Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On John Ashbery's birthday

Here's wishing John Ashbery a very happy birthday!

It's also, however, Gerard Manley Hopkins' happy day, and so in honor of both I present...



1.) His nickname as a teenager at school was “Skin.”

1.a.) He was home schooled until he was about ten, and then almost got expelled from the school he eventually attended.

2.) The Hopkins family motto was Esse quan videri – “To be rather than to seem.”

3.) By the time Hopkins had begun writing poems seriously, the best selling poetry book of the century was John Keble’s The Christian Year, which went through 150 editions and sold 350,000 copies.

4.) When Hopkins saw Tintern Abbey, made famous by Wordsworth, he declared it to be merely “typical English workmanship.” OK, his actual words were “typical English work.”

5.) This is how close in time Hopkins is to us: his sister Katie lived until 1933 and his sister Millicent until 1946; his brother Lionel – an agnostic – lived till 1952, having never understood his brother’s path in life.

6.) Hopkins’ father Manley was also a poet, and dedicated one of his books to his friend, the comic- and picture-poet Thomas Hood.

7.) Hopkins’ father was in the insurance business, a self-made man who lifted himself from poverty to master French, Latin, and Greek on his own.

8.) Hopkins’ family had many ties to… Hawaii!

9.) Hopkins’ maternal grandfather was a doctor who got his medical training in London with Keats.

10.) Hopkins’ first published poem consisted of thirty-two lines in terza rima.

These facts gleaned from Paul Mariani’s biography, Gerard Manley Hopkins, published by Viking. The picture of Hopkins above is a self-portrait.


Steven Fama said...

11. His fetish for brindled things was dappled.

12. He initially called it Sprang Tempo.

and that's all I got, and those are jokes of course, but oh yes let me mention that David Markson in one of his great Don-you-gotta-read-em poem-novels (specifically Reader's Block uses the info in your factoid # 5 as follows:

Gerard Manley Hopkins died of typhoid fever in 1889. One of his brothers would live into the 1950s.

Susan M. Schultz said...

I think I just saw him the other day down at Waikiki Beach, rolling his consonants.