b. 28 July 1844
d. 8 June 1889
In some of the most original poetry of the Victorian period, the sexually-repressed Gerard Manley Hopkins celebrated male beauty as one of the most splendid witnesses to the divine.
Born at Stratford, Essex, Hpkins grew up in refined and pleasant circumstances. Always an exceptional student, he distinguished himself at Highgate School then, from 1833, at Balliol College, Oxford. Here he developed a deep infatuation for Digby Dolben, the cousin of his close friend and later literary executor, Robert Bridges. It was with Dolben that Hopkins came closest to physical relationship with another man.
According to his diary, Hopkins was unable to keep himself from masturbating after meeting Dolben, and he generally struggled with feelings of self-loathing because he was often excited and aroused by strangers.
He was converted in 1866 to Roman Catholicism, and in 1868 began to train as a Jesuit. He preached and ministered as a priest in Ireland and England and subsequently taught. He died of typhoid.
His poetry is profoundly religious and records his struggle to gain faith and peace, but also shows great freshness of feeling and delight in nature. A complete edition, including the perhaps best-known poems, The Wreck of the Deutschland (1876), and The Windhover (1877), was issued in 1918. His employement of "sprung rhythm", allied to the Old and middle English alliterative verse, has greatly influenced later 20th century poetry.
He experienced a life-long tension between being a poet with homoerotic feelings, and a Jesuit priest. His poetry was written in secret, and published 30 years after his death by his friend Robert Bridges.His Journals and Papers were published in 1959, and three volumes of letters in 1955-56.