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The conventional picture of the young Hopkins as a conservative High-Church ritualist is starkly contested by this study which draws upon his unpublished Oxford essays on philosophy to reveal a boldly speculative intellectual liberal. Less concerned with Christian factionalism than with countering contemporary threats to faith itself, Hopkins' thought is seen to follow that of his teachers Benjamin Jowett and T. H. Green, who turned to Kant and Hegel to vouchsafe the grounds of Christian belief against contemporary scientism. Hopkins' personal metaphysic of 'inscape' and 'instress', which has long been recognized as crucial to the understanding of his poetry, is traced here to concepts derived from the 'British Idealism' he encountered at Oxford and the new energy physics of the 1850s and 1860s. By locating his thought at the intellectual avant-garde of his age, the striking modernity of his poetry need no longer be seen as an historical anomaly. The book offers radical re-readings not only of his metaphysics and theology, but also of his best-known poems.