Hopkins's letters to receive US award

Poet & priest: Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ
Poet & priest: Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ

Two volumes of correspondence by the 19th century Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ are to be awarded the 13th Morton N. Cohen Award for a Distinguished Edition of Letters by the Modern Language Association (MLA) of America. The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, volumes I and II: Correspondence have been edited by R. K. R. Thornton, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and Catherine Phillips, of the University of Cambridge. They are published by Oxford University Press.

The Cohen Award was established in 1989 by a gift from Morton N. Cohen, professor emeritus of English at the City University of New York. It is one of 15 awards that will be presented on 9 January 2016, during the MLA’s annual convention, to be held in Austin, Texas. The selection committee described the editors’ work on Hopkins’ letters as “exemplary”, saying they displayed his “intellectual and poetic growth” and revealed his attraction to Welsh verse.

R.K.R.Thornton was head of the School of English at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and head of English at Birmingham University until 2000. In addition to writing about Gerard Manley Hopkins, he has written on Ivor Gurney, John Clare and the English 1890s; he has also edited the poetry of Ernest Dowson, Joseph Skipsey, Clare and Gurney. At present, he is working on the next volume of the Collected Works of Hopkins, while also keeping busy as a poet and translator.

A moving and revealing narrative

Catherine Phillips is a fellow and the director of Studies in English at Downing College, the University of Cambridge and has published several articles on 19thand 20th century writers. She is the author of Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian Visual World and Robert Bridges: A Biography. She is also the editor of The Hour-Glass: Manuscript Materials by W. B. Yeats as well as editions of Hopkins’s poetry and letters.

The committee’s citation for the winning edition reads: Gerard Manley Hopkins’s letters offer glimpses into the mind of one of the most original English poets, from his first letter to his mother at age eight until the last, dictated shortly before his death at age forty-four. R. K. R. Thornton and Catherine Phillips’s superb editorial work in these volumes of The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins shows the poet crafting his letters, cancelling, inserting, and adjusting words, re-examining even the most casual utterance. The chronological arrangement importantly includes all known letters to Hopkins from his correspondents. The result is a moving narrative of intellectual and poetic growth, revealing (along with much else) the writer’s attraction to early Welsh verse and its meters. The editors’ introduction, timetables, annotations, biographical register of Hopkins’s correspondents, and index are exemplary.

Read more on the Oxford University Press website.