Letter from a Poet: Gerard Manley Hopkins to Ignatius Ryder

By Elizabeth Huddleston
Published in New and Noteworthy
January 27, 2021
3 min read
Letter from a Poet: Gerard Manley Hopkins to Ignatius Ryder

Just seven months before his death, the now famous poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, penned the following letter to Henry “Ignatius” Ryder. Both Hopkins and Ryder were significant correspondents of John Henry Newman. Newman was particularly influential for Hopkins, who was received into the Catholic Church at the Birmingham Oratory on October 21, 1866 under the direction of Newman. Ignatius Ryder had a lifelong connection with Newman through the Birmingham Oratory. He was first a pupil of the Oratory beginning around age twelve, began his Oratorian novitiate in 1856, was ordained a priest in 1863, and he was elected Superior of the Birmingham Oratory after Newman’s death. 

This previously unpublished letter is housed in NINS Digital Collections, which  NINS include over 250,000 images featuring letters, library records, photographs, maps, manuscripts, music scores, and more are added daily.

Rev. Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889) to Henry Ignatius Dudley Ryder (1837–1907)

Univ. Coll., Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Nov. 14 1888.

My dear Fr. Ignatius, Pax Christi—Thank you for your prompt kindness and the cardinal for his. One remark you make calls for reply. “Surely” you say “there must be a copy of that gazette at the Catholic University.” I daresay there is, but the difficulty is to find the Catholic University. This house is its empty birds nest. For the books, it is true, I can answer: They at least are not at the Catholic University. The bishops of Ireland decreed that the Jesuits should be asked to work this college; a committee of them was appointed to carry out the necessary arrangements; pursuant to the object of their appointment the committee, as the Jesuit’s came in, carried out- it seems I ought to go on some other way, but they carried out the library; they disembarrassed the workmen of their tedious tools, and removed the books to the Diocesan seminary at Clonliffe, where now they lie, acquiring antiquity and the interest of “worming.” After a while our then Rector made an appeal to the Bishops. The Bishops, some of whom absolutely refused to believe the books had taken away (sed nomin hore justificatus sum; but that did not bring them back), passed a resolution they sh[oul]d he restored. Then all the more they rested at Clonliffe.  Presently Mr. Tom Arnold of the old staff wrote to the Archbishop for them. Diplomatic answer and the books drove another root into Clonliffe parish. Now the students are petitioning: I shall be curious to see what becomes of their petitioning. But can these things be? Ay and worse things, as the old song used to say “this is the way we wash our hair” or “this is the way we put on our close” or so we go round the mulberry bush all on a Monday morning” or to that effect or ineffectiveness.

I do think you need not trouble about George Teiling’s sonnet. To my knowledge that sonnet is the Syrophoenician woman of these parts, the Haemorrhoissa of the nineteenth century; it has suffered many things of many physicians and is none of the better but rather worse. I have myself performed some very trying operations on it and been positively assured that no more of the cruelty should now be called in; yet I believe it has more cork and leather and splints and more gutta percha about it now by a great deal than I ever left on it. And really it as a graceful buxom young woman when I can remember. I would advise you to retire from the care.

I am yours very sincerely in Christ.

Gerard Hopkins


A special thank you to Duquesne University student, Jaycee Revo, for her transcription work.

Previous Article
Newman in America: Correspondence with J. B. Purcell, Archbishop of Cincinnati
Elizabeth Huddleston

Elizabeth Huddleston

Associate Editor, Newman Studies Journal

Elizabeth Huddleston is Head of Research and Publications at the National Institute for Newman Studies and is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Catholic Studies at Duquesne University.


Newman Today
New and Noteworthy
© 2024, All Rights Reserved.
National Institute for Newman Studies