chapter  4
“The Lost are like this”
Pages 27

After years of short-lived appointments, of “ginger-bread permanence; cobweb, soapsud, and frost-feather permanence,” Hopkins received the final posting of his Jesuit career in February 1884.1 Writing from University College, Dublin, he informed Bridges that he had “been elected Fellow of the Royal University of Ireland in the department of Classics.” Although he recognized that the appointment was “an honour” and “an opening,” he feared that the work would prove too burdensome: “I am not at all strong, not strong enough for the requirements, and do not see at all how I am to become so.”2 Two weeks after his arrival in Dublin, he recorded a persistent feeling of “unfitness which led me at first to decline the offer made me and now does not yet allow my spirits to rise to the level of the position and its duties.”3 He complained to Bridges that “Dublin itself is a joyless place and I think in my heart as smoky as London is; I had fancied it quite different”4

Hopkins’s Catholic career ended, as it had begun, in the shadow of John Henry Newman. University College was the ramshackle remnant of Newman’s great mid-century experiment in Catholic education. By the time Hopkins arrived in Dublin, the former Catholic University was, as he reported to his mother, “poor, all unprovided to a degree that outsiders wd. scarcely believe.”5 From the first, Newman had struggled to reconcile dreams of rivaling Dublin’s Protestant Trinity College, or even the ancient universities of England, with the reality of miserably inadequate funding. After his resignation from the rectorship of 1858, the institution had languished until meager support from the British government was secured by the 1879 Universities Bill. Now renamed University College, and under Jesuit administration since 1883, the Catholic University was required to offer vocational training and to prepare students for examinations set by an external governing body, the Royal University. Amid all the changes of mission, governance and name, only the institution’s chronic financial troubles remained the same.6