Born at Stratford, Essex, on July 28th, the eldest of what would be eight children. His father Manley is a marine insurance adjuster as well as an amateur poet and composer; his mother Catherine (nėe Smith) is fond of music and literature. Both parents are very religious High Church Anglicans.
Family moves to 9 Oak Hill Park, Hampstead.
Gerard enrolls as a boarding student at Highgate School. He will remain there as a student until 1862, winning the school’s Poetry Prize in 1860. One of his teachers is Richard Watson Dixon, a poet and Keats enthusiast with whom Hopkins will renew acquaintance in 1878.
Enters Balliol College, Oxford, where he will study Greek and Latin, write more poetry (see Heaven-Haven), form many close friendships such as with Robert Bridges, and benefit from excellent teachers such as Benjamin Jowett and Walter Pater. His college years are also a period of religious turmoil, leading to his conversion to Roman Catholicism in the fall of 1866. Hopkins’s academic career at Oxford culminates with his earning a first-class degree when he graduates in June 1867.
Spends a year teaching at the Birmingham Oratory run by John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman.
Decides to become a priest and to enter the Jesuit order, beginning his studies at the Jesuit novitiate at Manresa House, Roehampton, London (in preparation for which he abandons the writing of poetry).
Begins three years of Jesuit philosophy studies at St. Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, Lancashire. During these studies he encounters and is much influenced by the ideas of the medieval Franciscan philosopher Duns Scotus (cf. haecceitas and inscape in terminology listing).
Back at Manresa House he spends a year teaching rhetoric to sixth-form students.
Undertakes his final Jesuit studies leading to ordination at St. Beuno’s College in northern Wales. These three years are perhaps the happiest of his life: he loves the landscape, the people, the opportunities. By December of 1875 he begins “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” resuming his poetry-writing with a new, highly original voice: see God’s Grandeur, The Starlight Night, “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame,” Spring, The Sea and the Skylark, The Windhover, Pied Beauty, The Caged Skylark, Hurrahing in Harvest. Ordained a priest in September 1877.
In October begins a very disrupted year, first at St. Mary’s near Sheffield, then to Stonyhurst, then to the Jesuit church on Farm Street in London.
In the autumn transfers (also as a curate) to the industrial town of Bedford Leigh, near Manchester.
After a brief period in Glasgow (see Inversnaid) comes back for a third time to Manresa House (London), this time for his Jesuit tertianship leading to his final vows the following summer.
Follows his third time at Manresa House with a third time at Stonyhurst, teaching Latin and Greek to advanced students (see Ribblesdale and The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe).
Moves one final time, to Ireland, where he becomes Professor of Latin and Greek literature at University College in Dublin, which is staffed at the time by the Jesuits. Also appointed Fellow in Classics at the Royal University of Ireland, which requires a grueling load of examining and grading. Although he does have some opportunities for rest and travel, he is overworked, suffers from isolation and a weakened constitution, and endures bouts of depression. His poetry darkens: see “To seem the stranger lies my lot, my life”, “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”, “No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief”, (Carrion Comfort), “My own heart let me more have pity on; let”, Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves, That nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection, and “Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord, if I contend”. Dies from typhoid on June 8th in 1889 at 86 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, and is buried in the Jesuit plot at Glasnevin Cemetery.