Given Gerard Manley Hopkins family and family friends, young Gerard Hopkins almost had to grow up playful. And that he did, playing on his own as a child, finding playful friends as a school boy, as an undergraduate, and as a Jesuit, and remaining playful all his life. This study begins, with A Ludic Biography, a biography of play or playfulness, to present Hopkinss playful life as the ground and landscape for his granitic poetry and crafted prose. Such a biography is of course limited and selective, but Hopkinss light playfulness lies largely unmarked and unremarked. Some material has never been published, some is little known, and the ludic perspective is surely new, offering an enlivening counterpoint to the received portrait. Gerard Hopkins, the oldest of nine children, was born on 28 July 1844 and enjoyed a happy childhood, first in Stratford, Essex, just east of London, then in Hampstead, overlooking London from the north.