Readers of this posting who know me well will recall that I’m an atheist so may consider my reviewing a book about such a deeply religious man and his poetry a little incongruous and I suppose it is but here goes anyway.
I came across this book via Sheila, my wife, who asked me to order it for her as a Christmas present in 2020. What drew me to find out about the book and Manley Hopkins is the simple fact that I regularly cycle past Rose Hill House in Lydiate’s Pygons Hill Lane and I’d recognised the painting of the house on the book’s front cover. Here’s a present day photo of the scene:-
Rose Hill is a Grade II Listed Building I might add; here’s a link to British Listed Buildings:-
Firstly, who was Gerard Manley Hopkins? This link to the Poetry Foundation helps set the scene:-
The book talks about Manley Hopkins’ early life and influences and his conversion from Anglican to RC religion – which clearly caused some short-term family troubles. It then charts his arrival in Liverpool in January 1880 and his visits to Rose Hill House to celebrate Sunday Mass. It seems to have been a weekly event for a Jesuit from St. Francis Xavier’s Church in Salisbury Street Liverpool to ‘take the train to Lydiate*, sleep overnight, then celebrate Mass in the “chapel” at Rose Hill House’, a direct quote from the book. The celebrated poem ‘Spring and Fall’ was penned by Manley Hopkins at Rose Hill House in September 1880.
Well I’ve certainly learned some things I did not previously know about with regard to my adopted home community of Lydiate and it’s via books such as this that such gaps are filled in and our local history better understood. It’s well worth a read if you have an interest in Lydiate, poetry, the RC church etc.
Sales of the book will I understand support Hospice Africa – Ive noticed that it’s presently available (Feb 2021) via Abe Books price £6.89.
* It seems the Jesuit travellers would either have used Maghull Station or Town Green Station (both opened in 1849) on the present day Liverpool – Ormskirk line or Lydiate’s own Station on the Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway although that line and station did not open until 1884.
Note:- Tony Robertson (the editor of this blog site) is a former leader of Sefton Council and a present day member of Lydiate Parish Council