The virtues of Robert Bernard Martin’s new life of Hopkins are such as to make it not only a good life of a great poet but the best we are likely to have until such time as the world becomes profoundly moved again by those religious controversies that so moved Hopkins.[1] Martin, as in his previous biographies (Kingsley, Tennyson, FitzGerald), does his homework, spade-work, and leg-work; every reader of Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Very Private Life, even the best informed, will at least have to admit to having learned from it many a new substantial fact about Hopkins and his setting; and since there is no substitute for a biographer’s assiduous fair-minded clarity, this is a book to be thanked.

Hopkins’s life can have no surprises now, though it had plenty then. Gifted, craving, stubborn, idiosyncratic, and...

 
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