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...


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