'To seem the stranger lies my lot, my life/Among strangers': so begins one of the darkest and most overtly autobiographical of Hopkins's poems, written in Ireland a few years before his death. In this major new biography, more deeply researched, fully documented, and comprehensive than any before it, Norman White uses the intimate evidence of the poems, letters, and journals, his personal knowledge of the places where Hopkins lived, and all surviving documentary records, to explore the life of the priest-poet who constantly felt himself 'the stranger' in his world. It was more than just the enforced restlessness of his life following his conversion and the decision at twenty-four to become a Jesuit - though Hopkins's writings again and again reveal his responsiveness to place, and his poignant sense of having no true home. His inner life was also an unresolved search for answers to his own difficult temperament: a series of crises, in fact, to which his responses were typically extreme, and ultimately unsatisfying.His vivid apprehension of beauty and particularity - in language, in the characters of men, in natural things, in what he perceived as the nature of Christ - was fuelled as much by longing as by calm assurance of belief. It is just this that makes him a supreme poet not only of nature but of the religious condition: the experience of both faith and despair. Norman White investigates Hopkins's background and Oxford student life, and the Roman Catholic world which he entered, carefully and without prejudgements, setting his development and the movement of his thought against the background of Victorian England. The turmoil of Hopkins's strange personality, which often militated against his chances of happiness and success, is fully explored, as is the effect of his austere profession on his highly original writings - the journals and poems that are among the most remarkable works of literature in the English language.
av Norman White
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