Hopkins’ Monasterevin Letters

In letters to his mother and friend, English Poet Laureate Robert Bridges, Hopkins fondly mentions taking 6 or 7 short breaks at Monasterevin House with the Cassidy sisters commencing in 1886.  The Cassidy family were wealthy Catholic whiskey distillers.  The following are extracts of those letters.


GMH to Robert Bridges: Monasterevan Jan 2 1887
“I am staying (till tomorrow morning, alas) with kind people at a nice place. I have had a bright light, and begun a poem in Gray’s elegy metre, severe, no experiments. I am pleased with it and hope you will be and also Mrs Waterhouse, for I want her to see it. I therefore enclose what there is of it and write no more now, but am your affectionate friend Gerard M. Hopkins.


GMH to his Mother: Jan 24 1887: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
My dearest Mother,
I had, in spite of the severe cold, some very pleasant days down at Monasterevan in Co. Kildare at Xmas and again at New Year and it was a happy acquaintance to make, for they made no secret of liking me and want me to go down again.


GMH to his Mother: Feb. 6 1887
I wished I had never written that silly letter about the people at Monasterevan liking me. It reminds me of Mr. Durdles (is it ?) in Edwin Drood and his tombstone to his wife and how in the course of 50 years he had not met a woman who appreciated him as she did. However at any rate, I appreciated them. Since then Miss Cassidy has asked me when I am going down again, and if I could it would be a good thing to go, for I feel I want it.


GMH to R. Bridges: Mar. 29 1887: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
Dear Bridges, – I found your letter on coming back to town last night from Monasterevan, quite too late for return of post. …
I shd. Have felt better for the delicious bog air of Monasterevan were it not that I had a sleepless night of it last night.


GMH to his Mother: Apr. 26 1887: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
… Miss Cassidy has given me two more invitations to Monasterevan, but it cannot be.


GMH to R.W. Dixon: Jun. 18 1887: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin
… I was down at Monasterevan lately and managed to see the young lady of the Elegy, which however I have had no chance of continuing. …


GMH to R. Bridges: Dec. 21 1887: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin
… At Christmas if you write address Miss Cassidy, Monasterevan, Co. Kildare. …


GMH to Rev. Canon Dixon: Dec 22 1887: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
…Tomorrow I am going down to my friends at Monasterevin in Co. Kildare, …
I cannot get my Elegy finished, but I hope in a few days to see the hero and heroine of it, which may enable me ( or quite the reverse; perhaps that: it is not well to come too near things)


GMH to his Mother: Dec.25 1887: Monasterevan.
My dearest Mother, – I wish you a very merry Christmas season and happy new year and thank you for your kind gift, which I found waiting for me. Thank the girls for their letters. I hope Grace duly got the music: she does not mention its arrival, but I think she should have had it before the date of her letter.
You will see that I am staying with my kind friend Miss Cassidy and her sister Mrs. Wheble., and three younger Whebles are also in the house, cousins.
I assisted the parish priest , who is recovering from a dangerous sickness, in giving communion this morning. Many hundreds came to the rail, with the unfailing devotion of the Irish; whose religion hangs suspended over their politics as the blue sky over the earth, both in one landscape but immeasurably remote and without contact, or interference. This ‘phenomenon’ happens to be particularly marked at Monasterevan.
With best love to all, I am your loving son Gerard
Christmas Day 1887
These three young Whebles rejoice in the names of Tristram, Ursula, and Leo. They are half English, half Irish, and their nationality is thus divided: outwardly or in the body they are almost pure Paddy and Biddy, inwardly and in the mind mainly John Bull. The youngest boy Leo is a remarkably winning and sweetmannered young fellow.


GMH to R. Bridges : Jan. 12 1888: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
My dear Bridges, -…
At Monasterevan I tried to get some outstanding and accumulated sonnets ready for hanging on the line, that is my book of MS, the one you wrote most of, and so for sending to you.


GMH to his Mother: Dec. 24 1888: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
My dearest Mother,
… In an hour or so I shall start for Monasterevan, where I may be addressed at Miss Cassidy’s. It is in the Co. Kildare, but Monasterevan is enough.


GMH to R. Bridges: Mar. 24 1889: Monasterevan (Letter commenced in Dublin on Mar. 20th)
… The sonnet will, I am afraid, fade: Miss Cassidy’s ink is, I must say, shocking.


GMH to R. Bridges: Apr. 29 1889: University College, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
… Who is Miss Cassidy ? She is an elderly lady who by often asking me down to Monasterevan and by the change and holiday her kind hospitality provides is become one of the props and struts of my existence. St Emim(sic) founded the monastery : a singular story is told of him. Henry VIII confiscated it and it became the property of Lord Drogheda. The usual curse on Abbey lands attends it and it never passes down in the direct line. The present Lord and Lady Drogheda have no issue. Outside Moore Abbey, which is a beautiful park, the country is flat, bogs and river and canals. The river is the Barrow, which the old Irish poets call the dumb Barrow. I call it the burling Barrow Brown. Both descriptions are true. The country has nevertheless a charm. The two beautiful young people live within an easy drive.