Hopkins Lectures 2008




























































Editing the Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins

Catherine Phillips, Oxford University

Catherine Phillips, Oxford University, discusses challenge of editing Hopkins letters and of a fragment of a recently discovered letter. This is work in progress as scholars try to unravell all the references.

Catherine Phillips Oxford University

At present Oxford University Press are publishing the Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins in eight volumes. The General Editors are Lesley Higgins and Michael Suarez and there are six other members of the editorial team, including Philip Endean, S.J., Jude Nixon, Kelsey Thornton and myself. Professor Lesley Higgins has already produced the Oxford Essays (vol. iv) and Professor Thornton and I are working on the letters, which will be the next part of the project to be published. The letters will appear in two volumes, arranged chronologically with the incorporation of as many replies as we can find. It will include alterations to the text and information about the envelopes giving posting times and places and be accompanied by extensive annotation. The volumes produced by Professor Thornton and myself are supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, to whom we are very grateful, for the work would simply not be possible without their assistance.

Tonight I thought that I would talk about a fragment of a letter that we discovered recently and set it in context. This is work in progress - we haven't yet unravelled all the references.

The fragment has up to now simply been considered within the context of Hopkins's drawings where it is plate 6 in Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins , edited by Humphry House and Graham Storey. Recently I noticed a fragment of writing on the verso of this drawing. We believe that it is part of a letter to Arthur, the brother next but one to Gerard in the family. We think this partly because of the tone and partly because the letter has come down through Arthur's descendants, the Handley-Derry family, with one written by Gerard to Arthur in 1881. Arthur was the brother with whom Gerard went on his most productive sketching trips during a family holiday on the Isle of Wight in 1863. Arthur later became a professional illustrator, working for the Illustrated London News , the Graphic , Punch and as illustrator for various novels, most famously Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native . He also painted in water-colours and oils. His pencil drawings are superb.

Gerard sent other decorated letters to his siblings such as that shown as Plate 7 in the Journals and Papers. Unlike the first one where the drawing occurs below the signature, this is clearly a decorated salutation but it helps to provide a context of the sort of illustration that Gerard sent to his brothers and sisters. Here, in this salutation to Arthur, there is plenty of Gerard's imaginative flare visible in his modifications to decoration used in medieval illuminated manuscripts: he replaces stylised Italianate foliage with natural bracken, for example, and makes the A of 'Arthur' a support for a cooking pot above a fire; we might guess that this letter was written in winter since there are no leaves on the trees and the liquid in the pail/ churn has turned to icicles.

Another charming salutation, in a letter to Gerard's sister Milicent, has a wonderful combination of practicality and fancy (Plate 5 in the published Journals ). It shows a beetle who is a passenger in a hazelnut shell that serves as a carriage drawn by a little steam engine. The hazelnut shell carriage is attached to the engine by cotton and a tack. The beetle is drawn with observational accuracy and Gerard seems to have considered how such a toy train might be made, with the wheels mounted on pins; the engine seems to be made of a bit of wood with a twisted paper funnel, and yet, with wonderful fancy, it exudes smoke- and so on.

There was a tradition of sending illustrated letters within the Hopkins/ or Smith family. Catherine, Gerard's mother, received a number decorated with rather beautifully drawn foliage from several of her sisters and Maria, her sister who married George Giberne, an experimenter with photography from about 1850, used photogenic drawings of leaves for some of her letters. So Gerard had family examples of personally decorated letters though none of the others were as inventive as his.

The caption to the drawing on the new letter fragment ( Journals , plate 6) reads: 'Fashionable Variation of the Sinking figure in the Lancers; now called the "Setting of the Evening Star"'. For a long time I thought that Humphry House and Graham Storey had made a rare mistake in their transcription and that it should be the sinking figure in the 'dancers'. However, 'Lancers' is far more interesting, and confirmed by an upper case L on the verso. The Lancer was a ballroom dance that was imported from the Continent with troops returning from the Napoleonic wars. It became the dance at Almack's in 1817. Almack's was a club for men and women which opened in St James in London in 1765. It was the place to be seen in early nineteenth-century London - it was said to be more important to be allowed in there than to 'come out'/ be introduced at court. Admission, by the season, was controlled by a succession of aristocratic ladies such as Anne Stewart, Marchioness of Londonderry, and later the Countess de Lieven (wife of the Russian ambassador) and Princess Esterhazy (wife of the Austrian ambassador). They decided who could buy non-transferable vouchers costing ten guineas a year, and whose vouchers would not be renewed or who might abruptly be excluded because their behaviour had been unacceptable. One of the people they admitted was the very poor Irish poet, Thomas Moore, who wrote an amusing account of the battle between native English Country Dance and the Quadrille (of which the Lancer was a type). The poem seems to have been influenced by Pope's 'Rape of the Lock' because the dispute is depicted as a mini battle between Country Dance personified as an English nymph and Quadrille personified as a French coquette. Country Dance, driven from the city by the popularity of the quadrille, decides to attend a New Year's ball in the country. As she approaches the door of the village hall she hears violinists playing an aria by Rossini and fears that even here her enemy has invaded. However, she summons up her courage and enters, only to find herself face to face with the 'cat-like' Mamselle Quadrille, the 'ideal' French beauty. Quadrille dances so 'slidingly', so near the floor that it seems she has made a 'compact' never to part from contact with mother earth. Country Dance, by contrast, is called 'fresh' and 'frank', English from head to toe, she's 'a little gauche', given to 'skips and bounces' that endanger her gowns and play 'the devil' with flounces. The two compete and, of course, Country Dance, ousts her rival.

The drawing in Gerard's letter of five young women dancing reveals a side of the him that we are usually unaware of: his interest in contemporary social fashions. The dancer in the foreground, who is drawn with greatest detail, has a series of eight (or possibly nine) bows on her dress and two in her hair. I thought that these were simply bows but they have been made so prominent that they may also be representing stars in a constellation surrounding the setting of the planet Venus, the morning, and the evening star. Alternatively, it may be that the stars in a constellation are signified by the other four dancers. Either way we would have two superimposed images: women in ball dresses, and the planet seen within a constellation. This superimposition is found in Hopkins's poetry, as for example, in the poem 'Moonrise June 19/ 1876', in which he records glancing out of his window very early one morning to see a crescent moon just rising above a Welsh mountain and describes the crescent moon as 'the fringe of a fingernail held to the candle'. Hopkins's use of metaphor is striking because of his gift for evocative wording and his ability to recognise similarities regardless of disproportion in size, such as the moon and the tip of a fingernail.

Because Kelsey and I are presenting the letters in chronological order, we need to be able to date each one as closely as possible. From the handwriting I would guess that this fragment is no later than mid-1865, and 1862 to early 1864 would be more likely. We have rather little by which to judge Hopkins's writing before 1862. Other clues come from the allusions, the most intriguing of which reads: 'Last Saturday Aunt Fanny and I went to the Crystal Palace. There was a concert - Madam Lemmens-Sherrington and Mr. Santley sang. One of the songs was from Victorine and anoth.' And there it breaks off.The allusions are most easily tackled in the order in which they appear:

Aunt Fanny was Frances Smith, one of Gerard's mother's sisters, and we know from his Journals that he borrowed a music book from her and sent her a couple of letters between September and December 1864 ( Journals , p.44).

The way in which Hopkins mentions the Crystal Palace and the concert sounds as if the concert was not the principal reason for going to the place:

Last Saturday Aunt Fanny and I went to the Crystal Palace. There was a concert' rather than 'Last Saturday Aunt Fanny and I went to a concert. It was at the Crystal Palace.'

So why should he have gone there and what might he have seen? The Crystal Palace to which Hopkins was referring was the rebuilt edifice at Sydenham. The original Palace was constructed at Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The rebuilt structure was some considerable way south of the city centre on a hill at Sydenham, one of the highest places in the London area so the Palace could be seen glinting in the sun from many places within the city. Two railway lines and two stations were constructed and the area became a popular suburb. Construction on the palace started in 1852 and the building was opened by Queen Victoria in 1854. Called the Palace of the People it cost £1.5 million and over £60,000 in upkeep annually - a colossal sum but it was an amazing place. The main building, exclusive of wings and colonnades, was 1,850 feet long (approximately 600 metres) and over 400 feet wide (about 120 metres), and was composed of 9,642 tons of iron and twenty-five acres of glass. The rebuilt Crystal Palace had a central transept that was made much higher than in the original building, and the north and south transepts and the two towers were new. The towers were designed to give the force necessary for the decorative fountains, which surpassed those of Versailles; there were 11,000 jets of water, the highest of which rose to a height of over two hundred feet. The towers were each 282 feet high (107 feet higher than Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square). It took several attempts to construct them in a way that was strong enough to take the force of the water. However, they were then so strong that in 1942, when it was feared that they were rather visible and unmistakable landmarks for enemy aircraft, they had to be demolished with dynamite. The park too was extensive, providing a variety of entertainments. There was a 'prehistoric' swamp complete with models of dinosaurs. They were the first prehistoric animals ever built and 'arrived' only 30 years after the first fossils of dinosaurs were discovered. There were lakes and woodland walks, a 'gymnasium' where national contests were held, and a cricket ground. Later a theme park with a rollercoaster was added and a football ground in which some twenty cup finals were held. There was a speed track (used to film the original version of The Italian Affair with Michael Cain).There were fireworks displays at night including early ones in which men in asbestos suits carried out routines that moved wooden frames to which fireworks were attached. (The silliest of the shapes I have seen illustrated were gigantic roosters. Apparently there was also a giant gymnast who carried out cartwheels and gradually disappeared into the night as the frame burnt up - first the legs disappearing so that the torso and arms carried on revolving and then steadily dwindling - rather like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland .)

The palace itself contained rooms displaying art and the architecture from a variety of places and historical periods: Egyptian, Grecian, Pompeian. Medieval, Spanish (the Alhambra) among others. In the week when I think Hopkins may have been there the following things were advertised in The Times : 'Thursday: Dr Klinckel's Eleventh Lecture on the Collections of ancient art in the Palace: subject-Roman Sculpture; in the Lecture theatre.

Friday: Grand Archery Meeting

Saturday: concert, Display of Great Fountains and entire Series of Waterworks.

There were also spectacular performers such as Blondin, who carried out various feats along his high wire, including cooking an omelette on a small, neatly balanced stove, which he carried in a frying pan to the spectators in a nearby gallery for their tasting. (29 May 1862, p.1)

What music was there? The Crystal Palace was not designed for concerts but it became, according to Michael Musgrave who wrote the authoritative book on the subject, 'the most important single location for public music-making in the United Kingdom'. The man behind the organisation of music at the palace was George Grove, familiar from Grove's dictionaries to music, opera and so on. He appointed, not at first but early on, the conductor August Manns, a German who had had experience of conducting marching bands. Manns was to be the resident conductor for nearly fifty years. He brought the precision from very careful preparation to the various musical groups he controlled and was very innovative in the music he chose for the programmes. The Crystal Palace became an important centre for musical education, fostering contemporary English taste for instrumental music. The list of premieres includes most of Schubert's symphonies, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak's, Liszt, Richard Strauss's symphonic poems, Tchaikovsky's 'Overture to Romeo and Juliet', Mozart's 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik', Berlioz's Grand Mass and dozens of others as well as a virtually equal number of British works by such composers as Arthur Sullivan (better known now through his partnership with Gilbert and Sullivan), Charles Villiers Stanford, Edward Elgar, Charles Parry, Henry Walford Davies and so on. Many of these premieres were in the Saturday concerts. From 1856, when Covent Garden burnt down, there were also opera concerts by both indigenous and visiting opera companies and, from 1869 till the turn of the century, there were as well comic operas and vaudevilles. From 1860 there were national brass band championships with winners such as Black Dyke Mills Band, Hebburn Colliery, Wingates Temperance, St Hilda Colliery, and then, in the late 1920s, Foden's Motor works. The Palace had its own brass band who entertained both inside and out. Often there would be a concert followed by promenade to brass band music provided by the Grenadier Guards.

The central transept of the Crystal Palace was chosen as the place in which to site the Sacred Harmonic Society for the concert at the opening of the palace in 1854. It was a larger space than that provided by any other in Britain. There were 200 instrumentalists and 1,000 singers (from all over the country) and a platform with an amphitheatre had to be constructed for them 150 feet wide by 50-60 feet deep with the amphitheatre rising to 42 feet above the floor (about five stories). This structure was built in a week.

In 1857 there was 'The Great Handel Festival'. For this a permanent stage was constructed and an organ with over 4,500 pipes built (the largest in Britain). This time there were 2,000 singers. The orchestra consisted of 300 strings, nine each of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons; twelve each of horns, mixed trumpets and cornets; nine trombones; nine serpents and bass horns, three drums and six side drums. The 'Halleluiah Chorus' could be 'distinctly heard' nearly half a mile away. Although the large groups were very audible, the singing of the poor soloists was lost in the great glass vault, so two canopies were successively added in order to retain the sound more effectively.

There was an increase nationally in the number and size of choirs. For the Handel Festival of 1858, there were 2,500 singers with 200 coming from the Bradford Choral Society and 1,400 from the London Handel Festival Choir. As well as works by Handel, items by Rossini, Mozart and Mendelssohn (a new composer at the time) were included and the audience numbered 20,000. Responding to the reservations expressed by Robert Bridges in 1888, Hopkins, while criticising Handel's recitative, asserted, 'But Handel is Handel. I was at the Glasgow Exhibition (a very fine one) and heard a piece of an organ-recital ending with a chorus by Handel: it was as if a mighty besom swept away so much dust and chaff'. The celebration of the 150 th anniversary of Handel's birth in 1859 became the first of the triennial Handel festivals. On the same page of The Times as the advertisement for the concert I think Hopkins heard, there is an announcement of the programme for the Handel Festival: Monday: The Messiah , Wednesday: a Selection. Friday: Israel in Egypt . The Illustrated London News reported that the audience for the performance of Israel in Egypt numbered 26,826.

Incidentally, another feature of the way our concerts are arranged now that was an innovation of the Crystal Palace was the provision of programme notes. Beginning in 1856 George Grove wrote a few at the request of August Manns when he wanted to give the audience more information about some particular work, such as details about Mozart for the centenary of his birth in 1856, but Grove developed these into something far more scholarly and informative by the mid 1860s, using material collected for his great Dictionary of Music and Musicians and from personal knowledge of such contemporary musicians as Clara Schumann and Jacob Joachim (a great friend of Brahms'). The Palace performances included many musicians who were on the international concert circuit.

Victorine , the opera mentioned by Hopkins in his letter fragment, was composed by Alfred Mellon (1820-67) in 1859 to a libretto by Edmund Falconer whose real name was Edmund O'Rouke (1814-79). Born in Dublin, O'Rouke was at various times manager of the Lyceum, Drury Lane and Her Majesty's Theatre in Haymarket. The opera's premiere was at Covent Garden in 1859 with Euphrosyne Parepa in the title role. Euphrosyne's mother was a singer and she had various other musical relatives. She formed an opera company with the violinist Carl Rosa and they that made a number of successful tours in America and Europe with both Continental and English operas. Rosa was German and a child prodigy who became friendly with Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan) while at the Leipzig conservatory. Rosa was the director and conductor in the company and Parepa a leading English soprano; unfortunately she died shortly after giving birth in 1874.

One of the singers with whom the company made their tour of 1871-2 was Charles Santley. There are recordings of him. He was born in Liverpool on February 28, 1834 and celebrated his golden jubilee as a singer at the Royal Albert Hall on 1 May 1907, the year in which he was knighted. Although he made his farewell appearance at Covent Garden on 23 May 1911, he emerged from retirement in 1915 to sing at the Mansion House in London in a concert in aid of Belgian refugees. He died in London on September 22, 1922. He became the most eminent and popular English baritone in the Victorian era and Edwardian age with what has been called 'the longest, most distinguished and most versatile vocal career which history records', performing in opera, oratorio and also on the concert stage - he frequently sang in the Handel festivals. If one looks through advertisements for concerts in the nineteenth century - as I have had to do - it is quite astonishing just how many recitals, concerts, oratorio and opera appearances he made. He toured in Europe, the States, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It was Santley who led the cast of Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer , the first of Wagner's operas to be performed in London, at Drury Land in 1870. He would be away from England for months at a time, performing at La Scala and so on. He was also a composer. Converted to Roman Catholicism in 1880, he wrote a number of religious works for the Roman Catholic Church, and Pope Leo XIII made him a Commander of St Gregory in 1887. Santley also composed several songs under the pseudonym of Ralph Betterton, wrote books on singing and a couple of books of memoirs.

Helen Lemmens-Sherrington was the leading English concert and operatic soprano of the 1860s. She was born Helen Sherrington in Preston, in England, in 1834, studied singing abroad at Rotterdam and Brussels and, in 1857, married the Belgian organist and composer Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens (1823-1881), who founded the School of Church Music at Mechelen in 1878. Her stage debut was in 1860 in the new opera Robin Hood conducted by Charles Hallé and with Charles Santley in the cast. She shared several roles with Euphrosyne Parepa but from 1866 concentrated on the concert stage rather than opera. She was in great demand - one can find weeks in which she was singing in two or more concerts, she went on tours in the Britain, took part in regional festivals (such as the Three Choirs festival) as a soloist, and was one of the original group awarded the Royal Philamonic's Gold Medal in 1871. On the death of her husband in 1881 she turned to teaching in Brussels, London and Manchester. She died in Brussels in 1906.

Well, one would have thought that with two soloists mentioned and an item from the programme that finding the concert that Hopkins attended would be easy. The Saturday concerts were always advertised on the front page of The Times - the whole of the front page at this period was given to advertisements for concerts, entertainments, special events. In the end I looked through from 1861 to 1867, most of it several times on microfilm and digital files. I inquired at the Bromley Library Archives, the British Library, the Royal College of Music, the Manchester Library archives, and of specialists. I checked for reviews in the Athenaeum , in the Musical Times , the Musical World , Santley's memoirs, books on the music of the period by a host of authors, the enlarged Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and so on. There were very few Saturday concerts in which Santley and Lemmens-Sherrington were jointly soloists and none in which something from Victorine appears. There are a few avenues not yet exhausted - I haven't yet had replies to all my queries but we (the archivists and I) jointly conclude that either Hopkins was muddled, or that the song was an encore. It may have been 'I never can forget', a song from the opera that Santley sang as a separate 'hit'.

Finally, I present to you the programme that, with the various constraints, looks the most likely: the Saturday Concert of May 31 1862. Vocalists, Madame Lemmens Sherrington and Mr. Santley. A select chorus of 120 voices. Pianoforte: Herr Alfred Jaell (his first appearance).


1. Grand Exhibition March, Auber.

2. Cantata "The Daughter of the Isles" (H. Leslie)

3. Shadow Song from Dinorah (Meyerbeer), Madam Lemmens Sherrington.

4. Fantasia for pianoforte, chorus and orchestra (Beethoven), Herr Alfred Jaell.

5. Song "The Colleen Bawn" (Benedict) Mr Santley

6. Solos for Pianoforte, Gavotte, in G minor, J. S. Bach; Transcription form Tannhauser and "Home Sweet Home," with variations by Herr Jaell.

7. Part Song O! who will o'er the downs (Pearsall), and "Rule Britannia" (Dr. Arne), orchestral band and chorus. Conductor Mr. Manns.

Open at 9. Concert at half-past 3. Display of Great fountains at a quarter to 3. Admission half-a-crown; children, 1s.: reserved seats, half-a-crown extra. Season tickets available till 30 April, 1863, one guinea each.

I suspect that we can place this fragment amongst the earliest letters we have of Hopkins - early June 1862. One last note - the Crystal Palace came to an end during the night of 30 November 1936. Fire broke out in the Egyptian court and within half an hour the whole Palace was alight. Despite the efforts of all the fire brigades who could reach the area, the whole place was by morning a mass of smouldering ruin and twisted metal. It was the end of an era.

1. J. R. Piggott, Palace of the People: the Crystal Palace at Sydenham 1854-1936 (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2004).Michael Musgrave, The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

2. The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Bridges , edited by C. C. Abbott, second edition, London: Oxford University Press, 1955, pp.280-281.

3. See Percy A. Scholes, The Mirror of Music 1844-1944 (Oxford: Novello & Co. and Oxford University Press, 1947, pp. 382ff.

4. The Times (May 29 th 1862), p.1.

Links to 2008 Hopkins Festival Lectures

|| Editing Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins || Fancy in Hopkins Poetics || Hopeful Hopkins || Dolben and Hopkins || Dancer Isadora Duncan and Hopkins Poetry || Hopkins and Water Imagery || The Dark Sonnets || Hopkins Interpretation || A Scottish Reading of Hopkins Poetry || John Henry Newman and Translation ||