[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.