Hopkins was a typical mid-Victorian in the breadth of his interests and accomplishments – evidenced, not only by his writings, but also by unfulfilled plans for books on science, astronomy, and classical scansion. From his art work and musical compositions to translations from ancient rhetoricians, he demonstrated a keen capacity for “All things counter, original, spare, strange” and to his mind, beautiful.
Here are three of the books used by Hopkins to prepare lectures and examinations during the Dublin years. His marginal annotations are featured.
Homer’s Iliad was one of the prescribed texts for the RUI Greek B.A. “pass” and “honours” Matriculation examinations. Hopkins’s marginal annotations are featured.
Hopkins’s marginal annotations are featured. Lecture notes on Lucan, the ancient Roman poet (39-65 C.E.), are found in the “Dublin Notebook”.
Lucan’s surviving poem, the Pharsalia, is considered the greatest Latin epic after Virgil’s Aeneid. Hopkins’s marginal annotations are featured.
Undated fragment, beginning “Quid jus . . .”
“Tristi tu, memini, virgo cum sorte fuisti. . .”
Hopkins tried to learn violin (like his hero, John Henry Newman) and taught himself the rudiments of harmony and composition. Poems by Bridges, Patmore, Dixon, and Shakespeare provided lyrics; he also tried to set some of his own poems to music. During his Dublin years, he consulted with Sir Robert Stewart, Professor of Music at Trinity College. Hopkins’s written exchanges with Stewart were playful yet sometimes stinging. “Indeed my dear Padre I cannot follow you through your maze of words in your letter of last week,” Stewart lamented in May 1886; “I saw, ere we had conversed ten minutes on our first meeting, that you are one of those special pleaders who never believe yourself wrong in any respect. You always excuse yourself for anything I object to in your writing or music so I think it a pity to disturb you in your happy dreams of perfectability -- nearly everything in your music was wrong -- but you will not admit that to be the case” (22.05.1886).
Three different settings of this lyric by Shakespeare (Two Gentlemen of Verona,4.2.40ff) exist; Hopkins experimented with the melody and various accompaniments. He hoped that the song was “tuneful,” but did not consider it his best work.
Stewart’s comments on the manuscript: “nice sequential work” and “very nice.”
With his friend Edward Bond, Hopkins enjoyed a rigorous walking tour of Switzerland in July 1868; he wrote vividly about his adventures in his diary and made numerous drawings. Many of the sketches follow the example of John Ruskin’s Swiss renderings.