Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Gerard Manley Hopkins, RIP

Why did Gerard Manley Hopkins die? This blog posts an article with various recent attempts at diagnosis passed on reports of his symptoms and the course of his last illness in May and June, 1889:

It is also an undoubted fact, as noted earlier, that Hopkins suffered from generally poor health, and would have had a low level of resistance to infection. possibility; perhaps Hopkins' illness was not typhoid fever. There is some persuasive evidence for this notion. Writing in The Lancet in 1997, Dr. Kenneth Flegel of The Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal examined the known details of Hopkins' final illness, and considered them in conjunction with the fact that Hopkins had suffered intermittently throughout his life from diarrhoea, fatigue and eye pain. He came to the conclusion that these conditions, allied to the absence of such typical symptoms of typhoid as headache and fever, indicated that Hopkins' illness was not typhoid fever, but Crohn's disease. This article led to a response from a group of doctors at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, who put forward a case for coeliac disease. The one point on which they all agreed was that they would never be sure where the truth lay - and neither are we. We do know that his condition was deteriorating. Peritonitis was diagnosed on about 04 June, and his parents were summoned from England by telegram. He was initially reluctant to have them come, not wishing them to see him so ill, but, after they had visited, he expressed his happiness at having them there. He gradually declined, and received absolution and the Blessing of the Sick on the morning of Saturday 08 June. He died at 1.30 in the afternoon. In the Roman Catholic faith, the rituals surrounding death are important. The death of a member of a religious community is a significant event in the life of that community; it is their opportunity to show their respect for their colleague, and to send him on his final journey with due solemnity. The funeral arrangements for Fr. Hopkins were put in place, and news of his death was sent to his family in England. They were shocked by the news, not having realised how ill he was. His brother Everard expressed his grief "that I could not see him once more". He was persuaded by his brother Arthur not to attend the funeral. "Perhaps", he said, "it is best for us to remember his sweet and beautiful face as we always knew it - not worn with sickness". Hopkins' death was reported in The Catholic Times, The Freeman's Journal and The Irish Times newspapers. The death notice in the Irish Times of Monday 10 June read as follows: HOPKINS - June 8, at University College, the Rev. Gerard Hopkins, SJ, Fellow of the Royal University. High Mass and Office at St. Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner street, on tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11 o'clock, funeral to Glasnevin immediately afterwards. On reading this notice, I was struck by how sparse and matter-of-fact it was; unlike modern death notices, it made no mention of his family or religious confreres.

Hopkins' last words on June 8, 1889 were, "I am so happy, I am so happy. I loved my life."

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace!

The Handsome Heart 
at a Gracious Answer

‘BUT tell me, child, your choice; what shall I buy
You?’—‘Father, what you buy me I like best.’
With the sweetest air that said, still plied and pressed,
He swung to his first poised purport of reply.

What the heart is! which, like carriers let fly—
Doff darkness, homing nature knows the rest—
To its own fine function, wild and self-instressed,
Falls light as ten years long taught how to and why.

Mannerly-hearted! more than handsome face—
Beauty’s bearing or muse of mounting vein,
All, in this case, bathed in high hallowing grace…

Of heaven what boon to buy you, boy, or gain
Not granted?—Only … O on that path you pace
Run all your race, O brace sterner that strain!

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