrong-
ness in things established, but unprovided with the principles
to correct that by. Both his principles of art and his practice
were in many things vicious, but he was correcting them,
even eagerly ; for " Lamia," one of his last works, shows a
deliberate change in manner from the style of " Endymion,"
and in fact goes too far in change, and sacrifices things that
had better have been kept. Of construction he knew no-
thing to the last : in this same " Lamia," he has a long in-
troduction about Mercury, who is only brought in to dis-
enchant Lamia, and ought not to have been employed, or
else ought to be employed again. The story has a
moral element or interest : Keats was aware of this, and
touches on it at times, but could make nothing of it : in fact
the situation at the end is that the sage Apollonius does
more harm than the witch herself had done, — kills the hero ;
and Keats does not see that this implies one of two things,
either some lesson of the terrible malice of evil which, when
it is checked, drags down innocence in its own ruin, or else
the exposure of Pharisaic pretence in the would-be moralist.
But then if I could have said this to Keats I feel sure he
would have seen it. In due time he would have seen these
things himself Even when he is misconstructing one can
remark certain instinctive turns of construction in his style,
showing his latent power — for instance, the way the vision
is introduced in " Isabella." Far too much now of Keats.

You sent me also a paper of yours in the "St. James's."'
But I did not like the text of it, from Newman, and so I
could not like the discourse grounded on that. This was a
paradox, that man is not a rational or reasoning animal.
The use of a paradox is to awake the hearer's attention :
then, when it has 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 this you
do not do with the paradox in question : you appear to take
it in earnest. I always felt that Newman made too much
of that text : it is still worse that you should build upon it.
In what sense is man contemplative, or active, and not

^ "Real Apprehension," January 20, 1888, Republished in
" Principle in Art,"



rational ? In what sense may man be said not to be rational,
and it might not as truly be said he was not active or was
not contemplative ? He does not always reason ; neither
does he always contemplate or always act — of course human
action — not merely go through animal or vegetable functions.
Everyone sometimes reasons ; for everyone arrived at the
age of reason, sometimes asks Why, and sometimes says
Because, or Although. Now whenever we use one of these
three words we reason. Longer trains of reasoning are
rarer, because common life does not present the need or
opportunity for them ; but as soon as the matter requires
them they are forthcoming. Nor are blunders in reasoning
any proof that man is not a rational or reasoning being :
rather the contrary : we are rational and reasoners by our
false reasoning as we are moral agents by our sins. I can-
not follow you in your passion for paradox : more than a
little of it tortures.

Now, since writing the above, I have read the paper again ;
but indeed I cannot like it at all. The comment makes the
text worse ; for you say contemplation is in this age very
rare indeed : is then reasoning in this age very rare indeed, or
none? Other paradoxes follow ; as that "persons like General
Gordon or Sir Thomas More could stare if you called any-
thing they did or suffered by the name of sacrifice." Did
they then make no sacrifice ? And if their modesty shrank
from that word (I do not feel sure that it would) is the word
not true ? And do we not speak of Christ's sacrifice ? and
they were following Him.

Also the " truly sensible man never opines," though " many
things may be dubious to him." But the definition of
opinion is belief accompanied by doubt — by fear of the
opposite being true ; for, since many things are likely only
but not certain, he who feels them to be most likely true
knows also that they may possibly be untrue, and that is to
opine them — though in English the word opine is little used
except jocularly. Here no doubt you did not want to speak
with philosophic precision (and in the same way say that
" to see rightly is the first of human qualities " : I suppose
it is the rightness or clearness or clearsightedness of the see-
ing that is the quality, for surely seeing is an act) ; but then
the matter is philosophical : the title is so : the reference is
to a philosophical work, and therefore philosophical precision
would be in place, and I in reading crave for it. But you


know best what comes home to the readers you are aiming
at. Yet after all there is nothing like the plain truth :
paradox persisted in is not the plain truth, and ought not
to satisfy a reader. The conclusion, about the unpardon-
able sin, is on dangerous ground ; but I do not understand
it, and few readers, I think, will. You see, dear Mr. Patmore,
that I am altogether discontented with this paper, and can
do nothing but find fault.

And now, with kind regards to all your circle, I am, my
dear Mr. Patmore, yours very sincerely,

Gerard M. Hopkins.

Glenaveena, Howth,
Whitsunday, 1888.
Dear Mr. Patmore,

. . . About the " tyke," you did not altogether under-
stand me. If I had said you had less than anyone else of the
Bohemian, though that is not the same thing, the meaning
would have been plainer. As there is something of the " old
Adam " in all but the holiest men, and in them, at least,
enough to make them understand it in others, so there is an
old Adam of barbarism, boyishness, wildness, rawness, rank-
ness, the disreputable, the unrefined, in the refined and
educated. It is that that I meant by tykishness (a tyke is
a stray, sly, unowned dog), and said you have none of ; and
I did also think that you were without all sympathy for it,
and must survey it when you met with it wholly from with-
out. Ancient Pistol is the typical tyke : he and all his crew
are tykes, and the tykish element undergoing dilution in
Falstaff and Prince Hal appears to vanish, but of course
really exists, in Henry V. as king. I thought it was well to
have ever so little of it, and therefore it was perhaps a happy
thing that you were entrapped into the vice of immoderate
smoking, for to know one yields to a vice must help to
humanize and make tolerant.

I am very sincerely yours,
Gerard M. Hopkins.




'^ HE following letter from William Allingham
to Emily Augusta Patmore is evidently an
answer to that printed vol. i., p. 155-156.
The portrait alluded to is that by Millais (vol. i.,

p. 85).


30th of May, '52.

Dear Mrs. Patmore,

I am much pleased to hear from you ; and also by
the subject of your note.

I enclose a line by which your messenger will obtain a
copy of my Poems at Chapman and Hall's : I am not sure
that they have a bound one, but, if not, I suppose there
will be time enough for binding. My rank and title of
Poet lie so dormant here that a sudden external recognition
of them never fails to give me (at the first instant) a little
shock of half comic surprise : beyond this, it is often very
delightful, and, I think, beneficial.

I have written very little during the past winter and
spring, yet have not, I trust, been standing still. My
published volume though has been standing quite still : I
paid off the remainder of the cost lately, and at foot of the
account (which was a year removed from the preceding
one) occurred this pithy memorandum : " no copies sold
since last account ".

The slip of paper which I send to be pasted into the
volume would doubtless have said a little more if I knew
the lady better. I think it a good rule to strive against


forming an opinion of a person until after three interviews;
but, although I had only once an opportunity of seeing
Miss Van Bremen, I have not strictly adhered to my rule,
especially as I was not left wholly unacquainted with her
previous life.

I hope your boys are well. I observe your Portrait in
the Academy Catalogue, and deduce that you are well — or
at least were looking well not very long ago : because
exactness is the creed of the P. R. B., and a lady would
never . . . &c., &c. The logic is perfect !
I remain, Dear Mrs. Patmore,

Very truly yours,

W. Allingham, Jr.

William Bell Scott to Coventry Patmore.


8 January, 1855.

My Dear Sir,

I would have written you before had I not been in
Scotland the last fortnight, taking the opportunity of my
Xmas recess to refresh my remembrances of sundry old
friends. By this means I ran some danger of bringing in
the New Year in an " ancient and fishlike " manner; but the
habits of the old country are certainly suffering a modi-

On a fuller and more careful consideration of your book,
it does not appear to me expedient to offer any remarks

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 27 of 36)