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This review is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

MORALS AND SCANSION Gerard Manley Hopkins: Selected Letters, edited by Catherine Phillips (Clarendon Press) £30

'Morals and scansion not being in one keeping, we will treat them in separate letters', wrote Hopkins to Robert Bridges, rather untypically; in fact, it was more his way to engage with both, to find both in one 'keeping', as is suggested in Catherine Phillips's attractive and useful selection of his letters, that illuminate the whole range of his concerns.

Most of Hopkins's readers nowadays are, one supposes, unfamiliar with the religious sensibility, especially the intensities of the nineteenth-century Catholic convert: it is beneficial to be reminded of those fervours. Thus, in 1868, just before entering the Jesuit novitiate, Hopkins threatens an Anglican friend teetering on the brink: 'If I tell you the truth it is that you are trying the patience of God and that the most terrible things our Lord uttered were spoken to some who had to all appearance more excuse than you ...' In 1877, he writes to his mother of her father's death, that he had hoped he would indeed die on 'the Feast of the Holy Rosary .... a day signalised by Our Lady's over-ruling aid asked for and given at the victory of Lepanto ... I receive it without questioning as a mark that my prayers have been heard and that the queen of Heaven has saved a Christian soul from enemies more terrible than a fleet of infidels'.

The great interest of the volume must be Hopkins's revelations, not only of the strains and demands of his ...

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