Hopkins Lectures 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerard Manley Hopkins and Oscar Wilde

Leonore Obed (US)

If Hopkins seems lonely and idiosyncratic compared with Bridges, then compare him with Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Laforgue, and one sees a major artist moving naturally among his peers.

If, as John Wain proposes, Hopkins seems lonely and idiosyncratic compared with Bridges, poet Laureate and resident of Boar's Hill, then compare him with Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Laforgue, and one sees a major artist moving naturally among his peers. Like them, he was writing the new poetry, had faced the problems, carried out the initial reassesment of the means that were to hand, and had already started on the task: arguably, from this point of view, Hopkins was strengthened, rather than crippled, by the fact of his being a Jesuit and thus isolated in the most literal, physical sense. Such a detachment was difficult to achieve in the densely-organised intellectual and artistic world of nineteenth-century England: the literary clubs of lettered gentlemen functioned too smoothly to make a bargain with industrial society. Hopkins, in his total detachment from the quotidian life, had the freedom to give to literature what other writers--so much a part of their age, even when they protested against it--could not: the need for boldness and a new and totally independent programme that was not strongly characteristic of its time.

Hopkins' contemporaries reacted against their age in their own terms, denounced it in its own vocabulary. Hopkins gave to poetry the lightning-speed progress that was once the mainstay of science: his imaginative procedures enabled literature to match the contemporaneous revolutions in science and politics. One of Hopkins' most prounounced vices - the lack of a social instinct - was the virtue that enabled him to transcend the pettiness and provincial limitations of Victorian mores. It is for this reason that John Wain casts Hopkins as an honourary Parisian, and an Oxonian of the time of Alice and her town and gown Wonderland: The French poets knew better than to make any such bargain. In the latter half of the nineteenth century French poetry is far more interesting than English, and the reason seems to be not only that it is technically bolder but that it is also more honest and serious ... They are concerned with only one thing - to tell the truth. Modern industrial civilization has become intolerable and they have no objection to saying so openly ... Modern rationalistic thinking has impoverished the human spirit by banishing dreams to the pillow and nonsense to the nursery; they will restore them to dignity.

Modern linguistic usage, developed to meet the needs of a scientific and commercial world, is incapable of ranging over a wide enough field of significance; they will give back to it the richness of a primitive vocabulary. English poets were restrained from doing these things, not by lack of talent but by an over-developed social instinct. When Verlaine tried to explain to Yeats why he had turned aside from the task of translating In Memoriam, he put his finger on just this quality. Tennyson is too noble, too anglais; when he should have been broken-hearted, he had many reminiscences. If we cast about for anything in Victorian verse that resembles the work of Hopkins in boldness and originality, we shall find that the most serious candidates are the nonsense poets. For it was in the work of Dodgson and Lear that the English imagination, dammed up by institutional respectability and rationalistic good manners, burst out into the open. The extent to which the official literature of the twentieth century has derived from, and paid tribute to, the unofficial literature of the nineteenth century is a striking testimony to this. When he goes into are the nonsense poets. For it was in the work of Dodgson and Lear that the English imagination, dammed up by institutional respectability and rationalistic good manners, burst out into the open. The extent to which the 'official' literature of the twentieth century has derived from, and paid tribute to, the unofficial literature of the nineteenth century is a striking testimony to this. When he goes into the nursery, the Victorian poet is free to forget his social responsibilities and say what is on his mind ... Alone among English poets, he is willing to try anything, to desert logic, to wrench language, to treat the individual word as a mystery and a challenge.

To him, the iron curtain between sense and nonsense does not exist. (28) Hopkins seems lonely and idiosyncratic compared with Tennyson and Bridges, but compare him with Oscar Wilde and he not only struts jauntily with a peer, but peers into his mirror image. Wilde, the High Priest of Aestheticism, is an inverse Hopkins, the priest-poet in contrapuntal form. If, through his sacerdotal and prophetic talents, Hopkins had been privy to the open secret of life, Wilde, the cult figure of a cult aestheticism, was privy to a complementary type of soothsaying: the dicta that as Art is one step ahead of Life, and therefore, Life should imitate Art. Wilde took Carlyle's notion of the great men one step further by projecting a Great Man as a portrait: Dorian Gray's actual life was presupposed by his portrait, the static, immortal posture that dictated the mortal actions of a human life. Indeed, this was the type of divination that Hopkins approximated, when he spoke of the consciousness of dreaming: The dream-images seemed to rise and overlie those which belonged to what he was saying and I saw one of the Apostles - he was talking about the Apostles - as if pressed against by a peice of wood about half a yard long and a few inches across, like a long box with two of the long sides cut off. Even then I could not understand what the piece of wood did encumbering the apostle. Now this piece of wood I had often seen in an outhouse and being that week A Secretis I had seen it longer together and had been that day wondering what it was: in reality it is used to hold a little heap of cinders against the wall (Journal Dec. 23, 1869-70)Throughout his life, Hopkins was fascinated by the growth of metaphor, or the possibility of a favoured pattern extending itself physically and psychically towards him.

Once, while in Lancashire, he became so enamoured of the aquatic, dappled effect of light upon the moors that he could not sleep. This dappled effect did grow strongly on him, but not as he anticipated: It has rained many times already and I know it will go on so to the end of the chapter. Hopkins' 'dappled' world mapped the unseen boundaries between the body and its imaginative extensions. Perhaps he would have agreed with Wilde's assertion that Movement, that problem of the visible arts, can be truly realized by Literature alone. It is Literature that shows us the body in its swiftness and the soul in its unrest (Works, 1124). Hopkins liked to believe that there was a particularly English way of doing things, be it ruling an empire or being a priest, and nowhere was this way more tested than during his Irish assignment: It has always been the fault of the mass of Englishmen to know and care nothing about Ireland, to let be what would there (which, as it happened, was persecution, avarice, and oppression) (HSL, To Bridges, July 30 1887). His desire was not to abandon his native land, but to re-map its boundaries. Plotting a linguistic and religious cartography, he wished to bring England backwards, by following langauge back to its roots, and revealing the timbre of a nation that revered a Marian shrine at Walsingham: To lead north-country for to carry (a field of hay etc.). Geet north-country preterite of get: he geet agate agoing... Just as Hopkins initiated a poetic rebellion to bring the English language back to its pre-Reformation cadences, so Wilde propagated - through a sarcastic flamboyance - the secret agenda that Ireland should rule England. His view was not at odds with the vision of a sometimes jingoistic Father Hopkins, as it implicated the submission of Anglicanism and industrialism to a Catholic, agrarian culture; thus, Ireland was just another word for Hopkins' reformed England.

Wilde's vision of Home Rule was a home-grown language wielded as a beautiful dagger, encrusted with flaming jewels, dripping with the poison of the Borgias, exposing startled eyes to the sheer cliff-like wall of the rift that has opened out between one's moral belief and those of his forefathers : indeed, to be Celtic to a man was to brandish an inborn imagination. As Declan Kiberd suggests, there is a new England called Ireland, or Ireland - England's Unconscious: Ireland also began to appear to English persons in the guise of their Unconscious. In that covert sense, the effect of official policy was the creation of a secret England called Ireland. Wilde was, in many ways, Hopkins' Other and doppelganger, his inner, secret England called Ireland, and like the shadow that is always near but which one cannot see, he was a part of that place which was dearest to Hopkins's heart: Oxford, my park, my pleasaunce. In 1878-79 Hopkins returned to the university-town of his alma mater, to serve as assistant curate at the newly built Catholic church of St. Aloysius. It was a brilliant appointment, one that would make the greatest use of his aesthetic and intellectual temperament: or so it seemed, for despite the suitability of Oxford for Hopkins, the result was far from ideal. He failed to get along with the head curate, Father Parkinson - thought by some to be distant, close-handed, and perhaps a little selfish - and as a decade had passed since he was a student at Balliol, Hopkins seemed the stranger in a once-beloved place. His few friends included his former tutor, Walter Pater, and the de Paravacinis; his loneliness and alienation from Oxford in general was a marked contrast from his former revelry and camaraderie. Although St. Aloysius was frequented by university students, Hopkins kept his distance from them: they were a reminder of who he used to be--a popular, boisterous undergraduate, uninhibited by convention. That they inspired in him a bittersweet nostalgia was an understatement.

Perhaps the most vivid description of Hopkins' unease in Oxford is a photograph of the Catholic Club, taken in the portico of St. Aloysius's in 1879: this picture - in stark contrast to Hopkins's integration with the group in 1863 - portrays a clean-shaven Father Hopkins as a decade senior to most of the undergraduates: He stands to one side of the group, his back against a buttress, his eyes turned sideways to the camera, the whole tense angle of his body suggesting his detachment from the others, as if his attention were far away. As usual his expression is reserved, hoodedly enigmatic ... It is difficult to believe that he felt much in common with the men around him. Wilde was one undergraduate who managed to slip not only through Father Parkinson's proselytizing fingers, but also through those of Cardinals Newman and Manning. All of Oxford knew him, and, to his delight, talked about him.

Dean Burgeon, the priest at St. Mary's warned the people of his insidious influence: When a young man says not in polished banter, but in sober earnestness, that he finds it difficult to live up to the level of his blue china, there has crept into these cloistered shades a form of heathenism which it is our bounden duty to fight against and crush out, if possible. On the 27th of February 1879, the Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduate's Journal confirmed the authenticity of his first notable, quotable statement: How often I feel how hard it is to live up to my blue china. He was known by the journal as O'Flighty, by his friends as Hosky, by George du Maurier as Oscuro Wildegoose and "Ossian Wilderness, by Dubliners as being originally Fingal O'Flahertie Wills, and by his own aspirations, simply Oscar.

The near-meeting of Father Hopkins and his controversial alter-ego is itself the stuff of legend, the unrecorded history that invites much speculation. There is no extant record of their Oxford meeting, yet a vivid image of them already exists - arguing jovially during a picnic lunch by the Isis - as Cyril and Vivian in The Decay of Lying and as Hanbury and the Professor in On the Origin of Beauty: A Platonic Dialogue.

It is in these aesthetic, Oxford-based dialogues that one gets a glimpse of the pre-Jesuit Gerard Manley Tuncks, who, as a young man in Hampstead, uttered some uncannily Wildean phrases: Be it ever so homely/There's no place like home for losing what you have and not getting what you want. I always find home so uncivilized; they seem never to be acquainted with the ordinary luxuries or necessaries (RBM, 76) If, for a moment, one can project Hopkins and Wilde as a real-life Cyril and Vivian, one can imagine Wilde's amusement at Hopkins' index of favourite authors, which itself reads like a Wildean blacklist: he admired Stevenson, but was disappointed by the gross realism of his trampling scenes; Blackmore's Lorna Doone was an underrated masterpiece; few blasphemies could be as unforgivable as the translation of Burns' melodic Scots; Swinburne was an idol of bygone days, but one soon outgrew his dated and archaic attempts. In the company of Wilde he would have acted out Aeschylus, laughed at Carlyle, been slightly perturbed at Wilde's Dickensian allergy, kneeled at the altars of Shakespeare and Keats, praised the merits of Hardy, Aurora Leigh, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Tynan, and Yeats, but would not have allowed Pater, George Eliot, Whitman, and Longfellow to go scot-free. At best, they would have agreed that man was created to praise. The discrimination of the eye and the idea of the force for good derived from beautiful objects and surroundings was a central philosophy of their art. Hopkins' image of the terrible crystal of art was echoed in Wilde's own desire that everything should not only make a beautiful statement, but that good and benevolent humanity should be derived from beauty:

Poetry should be like a crystal; it should make life more beautiful and less real.

In the centenary edition of The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, Merlin Holland confirms that In The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, Joseph Pearce notes that It is not known how much of 1879 he spent in Oxford, but like other graduates of the times he seems to have been uanble to make the final break with his Alma Mater for a while and made periodic visits to see undergraduate friends still in residence ... in his application for a reader's ticket to the British Museum in February he is unsure whether to give his Oxford college or London address and George Macmillan's reply to his letter of 22 March is addressed to Wilde at Oxford. During the spring of 1877 Wilde was a regular Mass attender at St. Aloysius' and he breakfasted with Father Thomas Parkinson, S.J ... It is even possible, though no record of a meeting exists, that he may later have met Gerard Manley Hopkins, who returned to Oxford in November of the following year to become a curate at St. Aloysius. On the 27th of February 1879 - one of the most likely and probable dates of a possible meeting between them - Hopkins wrote to Dixon about Tennyson.

There is something almost prophetic about this letter, for although he meditates upon the merits of Tennyson's poetry, he projects an ideal of a great outsider who is akin to Wilde: You call Tennyson 'a great outsider'; you mean, I think, to the soul of poetry. I feel what you mean, though it grieves me to hear him depreciated, as of late years has often been done. Come what may, he will be one of our greatest poets. To me his poetry appears 'chryselephantine'; always of precious mental material and each verse a work of art, not botchy places, not only so but no half wrought or low-toned ones, no drab, no brown-holland; but the form, though fine, not the perfect artist's form, not equal to the material.(SP, To Dixon, St. Giles's, Oxford, 27 February| 13 March 1879)

But it is through fiction that the greatest talker of the Victorian age comes face to face with its most silenced poet. That Father Hopkins is a psychic kin of Oscar Wilde is the emerald dream of Ciaran Carson, who assigns Arthur Conan Doyle as their fateful harbinger and purveyor of a shared and favourite aperitif, Shamrock Tea: Doyle was spellbound, for Wilde's apparent flight of fancy was corroborated by his own experience. Two years earlier, in the autumn of 1887, while on a cycling holiday of the Mournes, he had called to Loyola House, to renew his acquaintanceship with Fr. Gerard Hopkins, who was resident here at the time. Peter Carey shows that the easiest way to conjoin two Victorian paradoxes is simply to combine their names: Oscar Hopkins of Oscar and Lucinda, or the devout Anglican priest with a passion for gambling. According to Norman White, Peter Carey based the Reverend Oscar Hopkins partly on Gerard Manley Hopkins; Oscar's father is the Rev. Theophilus Hopkins; Gerard's father, Manley, used Theophilus as a nom-de-plume.

In a remarkable instance of life imitating art, The Daily Telegraph on the 26th of January 2002, reported the death of the Reverend Joseph Fahey, aged 65, an American priest at Boston College who turned his skills at mathematics, gamblings and cards to the advantage of the Jesuits, played blackjack for the 'greater glory of God', but was blacklisted by casinos.(41) Somewhere, on an unfinished canvas, they meet, as Einstein encounters Marilyn in Quint Buchholz's painting, Einstein Meets Monroe. Whether one ascribes to the scant historical evidence, or fills in the factual blanks with poetic license, one cannot doubt that Father Hopkins and Oscar Wilde were both presumptuous jugglers, men whose heightened use of the current language shocked and provoked the world into the terrible beauty born of Victorian piety and Modernist musings. They were writers who insisted primarily upon the orality of language, its immediacy and intimacy through performance, and the sprung rhythm that springs from a highly individualized self, that awareness of that taste of myself, of I and me above and in all things, which is more distinctive than the smell of walnut leaf of camphor. Indeed, Wilde was the Victorian who could more than match Hopkins in the intensity of his passion, his insights and his theories regarding the importance of being different. Like Hardy, Carroll, and Lear, Hopkins and Wilde reacted against the timidity of Victorian verse and demanded a return to the naked thew and sinew of the English language. This rebellion stemmed from the selfsame conflict of a candid, sensual response to life tempered by a quixotic spiritual quest. When, as an undergraduate, Wilde proclaimed that he wished to be a Cardinal of the Catholic Church he was not merely trying on the myriads of masks that would colour his life, but was, like Hopkins, acutely aware of the divine knowledge that is within dangerous proximity to depravity.

This was the Decadent tradition, as anticipated by, and practiced in Oxford, by the simultaneous call to pursue art for art's sake, or Pater's call to burn with a hard, gemlike flame and Ruskin's dicta of an ethical aestheticism, the artist's duty to serve society and attain a religious ideal. The depravity of the Paterian drift of myriad sensations was literally and figuratively adjunct to the Ruskinian call for a benevolent, socially-conscious art. The two were at odds yet not necessarily mutually exclusive. Two very different men, two strikingly similar lives. If, as Wilde said, the ages live in history through their anachronisms, a refreshing way of viewing the Victorian age is through the conformist rebels and unlikely Victorians who were at once analogous and antithetical. Wilde was a poseur, while Hopkins often assumed the Tennyson pose. Lying prostrate on the ground, peering at the minutiae of dew, dawn, and daffodils, his view from the gutter complemented Wilde's statuesque gaze at the stars. Just as Hopkins had predicted Wilde, so he had also predicted himself: there is something almost tragically Wildean about a priest who initially burns his poetry, while also giving copies to his close friend Bridges, the Poet Laureate of England; of a frail, effeminate man who willingly joins the most militaristic of religious orders, and then bemoans the vows that impede his poetic progress. Like Wilde, his marked individuality was a simultaneous pattern of self-publicity and self-destruction. Hopkins and Wilde were the presumptuous jugglers of the Victorian age. Hurling verbal missiles at an indifferent society, they used language exuberantly, knowing that this Victorian English is a bad business. For both of them, the rhythm and sound of words were as important as their meaning. Language was tactile, haecceitan in its thingness and thisness. Wilde the raconteur was a jeweller, stringing precious gems: Egyptians silent and subtle, with long nails of jade and russet cloaks (CEW, Salome). Hopkins was a wordpainter, airbrushing the thunder-purple seabeach plumed purple-of-thunder (Henry Purcell, line 13). One of Hopkins' and Wilde's greatest innovations was their extension of the concept of art-literature. It was not just about the transposition of genres, but about creating words out of things and things out of words. The uncompromising concreteness of their language offended many. In 1918, Bridges introduced Hopkins to the world, but warned audiences of this poet's "questions of taste--...these poems....might be convicted of occasional affectation in metaphor....or of some perversion of human feeling." Similarly, during Wilde's trials of 1895, Edward Carson stated that his books "were written by an artist for artists; his words were not for Philistines or illiterates". It was because of their presumptuous juggling - or, their emphasis on the performative aspect of literature - that they shared the same misadventures. In all that they did, Hopkins and Wilde insisted upon the connection between voice and faith, when the need to convert others became, at the same time, a conversion of the self. A central aspect of Hopkins' and Wilde's art was the philosophy that what you look hard at looks hard at you, or when the onlooker is in full harmony with the object that he is observing. To capture the inner core of individuality - simultaneously of oneself and of others - was what Hopkins called inscape and Wilde the art of living up to his blue china.

Such was the imitation of art by life, when Dorian Gray literally became his portrait, when the incarnational Christ jubilantly became that Jack, joke, poor potsherd, not for moral redemption, but because he was a Scotist Christ who revelled in the experience of being human. The juggler is presumptuous because he is aware of a force beyond himself, the uncertain beauty of a faith or fate that undercuts the artist's hyperactivity: poet and priest actively create and passively receive inspiration. Wilde had what Henry James called the imagination of disaster, nothing less than total ruin would do. To paraphrase James, Hopkins had the imagination of difficulty, nothing less than total struggle would suffice. Indeed, at the heart of the Hopkinsian and Wildean controversies is the rumour of an invisible, insidious influence. The staunchly Protestant Bridges had long taken exception to Hopkins' Catholicism, fearful not only of his Marian allusions, but of the perversion of human feeling that blurs the distinction beween observer and observed: what could be more incarnational - and thus, offensive for non-Catholic readers - than the knowledge that God is as quotidian and as immediate as a warm-breasted bird with open wings? But like Wilde, Hopkins inhabits a universe that is both accessible and improbable: who is able to get close enough to a bird and feel its warm breast?; can a lie be as easily transformed into the truth by the simple wielding of an earnest virtue? Perhaps Bridges should have warned readers that in reading Hopkins they become him. Like Wilde, he was equally guilty of the crime known as the love that dare not speak its name, or the intellectual and imaginative exchange between the active voice of youth and the passive, admiring elder who has nothing to impart to him but the fruits of his experience.

The result is not the procreative impulse, but rather, the barren exchange between two kindred spirits. Thus, Wilde's love for Bosie was criminal in that it represented the myriad ways in which he subtlely infected English respectability. Like Father Hopkins, Wilde threatened to be as ubiquitous as a teacup, as inevitable as rain. By reducing all experiences to the level of objet d' art, they represented the new type of dandy, the camp figure who did not swoon into the safety of his handkerchief, but bravely smelled the stink of ordinary life and fused his own scent with its dappled aroma. Wilde's cavalier attitude towards Roman Catholicism went beyond a rejection of the institutionalised church that would limit his pursuit of fame and money. What many failed to understand was Wilde's need to perform his faith, to voice the fervour that he felt for an artistic, incarnational Christ. It was in De Profundis that he was best able to do this. Written under the restrictions of prison laws, this interrupted letter to Bosie provided Wilde with the disciplined yet spontaneous outcry that was itself an act of faith: It was always supposed that Christ talked in Aramaic. Even Renan thought so. But now we know that the Galilean peasants, like the Irish peasants of our own day, were bilingual, and that Greek was the ordinary language of intercourse all over Palestine, as indeed all over the Eastern world. Wilde's deity speaks a pedestrian language. Perhaps the closest resemblance to this is Hopkins' invocation of a Scotist Christ. It is through the comical sermons and the tragic Sonnets of Desolation that Hopkins achieves a similar need to 'voice' his faith and infuse it with the sprung rhythm of his experiences: With witness I speak this. But where I say Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent To dearest him that lives alas! away.

Indeed, like Margaret Clitheroe, Father Hopkins and the Legend of 1900 caught the crying of those Three,/The Immortals of the eternal ring,/The Utterer, Uttered, Uttering./ Even when Hopkins and Wilde were not outwardly and explicitly performing their works, they emphasized the connection between voice and faith by 'lashing' themselves to words, sometimes with the violent passion with which Wilde sacrificed himself for Bosie, and the destructive purging with which Hopkins burned his poetic self. To gash gold-vermilion was to proclaim, like Ernest Worthing, the inextricable connection between one's chosen name and one's projected ambition: I always told you, Gwendolen, my name was Ernest, didn't I? Well, it is Ernest after all. I mean it naturally is Ernest (CEW, The Importance of Being Earnest, 537). In all the genres that he tackled, Wilde displayed a talent for lashing himself to his utterances. In The Decay of Lying he parodied the extent to which unimaginative people attached themselves to a literal meaning: Fortunately, in England, at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as a people is entirely due to our national s tupidity (CEW, The Decay of Lying, 216). For Wilde, words were indeed the ammunition of those who wielded a poison pen. His short stories revealed the heroism of those who dared to be true to their word. Such was the Remarkable Rocket, who proclaimed, GOLD STICK, that is what he said. Gold Stick is very complimentary. In fact, he mistakes me for one of the Court dignitaries! (CW, The Remarkable Rocket, 301). In the Ballad of Reading Gaol the attempt to be too true to one's word resulted in murder: And all men kill the thing they love,/By all let this be heard, /Some do it with a bitter look,/Some with a flattering word./ (CEW, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, 566).as well as As kingfishers draw fire, dragonflies draw flame; Towery city and branchy between towers;/Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmed, lark charmed, rook racked, river-rounded. Hopkins dared to enact the very things that he envisioned. He was aware of the sounds that one could touch, the colours that one could hear, the space within a void that one could easily hold.

Like Wilde, hopkins often blurred the distinction between the integration of experience and the experience itself. He revelled in being both the lashed self adrift with the utterance and cast outward, to an Other space and time, and the self which is detached, observant, objective. In their lashings, they strove to bridge the abyss between being and doing, action and effect, the psyche and the psychological aftermath. In short, to be both active artist and passive recipient of creation, was, first and foremost, an Oxonian struggle. The misadventures of the presumptuous jugglers began in Oxford, when they attempted to reconcile the seemingly polar philosophies of Pater and Ruskin. Ruskin emphasized action, the call to put into practice the benevolence of art through the Hinskey Road Campaign, socialist legislation, and religious ideals. Ruskin was the active 'voice' that was easily enacted and put into practice. In sheer contrast with this was Pater, whose drifts of hedonism rejected pragmatism and humanitarianism in favour of a languid acknowledgment of heightened sensations. While it was simple to make manifest the wishes of Ruskin, it was more difficult to account for the Paterian musings that were largely internal.

Throughout their lives, Hopkins and Wilde continued to wrestle with the Paterian and Ruskinian strains: such was their struggle with religion and art, the Wildean love of art that was undercut by a love affair with God, the Hopkinsian asceticism that was a foil to the lure of immortality. Despite Wilde's outward posture as a Paterian disciple - culminating in the 'criminalisation' of Pater's Renaissance during his trial - he had never rejected the teachings of Ruskin, whom he hailed as a Poet, Priest, Prophet. Interestingly enough, Hopkins' affinity with Pater was most evident during his return to Oxford.

Hopkins the Jesuit never fully exorcised the wraith of his old tutor. Long after they left Oxford, Hopkins and Wilde continued to fight this battle of Aestheticism. Their tutors' ancient opposition continued to play itself out in Hopkins' and Wilde's intense connection between voice and faith, the integration of experience and experience itself, the conflicts between an artist of the world and an artist of God. The best solution, as Wilde concluded, was to 'hear' Ruskin, while overhearing Pater, and it was in this eavesdropping, or aural symbiosis, that Hopkins and Wilde created their unique art and embarked on the selfsame misadventures: religious conversion, exile, nationalism and patriotism, wordplay, noncomformity, the criminal nature of art and individualism. Purists shuddered - and still shudder - at their derring-do. The reason is because Hopkins and Wilde communicate. Going outwith the 'safe' and 'correct' limits of language, they wrench it, skew it, stretch it, push it to its furthest breaking point.

The question that they pose to readers is this: How far can one sacrifice the authenticity of the literary experience, in order to articulate its meaning to a wider audience? They remind the world that all art is a living art form, capable of being created afresh and anew with each undertaking. To communicate is to live. Thus, Hopkins and Wilde were geniuses not only because they created, but because they allowed themselves to be created, by every experience and encounter. Speaking directly to the audience that reads them at the given moment, their works bear the directness and rawness of men who stood in symbolical relation to their age, and in immediate relation to other ages. Their embrace of humanity was such that they 'broke' language and art to accomodate its prismatic range. That Hopkins and Wilde are as alive and pertinent now as in their own time is due to the live elements of their works: their art remains open to constant re-invention and re-interpretation, while retaining the passion and inimitable individuality of its original form. Such is the Wildean and Hopkinsian paradox: one becomes them as one performs them, one enacts the very things that they envision, yet despite all attempts at earnest imitation, one leaves the experience shaken yet intact, never quite attaining the verbal acrobatics of a presumptious juggler. Despite all efforts at mimicry, Hopkins and Wilde remain solidly themselves, and defy even the mimicry of the most skillful plagiarists. As this study illustrates, their presumptuous jugglery was manifested in a series of shared misadventures, which demonstrated how the quest for the equilibrium between voice and faith, the inner world and the outer, resulted in a series of not merely coincidental occurrences that one may study intently and through close analysis.

Links to Hopkins Literary Festival 2003

|| Scottish View of Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins || Explore other areas of The Hopkins Archive || Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Climb to Transcendence || Hart Crane and Gerard Manley Hopkins | How Father Hopkins SJ Prays || Oscar Wilde and Gerard Manley Hopkins || Flannery O Connor and Hopkins || Levelling with God || || || Polish writer Norwid and Hopkins influence || Walker Percy and Gerard Manley Hopkins ||