Friday, December 03, 2010

Finds (1): Maurice Duggan' s Copy of G. M. Hopkins

[Bridges, Robert, ed. Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. 1918. Second Edition. With an Appendix of Additional Notes, and a Critical Introduction by Charles Williams. 1930. The Oxford Bookshelf. 1937. London: Oxford University Press, 1941.]

Actually it was the book itself that attracted me most to begin with. I'm a bit of a Charles Williams fan, for one thing, and then again it was interesting to see Robert Bridge's original arrangement of the poems (Hopkins died in 1889, but - famously and notoriously - it wasn't till 1918 that his friend and executor Bridges finally published them, after thirty odd years of dithering).

It had a rather dark and soiled binding, so it wasn't surprising that it was priced so cheaply, at $8.

But then I took a closer look at the flyleaf:

Ériger en lois sans impressions personnelles, c’est le grand effort d’un homme s’il est sincère
[Formulating laws without personal bias, this is the supreme achievement of a serious man]
– Rémy de Gourmont

Maurice Duggan (1922-1974) is - of course - far better known as a short story writer than a poet, though a short book of his poems, A Voice for the Minotaur, was published posthumously by the Holloway Press in 2002.

It's therefore quite interesting to see him purchasing (and annotating) a copy of Hopkins in 1944, at the age of 22. There's a certain schoolboy earnestness in the way he notes down important facts: he's careful to write in the date of Hopkins' death on the halftitle, for instance:

Duggan's author page on the Book Council site (copied from the 1998 Oxford Companion to NZ Literature) specifies that it was "early in 1944 [that] he made contact with Frank Sargeson at Sargeson’s Takapuna bach, and the older man quickly became his mentor." Perhaps it was at Frank's suggestion that he decided to bone up on Hopkins, buying this book on the 8th of July of that year.

Duggan wrote notes on a number of the poems - mostly the famous ones: "The Windhover", "Pied Beauty" etc., and marked them on the list of contents:

Most of his efforts seem to have been directed at understanding Hopkins' fiendishly difficult classification system for English metre, though. He marks some passages in the famous preface which explain the differences between conventional "running" metre and his own new "sprung rhythm".

Overall, the notes are more technical than interpretive (how many similarly annotated copies of Hopkins are to be found in the second-hand bookshops of the world, each with its sets of extra stresses and "outrides" marked in from the notes at the back of the book?). There is one interesting feature about them, though: a curious little pencil mark which looks almost like a set of parted lips - or a little heart.

For the most part, though, he contents himself with metrical stresses and comments on whether or not that particular poem is in "running" (i.e. conventional) or "sprung" (Hopkinsian - though he claimed it was prefigured in medieval alliterative verse, as well as Milton's late metrics in Samson Agonistes) rhythm:

At the end of the book, there's a little index of particularly significant lines and expressions. There's a certain taste for the florid on display here, perhaps more appropriate to the future author of "Along Rideout Road That Summer", with its insistent echoes of "Kubla Khan", than to the Sargesonian realist of Immanuel's Land (1956).

I find the fact that he singled out "yields tender as a pushed peach" for particular notice rather amusing, given his later close friendship with Kendrick Smithyman, who abhorred Hopkins with a passion.

[And how do you know that, Dr Ross? I hear you ask. Well, it's funny you should ask me that. I recall one day mentioning to Kendrick that I'd been attempting to explaining Hopkins to some Stage One students, only to hear from him in reply what overwritten slop he considered it to be. This very line, "tender as a pushed peach," with its obvious homoerotic overtones, came up in the discussion (as I recall) as a kind of final demonstration of Hopkins' lack of restraint or subtlety ...]

Sargeson, though himself far less closeted as a homosexual, regarded Hopkins' difficulties in expressing the true nature of his emotions with considerable interest and respect, and it was - paradoxically - more Sargeson's taste in poetry than his insistence on laconic hardbitten prose which would be dominant in the heterosexual Duggan's later, more baroque prose works ("The Magsman's Miscellany", for instance).

It's not suprising, I suppose, that the name "Hopkins" does not appear in the index of Ian Richards' otherwise magisterial To Bed at Noon: The Life and Art of Maurice Duggan (AUP, 1997). It would be difficult to justify a claim that he was an important influence on Duggan at any time. He clearly did read him, though - and with considerable care - and it's rather nice to be able to examine these neat and meticulous annotations at this distance in time, more than six decades later.

The back flyleaf of the book contains the following set of lines:

Are in his eyes, and in his ears
The murmur of a thousand years;
Before him he sees Life unroll,
A placid and continuous whole

These turn out to be from a poem by Matthew Arnold, "Resignation". The precise connection with Hopkins isn't clear, but perhaps it denotes Duggan's determination, even at this early stage, to carry out Arnold's instructions "to see life steadily and see it whole" - to savour the eccentricities and felicities of so ambitious and complex (yet also so personally and professionally thwarted) a predecessor as Gerard Manley Hopkins.


Anonymous said...

Dear Jack,

A resonant piece on MD's copy of GMH: I can hear the latter in the former, faintly.

Thank you,

Jack Ross said...

Dear David,

Yes, I agree. There's a kind of lyrical bravura in Duggan which clearly comes more from the poetry he read than the prose ...

His own poems, by contrast, are rather pared-down and prosaic,

best, jack

maps said...

A great find!

Richard said...

Smithyman is a major poet but I cant agree with his view of Hopkins.

I think that he was a homosexual is irrelevant. He was deeply religious.

I have not been very impressed with what I have read of Duggan but I have only read a few stories. I have known the Rideout Road story for many years...

But I can never exhaust reading "The Wreck of the Deutschland" (for example).

While I admire Smithyman's unique stye it is not mine so...hmmm...I really don't come to any of his poems with the same fascination as I do to Hopkins.

I know Leicester was also dismissive of Hopkins because of his sexuality and perhaps also as he was Catholic (a "rival" to his Anglicanism perhaps - I don't know much about these religious divisions)- I find all that stuff strange (and for me irrelevant - if it matters the poet or writer is no good). I was big fan of John Ashbery for years, and one day I read that he was gay, it had not occurred to me at all, and it didn't matter to me, it didn't alter my view of his writing.

But that is a fascinating copy you have - sale price? Be hard to gauge.

Jack Ross said...

I have to say that I do feel some sympathy with Kendrick's position on Hopkins, even though I might feel inclined to extend a little more charity than that - I spent so many years trying to admire all that overwrought architecture and hysterical phrasing that it was quite a relief to be given licence to dislike him.

As for Duggan, at his best he is exceptionally fine, I think. Those early stories ("A Small Story", for example) are very well-done, very unobtrusive. More to my taste than the later stuff, though I certainly admire his refusal to stand still and milk just the one, realist aesthetic. Were there any real symbolists in NZ before him?

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack Ross,

Scott Hamilton kindly sent me the URL for your blog mentioning Maurice Duggan and the book of Hopkins poetry with Duggan's annotations, and he asked me if I'd seen your posting. I hadn't, so it was nice to read what you'd put up there. I enjoyed reading your blog and it's nice to think of
Maurice's book going to such an appreciative home.

Barbara Duggan died in October last year and I suspect that her son, Nick, has been taking some of the stacks of dusty books in the house to the second-hand book shops. Michele Leggott contacted me a while back about a book she'd bought second-hand which had Duggan notations in it and even a photograph. Maurice liked squirreling things away between pages. The photo of him in To Bed at Noon making a full fervour presentation at his advertising company literally fell out of a book into my lap one day.

So, for what it's worth, I can confirm for you that the scans on your blog certainly do show what look like Maurice's handwriting, circa 1944. By July 1944 Maurice had met Sargeson and was much under the spell of Greville Texidor. Her influence may account for the exotic quotation from Remy de Gourmont on the flyleaf, and even, to some extent, the florid quotations at the end of the book. Maurice very early in the day rather liked the idea of
himself as a stylistically florid asthete-writer, then purged it from himself for his first mature stories, and then slowly let it all back again later.

Anyway, the reason why no mention of Hopkins appears in the Duggan biography is that I simply never saw the book. A pity. I did look through Maurice's bookshelves, but obviously I was not careful enough. There may be some more
Duggan originals to be had out there in the second-hand book marts of Auckland at the moment, and who knows what may be in them.

Best wishes,
Ian Richards.

Jack Ross said...

Dear Ian,

Thanks for that. I thought I'd better just add how much I enjoyed (and admired) your fantastic Duggan biography. Maps & I are - as you can see - both Smithyman fans, and yours is really the only book to date to provide useful collateral info about his circle of friends (apart from some of Peter Simpson's work).

I certainly didn't mean the slightest criticism to be implied by the absence of "Hopkins" from your index: he was certainly not an important influence on Duggan, and it's Coleridge and the Romantics who are most evident in his work in general.

Basically I was just pleased to have discovered something that seemed to have escaped your otherwise exhaustive treatment ... (I think I used the word "magisterial" in context, and it was not a word chosen lightly).

The Texidor suggestion is interesting. Remy de Gourmont is someone Pound quotes from a lot, too, I think.

best, jack

Dougal said...

Passionate hatreds can be as productive as passionate loves, though, can't they?

The last line in "Closing the Chocolate Factory" does a ripper job: " Margaret, are you grieving? Yes, she is." It's a poem about a topic and a time (Rogernomics is there somewhere, yes?) which it'd be very easy to get overwrought over, although of course Smithyman never does.

Here's to brazil nuts, raisins, dark energy!

Richard said...

I came here "obliquely"...I know why the criticism goes to Hopkins. I still feel he is a significant poet. Scott makes the point, and I had heard it before (in fact it is in a book I have of Hopkins's works), that the prose of Hopkins is better or (more pleasing interesting subtle). And indeed his descriptions and musings are interesting. And this as a record of a significant NZ writer's work has an importance that confirms for me that bibliophilia has many values (not that we need 'use'), more that the total process shows aspects that can enrich what an author is in fact we have at least two authors, and what authors read is as significant almost as what they write; and indeed the 'school-boyish' annotations. The enthusiasm comes across in those notes! I like to make notes on my own books, even do in pencil on library books....

I have that biography of Duggan. I have never read it (I should of course). Also a book which is a study of Hopkins and invokes Schopenhauer which is like another I have that compares Dickens and Kafka (I believe Kafka did read Dickens...). 'He sees [makes] all these connections.' (Jack Ross re Don Smith who gave the speech at the Launch of 'Nights with Giodorno Bruno'.)

As I say I came to this looking for another post I thought you did.