Seán Hewitt at The New Statesman:
Hopkins is the laureate of “all things counter, original, spare, strange”. He is also, to my mind, the most exquisite English poet of the 19th century. In life, however, he felt the censure not only of his strict Catholicism but also of his own isolation. In one of his late sonnets, he summed up his position as an unpublished – and perhaps unpublishable – poet. A reader unfamiliar with Hopkins’s work will feel immediately the taut difficulty of his language, the force of his sound-scapes, and the miraculous effect of his anthimeria, as in his striking use of “began” as a noun:
Only what word Wisest my heart breeds dark heaven’s baffling ban
Bars or hell’s spell thwarts. This to hoard unheard,
Heard unheeded, leaves me a lonely began.
Born in Stratford in Essex (now part of London) in 1844 to deeply religious High Church Anglican parents, Gerard Hopkins (he rarely used the name Manley) was short, fair and slightly built.