PMGenesis: Chapter 26

Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)


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Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
Pre-conscious World
Local Patriotism
Wimbledon in Wartime 
Pastoral Peace
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
Student Revolt  
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
A Scholar's Paradise  
To and Fro in Japan  
Words, Words, Words  
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
Lost Years  
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages

More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
Two International Conferences  
Catholic Shakespeare  
Last Words  
Bibliographical Afterword  











 Birmingham Oratory













 Newman House, St. Stephen's Green











Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier


Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan
















 A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward













     Jacobean Shakespeare
by Peter Milward















Shakespeare the Papist by Peter Milward 















 Mystical Journey, the autobiography of William Johnston, S.J., author of Mystical Theology and many other works on mysticism















All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 

































26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman


   Two special pilgrimages, following on my American adventures of 1988, were devoted to the two great Catholic authors of the Victorian age, Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Henry Newman – in that order.  Both authors were the subjects of study for academic societies in Japan, and with both societies and their Victorian subjects I was personally involved as “honorary president” of the one and “honorary member” of the other.  It so happened that the centenary of their respective deaths fell on consecutive years, since Hopkins had died unknown to the outside world and far from his English home in Dublin on June 8 1889, and Newman had died at the height of his fame, already a household name in England, in Birmingham on August 11 1890.  For each of these years, therefore, I felt it incumbent on me to arrange a pilgrimage to fit in both with our own celebrations and those of the academic and Catholic world.  Then it was that, more vividly than before, my attention was drawn to a basic contrast between the two men, who had been spiritual father and son to each other.  As a Jesuit poet, Hopkins had spent much of his life in the countryside, which was for him a principal source of inspiration.  On the other hand, as an eminent prose writer of his age – with “eminent” used in both its senses, as at once “distinguished” and “cardinal” – Newman had lived most of his life in the four cities of London, Oxford, Birmingham and Dublin.  Moreover, whereas both had been born, like myself, in London and had gone up to Oxford for their undergraduate studies, Hopkins had spent only a year in Birmingham under Newman’s fatherly care before becoming a Jesuit and subsequently spent his final years sadly isolated in Dublin.


   To begin with poor Hopkins – “poor” because of his lonely death in Dublin, when all he had written seemed to have gone for nothing, though today he is recognized as the greatest poet of his time – we had assembled a good number for the occasion, a group of thirty-five, many of whom were members of the Hopkins Society of Japan, and some of them my Sophia students.  First, we made our way to Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, where Hopkins had spent three happy years in the study of philosophy, as I had done at Heythrop, and where a special Hopkins Workshop was being organized by an English Jesuit friend of mine.  We took part in this workshop as best we could, though spoken English is an accomplishment of few Japanese, even if they are Sophia students or even members of the Hopkins Society.  All the same, we could at least enjoy the country atmosphere of this region of Lancashire, near the moors and fells of the Pennine Mountains, far from the industrial waste to the South.  I have special memories of readings from Hopkins’ poems sitting beside the river Hodder on rocks that form the cascade called “the Hodder Roughs”.  Most of all, I remember the cute ducks and black swans who have their dwelling on the two oblong ponds in front of the old college building, which goes back to the time of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth.  They might seem to have been a distraction to our study of Hopkins’ poems, but no!  For the poet birds were another source of inspiration, as we find in such poems as “The Windhover”, or a kestrel in flight, and “The Sea and the Skylark” – though I know of no poem of his on either ducks or swans.  I might add that Shakespeare himself was hailed by his friend and rival, Ben Jonson, as “sweet Swan of Avon”.


   From Stonyhurst we went, by way of Shakespeare’s Stratford, to Oxford, where we were to spend several peaceful and profitable days at Hopkins’ alma mater, Balliol College.  Known as one of the three oldest of Oxford’s colleges, Balliol had to endure the barbarism (not unknown in modern times) of having its old mediaeval buildings torn down in the Victorian age and replaced in the then fashionable neo-Gothic style.  It was this “new look” which met the eyes of the young Hopkins when he arrived in Oxford in April 1963, and which also met our eyes over a hundred years later.  Not that I have anything against neo-Gothic, so long as it refrains from replacing the true old Gothic.  To my mind, nothing can replace the latter, however old it becomes.  As Shakespeare tells his friend, “To me, fair friend, you never can be old.”  Still, the result wasn’t so bad, at least after having been seasoned over a period of some hundred winters.  The college as a whole had, moreover, managed to retain something of its mediaeval atmosphere.  Our own living quarters were, however, in the ugly modern wing, if supplied with all modern conveniences.  At the same time, it was our pleasure and privilege to take our meals in the mediaeval-looking dining-hall.  The college also provided us with a centre for visiting the many places in and around Oxford of a Hopkinsian interest.  There was Merton College, where the poet’s favourite philosopher, Duns Scotus, had lived and taught, as he recalls him in his sonnet “Duns Scotus’s Oxford”, whose walls “he haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace.”  There, too, was the church of St Aloysius in North Oxford, where as a young priest Hopkins had been employed in parish work, and where he composed his sad poem “Binsey Poplars”, on the recent felling of a row of trees growing along the nearby river-bank.  There was also Campion Hall, my own alma mater, which hadn’t existed in the time of Hopkins but which had some of his diaries among its precious relics.


   From Oxford we drove by coach to Wales, the presumed land of Hopkins’ forefathers, since though the poet was born and brought up in Victorian London, his name was obviously Welsh – as with many Christian names to which s is attached, meaning “son of (Hopkin)”.  Our objective was the town of Dolgellau, situated on the estuary of the river Mawddach and nestling at the foot of the great mountain Cader Idris.  Not that Hopkins had ever lived there, but he had visited a nearby inn called “The George”, about which he had composed a poem entitled “Penmaenpool”, namely the pool of the tidal river in front of the inn.  Here he had spent his summer holidays from his study of theology at St Beuno’s College.  Here I, too, had spent my holidays from my study of philosophy at Heythrop College – not at Dolgellau, nor the George Inn, but at the seaside town of Barmouth at the mouth of the estuary and the “bar” of the river.  In the course of our vacation we would observe one day, called the George Day, for rowing up the estuary, with the flowing tide, to the inn for lunch and rowing back again with the ebbing tide.  From here we could visit the grandest scenery in North Wales, Snowdonia, or the region round Mount Snowdon.  From here, too, we drove on to Chester, as a centre for visits to St Beuno’s College, where the poet had broken his “elected silence” with “The Wreck of the Deutschland”, and the nearby Holywell.  This was a deeply impressive well devoted to the memory of St Winefred and the object of a popular mediaeval pilgrimage, which had inspired Hopkins’ unfinished dramatic poem, “St Winefred’s Well”.  Here I might say of Hopkins, what he himself had said of Duns Scotus at Oxford, “Yet ah! this air I gather and I release, he lived on.”  Here, more than in Lancashire, I found the air and the water that most inspired the poems of Hopkins, especially his so-called “bright sonnets” that followed on his composition of the longer “Wreck of the Deutschland”. 


   Next we made our way to a small harbour in Lancashire called Heysham, not for itself but for a ferry to carry us to the Isle of Man, since there Hopkins had spent a couple of summer holidays from his years of philosophy at Stonyhurst.  The ferry, however, we found delayed owing to heavy seas,  When we at last weighed anchor, the sea was still rough, and we soon felt their force – even more than I had felt in the Indian Ocean on my way to Japan and in the Pacific Ocean on my way to Hawaii.  Soon after leaving harbour, we were all issued paper bags, about which and their intended use we couldn’t help joking.  But it was no joke, and by the time we reached our destination there was more in the bags than inside our stomachs!  Still, I had to make a last joke about them on our arrival at the port of Douglas, “Sore wa yoi tabi datta!” – where yoi has a double meaning, “That was a good voyage!” and “That was a sea-sick voyage!”  Next morning, however, we had all recovered and the weather had greatly improved for our day’s excursion round the island, following the course of the motor-cycle race for which the island is no less famous than for her tailless Manx cats.  On the journey we stopped at the giant Laxey Wheel, which had been used for keeping the mines below ground free from water, and which Hopkins mentioned in his diary.  Also in his diary he mentioned a newly built church with a spire rising from the ground (not from a tower) to its pinnacle.  Of more interest to us, however, was the window of the nearby Catholic church, which bore an etching or engraving of Jesus walking the waves – the waves being those of the Irish Sea behind.  It was so ingenious and so impressive!  Higher up on the island we admired a vast stretch of purple heather outlined against the bright blue of sea and sky.  Lastly, we came to the Spanish Head at the Southern end of the island, a favourite haunt of seagulls.  As we fed them with the remains of our sandwich lunch, they came crowding and swooping down on us, allowing me to take one of them at close quarters and to show it to my students back in Japan as a substitute for the windhover.


   Returning to England again via Heysham, we drove North to the Lake District, for a stay at the Low Wood Hotel on the shore of Windermere.  I rejoiced at the location of the hotel, so close to the lake, but I grieved at the discovery that our rooms were all facing the back and that between the hotel and the lake there was a busy main road.  On reflection, however, I realized that the two drawbacks cancelled each other out.  In fact, we were fortunate to have our rooms facing the back, away from the noise of the passing traffic, while we could enjoy the view of the lake to our hearts’ content from the dining-room.  Here, too, the scenery was so grand!  Not that Hopkins had ever been to the Lake District, but this was the country of his poetic predecessor, William Wordsworth.  In any case, it seemed to me, no poetic pilgrimage of the British Isles was complete without a visit to the lakes – as I also felt when arranging the following year’s pilgrimage in honour of Newman.  From here we resumed our tracing of Hopkins’ footsteps on our arrival in Glasgow, the one city in Scotland that could claim the presence of the poet, when he lived and worked in a parish here.  And here, too, he composed his inspiring poem “Inversnaid”.  Here was also the one city in Scotland I had hitherto avoided for its bad industrial reputation, though, in spite of the pouring rain, it wasn’t so bad after all.  We had come here not so much for Hopkins’ parish, which we never saw, as for the “bonny banks and braes” of Loch Lomond including the hamlet and waterfall of Inversnaid.  We could only get so far by coach, and then we had to take the ferry (as Hopkins would have done) across the lake to Inversnaid.  On the way across it came on to rain, and by the time we reached Inversnaid it was raining so heavily that I had to take my desired photos from beneath the umbrella of a kind fellow pilgrim.  By the time we got back to the ferry, I had finished all my film.  Then, much to my frustration, as always happens in such cases, the clouds on our starboard bow opened, the sun shone through them, and there on the port bow appeared the most brilliant rainbow, not just single but double, then triple!  What a wonderful photo I could have taken, if I hadn’t been so impatient to finish my film before we got back to Glasgow!  A curse on my impatience!  Still, for me it was a precious lesson in patience.


   From Edinburgh we took the plane, or two planes since we had to change at London, for Dublin, where Hopkins had spent the last four or five miserable years of his life and composed his “dark” or “terrible” sonnets.  (I prefer to call them “dark”, considering that “terrible” has a somewhat different meaning, more relevant to the sonnets I occasionally compose!)  Here we stayed at a Jesuit student hostel called University Hall, for the students of University College Dublin, otherwise known as UCD.  That evening after dinner at the hall, we dropped in at the nearby Foley’s Bar for a drink of Irish Guinness.  That brought back memories of a similar occasion five years before, at a Hopkins conference in 1884, when some of us had accompanied the Irish poet Seamus Heaney after his special lecture for liquid refreshment.  There, instead of ordering a more modest half-pint according to my custom, we all had a pint apiece.  Then, in the course of our merry conversation, noticing the liquid getting lower in our glasses, a Japanese member of our group in a fit of generosity ordered another pint apiece for us.  I hadn’t expected such a thing, especially as I had an appointment with the mother of an Irish friend of mine who lived nearby.  Still, the Guinness was there, and I had no wish to let it go waste or to disappoint my Japanese benefactor, so I went ahead and drank the extra pint before proceeding on my way.  I hadn’t realized, however, how strong was even one pint of Guinness on an empty stomach, but with two pints inside me I was quite tipsy, and as I made my stumbling way to the lady’s house, I recalled the Japanese comparison of such a way of walking to the gait of a plover, or chidoriashi.  Anyhow, it was a memorable experience!  And what put the cap on it was, after I apologized for my drunken condition to the good lady, she not only accepted my apology with good grace but even offered me a further glass of sherry!


   Now, however, we were in Dublin not primarily for Guinness but for Hopkins.  First, we made our way to the building, now called Newman House, where he had spent most of his days at the university college.  Here at the entrance we came upon the names of the three famous men associated with it, not only Newman and Hopkins but also James Joyce.  Then we had to visit the two Jesuit high schools or “colleges”, one in Dublin, the day school of Belvedere, and the other outside the city, the boarding school of Clongowes Wood.  There was also Phoenix Park, which had been the setting for one of Hopkins’ last and most impressive poems, with its long title, “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire, and of the comfort of the Resurrection”.  Above all, being Japanese, we had to pay our respects before the poet’s grave in the Jesuit plot of Glasnevin cemetery, where he is but one among 150 Jesuits buried indiscriminately together.  At the entrance we could learn where precisely his coffin had been laid, second from the bottom of five such coffins all laid in the same place.  Their names were all inscribed at the foot of a gigantic Celtic Cross, and that of Gerard Manley Hopkins among them, as having died on June 8 1889, just short of his 45th birthday.  On the other hand, more consoling both for us and for Hopkins than anything we saw in Dublin was the small country town many miles from Dublin called Monasterevin (from a Cistercian monastery in mediaeval times).  Here Hopkins had found a refuge for himself from the ardours of teaching and correcting exams with a family named Cassidy, and here he had composed his charming poem on “The Portrait of Two Beautiful Young People”.  When we got there, we found that it wasn’t any longer a family home but a convent of the Presentation Sisters.  So when I knocked at the door for permission to look round a place so blest with the memory of Hopkins, the good sisters were only too willing to welcome us.  They told us that unfortunately we had arrived too late to participate in a Hopkins Summer School that had just ended in the town.  Then, after leaving us to look round to our hearts’ content, the sisters brought us cups of tea, the traditional mark of Irish hospitality, and with the cups of tea they also brought us cakes to go with it.  It was all so unexpected, as our visit had been unannounced.  No doubt the cakes were leftovers from the summer school, but they were still fresh and tasty.  How like the Irish, I thought, especially Irish sisters!


   Lastly, we still had London to visit, as being the home of Hopkins and his family.  Usually I leave London to the end of my pilgrimages, in order to avoid spoiling the first impressions of my pilgrims.  At least, such are my bad impressions of London!  Anyhow, we had first to visit the birthplace of Hopkins at the other Stratford to the North-East of London, though the actual spot had been destroyed by a bomb in World War II.  Then there was the surviving Anglican church, where he had been baptized.  Then there was the cemetery of St Patrick at Leytonstone, where the drowned nuns from the wreck of the Deutschland had been buried.  Then there was the Grammar School at Highgate, where we could visit both the school hall and the chapel.  Then we had to visit Westminster, not just for itself but for the memorial to Hopkins which had recently been added to the Poets’ Corner near that of TS Eliot.  And then there was Manresa House in the pouring rain, where I again had to take my photo from beneath the umbrella of one of our pilgrims.  In a word, it was one place after another, with nothing at all memorable occurring at any of them – till finally I left the other pilgrims behind me at their hotel in the West End, and withdrew to my home in Wimbledon.


   By contrast with all this rural variety in the course of our Hopkins pilgrimage, that which we took the following year in the footsteps of Newman was strangely muted.  It didn’t last so long, and it was largely limited to the four cities associated with Newman, apart from our one excursion to the Lake District.  Even so, I didn’t remain with the group all the time, since while they went on to Dublin I remained at Stratford to attend an important Shakespeare conference there.  Most memorable was our stay at Newman’s college of Oriel at Oxford, made so famous by Newman himself and his leading role in the Oxford Movement.  Our rooms there weren’t so convenient, since many of them, including mine, looked onto the High Street, which is picturesque enough but noisy with traffic at all hours of the day and the night.  There we had a kind of orientation programme, with lectures on Newman.  There, too, as at Balliol the previous year, we could enjoy the privilege and pleasure of dining in the hall, beneath the portraits of Newman, Keble and Matthew Arnold.  We were also shown the rooms Newman had occupied while chaplain at the college and his nearby chapel.  I recalled the time I had come here with my first group of pilgrims in 1970, when we had been trespassers – knowingly so in spite of two warnings against unauthorized visitors.  From Oriel our way naturally led to the church of St Mary’s, where Newman had been vicar at the time of the Oxford Movement and had preached his famous sermons from the high pulpit.  Then to Trinity College, where he had spent his undergraduate days before going on to Oriel as Fellow.  Then to the neighbouring Balliol College, reminding us of our stay there on the previous Hopkins pilgrimage.  Then at my alma mater, Campion Hall, we had Mass followed by refreshments in the garden, which were all the more acceptable to us as it was the hottest day in one of the hottest summers on record in England.


   The following day, amid the continuing heat, we went on a special visit to Newman’s church (from his Anglican days) and house of retreat at Littlemore in the suburbs of Oxford.  There I said Mass in Newman’s little oratory, where he had been received into the Catholic Church by Fr. Dominic Barberi in 1845.  It was so impressive – and so hot!  After Mass was over, we made our own hasty “retreat” to a pub across the road called the Golden Bell for much needed liquid refreshment.  It reminded me of the similar occasion at Vilar de Donas on our Spanish pilgrimage, when instead of beer we had pure spring-water for our parched throats.  After lunch, we looked round the little Gothic church built by Newman while vicar of St. Mary’s with money contributed by his mother whose tomb we found inside.  Next day there remained other Newman memories – many more of him than of Hopkins at Oxford, as his life and fame had been so much more closely associated with Oxford.  We saw his other portrait in the dining-hall of Trinity College, and his bust, disfigured by radical students, in the garden outside.  There he had been not only an undergraduate but also an honorary Fellow in later years.  No less than Hopkins, he was also associated with the Jesuit church of St. Aloysius, where he had come and preached a sermon on the occasion of his combined election as Fellow and his elevation to the dignity of Cardinal.  There was also Keble College, not so much for any connection with Newman as for its commemoration of his friend and colleague early on in the Oxford Movement, John Keble.  The following day we had more ecclesiastical sight-seeing, with visits not only to the cathedral of Winchester but also to the parish church of the nearby Hursley, where after leaving Oxford Keble had been vicar for thirty years and where Newman had often come to visit him.  Another day we went on a longer excursion to Salisbury, not only for the cathedral which is always more impressive from the outside than within, but also for the nearby chapel connected with the memory of that other Anglican saint and poet, George Herbert, who had also been a source of inspiration to Newman as well as Hopkins.


  From Oxford we drove, by way of Shakespeare’s Stratford, to Birmingham, for the Catholic part of Newman’s life after his conversion.  Here one comes upon such a clear division in his religious affiliation and residence – on the one hand, the old academic city of Oxford, with her Anglican atmosphere, and on the other, the brash industrial city of Birmingham, with the opportunities she afforded of a Catholic pastoral apostolate.  Here, after a year spent at Rome in theological study followed by priestly ordination, Newman returned at the invitation of the newly consecrated Bishop Ullathorne to establish a community after the model of St Philip’s Oratory in Rome.  This purpose took shape in the famous Oratory on the Hagley Road to the West of the city.  Our hotel was admirably located almost on the opposite side of the road, so we could easily walk there.  Here we visited various places in the neighbourhood associated with Newman, including the seminary of Oscott College, where Newman had preached his famous sermon on “The Second Spring” before the assembled bishops on the occasion of the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England.  Back at the Oratory I was allowed to put on the cardinal’s hat and to be photographed with it on.  I recalled the time I had been photographed on the previous Thomas More pilgrimage in 1977, when I had been allowed to hold the mug of St. Thomas More in my one hand and the walking staff of his friend St. John Fisher in my other, also for the camera.


   The climax to our pilgrimage came on August 11, the centenary of Newman’s death in 1890.  A solemn High Mass had been scheduled for eleven o’clock that morning, and my Japanese pilgrims were allotted pride of place high up in the choir loft at the back of the church.  From there they could see the whole ceremony perfectly, while I went to the sacristy to vest with other priests for concelebration.  Again, the only word that comes to my mind for that Mass is “impressive”.  I forget the sermon and even who preached it, but for me the climax came at the very end, with the congregational singing of Newman’s Catholic hymn, “Praise to the holiest in the height” – as contrasted with his no less famous Anglican hymn, “Lead, kindly light!”  Then, after lunch provided for us in a nearby school-room, we made our way in buses to Newman’s grave at a place called Rednal just outside Birmingham.  Here the deceased fathers of the Oratory were buried, and here I was impressed to note that Newman’s grave was no different from the others – though at least, unlike Hopkins in Dublin, Newman had a grave of his own like the other Oratorians.


   From Birmingham we went North to the Lake District, but since Newman had never been here, nothing of consequence has remained in my memory, not even the name of the hotel where we stayed.  Only when we made our way via York to London, we stayed at the seminary of the Westminster archdiocese, Allen Hall, next to More’s old home in Chelsea.  The next day we made our little pilgrimage round Newman’s London.  First, there was the Brompton Oratory, associated with Newman’s colleague and sometime rival, Fr Frederick Faber, where I took a photo of Newman’s statue on one side of the entrance.  Then, there was the great Westminster Cathedral, which had only been built – like Newman’s Oratory and the Brompton Oratory – after Newman’s time.  Then there was St Paul’s Cathedral behind which we were more interested in the London Stock Exchange, since here John Henry Newman had been born on February 21 1801, as a nearby plaque proclaimed – his father having been a banker.  From here it was but a short walk to his second home in Holborn at Southampton Place, so named after Shakespeare’s noble patron, the third Earl of Southampton.  Then we went on to visit the Newmans’ country house at Grey Court in Ham, close to the Thames, where he had enjoyed family life – till his poor father became bankrupt and the family became impoverished.  Then on to Hampton Court Palace, both for itself and for its slight connection with Newman, when his doctors had advised him to “take a rest” and this had been his idea of a rest.  Then we returned to Allen Hall, and from there, while the other pilgrims made their way to Dublin, I made mine to Stratford for my Shakespeare conference.


   In this way we were left with the impression that, in contrast to Hopkins’ varied career as Jesuit and poet, that of Newman seemed to have been what Shakespeare’s Macbeth calls “cabined, cribbed, confined”.  Maybe such a career was befitting a scholar, as one more interested in what he thinks and writes than in what he does or observes in the world around him.  Also, I should add, our Hopkins pilgrimage had been much longer in time, as well as varied in the number of places for us to visit.  Perhaps, too, as a specialist rather in Hopkins than in Newman, I knew more about the former than the latter, and I could act as a more knowledgeable guide, what with my own Jesuit experience and connections.

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