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Gerard Manley Hopkins died at the age of 44 and never saw any of his poems published. But the donation of an archive of his works and handwritten notes has caused considerable stir.
The archive had been kept by his friend, the poet Robert Bridges, who was later Poet Laureate of Great Britain, and includes Hopkins’s ‘A’ manuscript of 74 of his poems, many of them written in Hopkins’s own hand.
It also contains Bridges’s major manuscripts and was acquired by the British government from the executors of Bridges’s grandson, Thomas Edward Bridges, 2nd Baron Bridges. A retired diplomat, he died aged 89 in May 2017.
The precious manuscripts became the government’s property because of a law that allows people to donate cultural artifacts to cover inheritance tax.
Known as the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme (AIL), it also prevents such items from being sold and ending up abroad or in private hands, according to a report in the Daily Mail.
Michael Ellis, a minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said the bequest will allow the government to “share and learn from these documents for the benefit of people today and future generations.”
The Bridges archive has been allocated to the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. The Mail said that one librarian there said that just to open Hopkins’ ‘A’ manuscript made her “go weak at the knees.”
Hopkins, who was a Jesuit priest, died of typhoid in Dublin in 1889.