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  • Hopkins
  • Frank Fennell (bio)

2007 was a remarkable year for Hopkins scholarship. That would be true even if the claim was limited to the publication of the first of a projected eight volumes of the new Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins being undertaken by the Oxford University Press. But the claim most certainly does not have to be circumscribed in that way.

The first volume of the Works to appear is Vol. 4, Oxford Essays and Notes, 1863-1868, edited by Lesley Higgins. Higgins'eighty-seven-page Introduction explains that the volume encompasses "the essays, lecture notes, and reader's observations" which are found in twelve notebooks housed at Campion Hall, Oxford, and which form part of "the prose texts which survive from [Hopkins'] university career" (p. 1). His student years were key to the poet's later development, and it is in these notes and observations that one can observe the seeds of his later, more fully developed and idiosyncratic aesthetics. To cite but one example, the notes which Hopkins took based on his reading of the Greek philosopher Parmenides contain the earliest adumbrations of Hopkins' later theories of instress and inscape (p. 311). Included here are lecture and reading notes, but also the undergraduate essays written for Hopkins' tutors, including Walter Pater and the Idealist philosopher T. H. Green.

Some of the material in this volume has appeared before, especially in Humphry House's edition of The Note-Books and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford Univ. Press, 1937) and House and Graham Storey's The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford Univ. Press, 1959). The notes on Parmenides, for example, appear in both of those earlier volumes. But a simple comparison of Parmenides now and Parmenides then illustrates the immense advantages of this new edition. The 1937 House version lists the item as part of "Early Note-Books," along with diary entries and the lengthy "On the Origin of Beauty: A Platonic Dialogue." The 1959 House and Storey includes the item with "Undergraduate Essays Etc.," which is manifestly untrue unless one construes "Etc." very loosely. The current volume by contrast accurately groups the item with other "Notes on Greek Philosophy." Only now do we have the item in its proper context and adequately distinguished from the essays written as assignments and from the diary entries (these last will form part of volume 3). Moreover, thanks to Higgins' copious and learned editorial notes and her lengthy Introduction, which covers such topics as "The Oxford System" of education in the 1860s, the reader has a wealth of relevant information at his or her beck and call.

Besides more logical groupings, this new volume possesses three other immense advantages over any previous edition. First, it is far more complete. [End Page 346] Many of these essays and notes have not been published before—in fact, thirty-eight of the forty-five undergraduate essays appear here for the first time. A treasure-trove of new material is therefore available to scholars and will stimulate new research. Second, this edition is more faithful to the appearance of the written texts. A student of Hopkins can see, for example, all the underlinings, interlineations, and crossed-out passages, so that the evolutions and suppressions of thought are evident. Finally, this edition is carefully informed by the voluminous scholarship on Hopkins that has been undertaken in the last five decades. The apparatus reflects not only what has been discovered before but also the editor's own meticulous research.

Such advantages, which will characterize the seven later volumes also, insure that research on Hopkins will be reinvigorated. Oxford Essays and Notes is a signal achievement, and students of Hopkins will look forward to its successors.

Another major publication is Catherine Phillips' Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian Visual World, also from Oxford. All his life Hopkins had an intense interest in the visual world: he sketched, went to galleries, attended exhibitions, followed art criticism in the journals, exchanged notes and commentary with friends. Moreover, the intensely visual dimension of Hopkins' poetry continues to demand attention from his readers. Phillips explores three social contexts within which Hopkins learned to "see," namely his family, his...


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