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Thomas Hood

Thomas Hood (23 May 1799 – 3 May 1845) was a British humorist and poet. His son, Tom Hood, became a well known playwright and editor.

Contents

Early life

He was born in London to Thomas Hood and Elizabeth Sands in the Poultry (Cheapside) above his father's bookshop. Hood's paternal family had been Scottish farmers from the village of Errol near Dundee. The Elder Hood was a partner in the business of Verner, Hood, and Sharp, and was a member of the Associated booksellers. Hood's son, Tom Hood, claimed that his grandfather had been the first to open up the book trade with America and he had great success in new editions of old books. [1]

"Next to being a citizen of the world," writes Thomas Hood in his Literary Reminiscences, "it must be the best thing to be born a citizen of the world's greatest city." On the death of her husband in 1811, Mrs Hood moved to Islington, where Thomas Hood had a schoolmaster who, appreciating his talents, "made him feel it impossible not to take an interest in learning while he seemed so interested in teaching." Under the care of this "decayed dominie", he earned a few guineas—his first literary fee—by revising for the press a new edition of Paul and Virginia.

Hood left his private school master at 14 years of age and was admitted soon after into the counting house of a friend of his family, where he "turned his stool into a Pegasus on three legs, every foot, of course, being a dactyl or a spondee."; However, the uncongenial profession affected his health, which was never strong,and he began to study engraving. The exact nature and course of his study is unclear and various sources tell different stories. Reid emphasizes his work under his maternal uncle Robert Sands. [2] But no papers of apprenticeship exist and we also know from his letters that he studied with a Mr. Harris. Furthermore, Hood's daughter in her Memorials mentions her father's association with the Le Keux brothers who were successful engravers in the City.[3] The labour of engraving was no better for his health than the counting house had been, and Hood was sent to his father's relations at Dundee, Scotland. Here he stayed in the house of his maternal aunt, Jean Keay, for some months and then, after a falling out with her he moved on to the boarding house of one of her friends, Mrs Butterworth, where he lived for the rest of his time in Scotland. [4] In Dundee, Hood made a number of close friends with whom he continue to correspond for many years, led a healthy outdoor life, and also became a large and indiscriminate reader. It was also during his time here that Hood began to seriously write poetry and had his first published work, a letter to the editor of the Dundee Advertiser.

Early writings and Introduction to literary society

Before long Hood contributed humorous and poetical articles to the provincial newspapers and magazines. As a proof of his literary vocation, he used to write out his poems in printed characters, believing that that process best enabled him to understand his own peculiarities and faults, and probably unaware that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had recommended some such method of criticism when he said he thought "print settles it." On his return to London in 1818 he applied himself to engraving, enabling him later to illustrate his various humours and fancies by quaint devices.

In 1821, John Scott, the editor of the London Magazine, was killed in a duel, and the periodical passed into the hands of some friends of Hood, who proposed to make him sub-editor. His installation into this post at once introduced him to the literary society of the time; and in becoming the associate of John Hamilton Reynolds, Charles Lamb, Henry Cary, Thomas de Quincey, Allan Cunningham, Bryan Procter, Serjeant Talfourd, Hartley Coleridge, the peasant-poet John Clare and other contributors to the magazine, he gradually developed his own powers.

Marriage and Family Life

Thomas Hood's wife Jane

He had got married in May 1824,[5] and Odes and Addresses—his first work—was written in conjunction with his brother-in-law J.H. Reynolds, a friend of John Keats. S. T. Coleridge wrote to Charles Lamb averring that the book must be his work. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies (1827) and a dramatic romance, Lamia, published later, belong to this time. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies was a volume of serious verse. But he was known as a humorist, and the public rejected this little book almost entirely.

Hood was particularly fond of practical jokes which he was said to have enjoyed perpetrating on members of his family. In the Memorials of Thomas Hood largely written by daughter, there is a story of Hood playing one such joke on his wife. He instructs Mrs. Hood to purchase some fish for the evening meal from the woman who regularly comes to the door selling her husband’s catch. But he warns her to watch for any plaice that “has any appearance of red or orange spots, as they are a sure sign of an advanced stage of decomposition.” Of course when the fish-seller comes Mrs. Hood refuses to purchase her plaice she exclaims “My good woman… I could not think of buying any plaice with those very unpleasant red spots!” Hood was much amused by the fish-sellers expression of amazement at complete ignorance of the appearance of plaice.[6]

The series of the Comic Annual, dating from 1830, was a kind of publication at that time popular, which Hood undertook and continued, almost unassisted, for several years. Under that somewhat frivolous title he treated all the leading events of the day in caricature, without personal malice, and with an under-current of sympathy. The attention of the reader was distracted, by the incessant use of puns, of which Hood had written in his own vindication:

"However critics may take offence,
A double meaning has double sense."

He was probably aware of this danger. As he gained experience as a writer, his diction became simpler.

Later writings

In another annual called the Gem appeared the poem on the story of Eugene Aram. He started a magazine in his own name, for which he secured the assistance of many literary men, but which was mainly sustained by his own activity. From a sick-bed, from which he never rose, he conducted this work, and there composed well known poems, such as the "Song of the Shirt" (which appeared anonymously in the Christmas number of Punch, 1843 and was immediately reprinted in The Times and other newspapers across Europe. It was dramatised by Mark Lemon as The Sempstress, was printed on broadsheets, cotton handkerchiefs and was highly praised by many of the literary establishment, including Charles Dickens.) Likewise "The Bridge of Sighs" and "The Song of the Labourer" which are translated into German by Ferdinand Freiligrath. They are plain, solemn pictures of conditions of life which appeared shortly before Hood's own death in May 1845.

Hood was associated with the Athenaeum, started in 1828 by James Silk Buckingham, and he was a regular contributor for the rest of his life. Prolonged illness brought on straitened circumstances; and application was made by a number of Hood's friends to Sir Robert Peel to place Hood's name on the pension list with which the British state rewarded literary men. Peel was known to be an admirer of Hood's work and in the last few months of Hood's life he gave Jane Hood the sum of 100 Pounds without her husband's knowledge, to alleviate the family's debts. [7] The pension that Peel's government had bestowed upon Hood was continued to his wife and family after his death. Jane Hood, who also suffered from poor health and had expended tremendous energy tending to her husband in his last year, died only 18 months after Hood. The pension then ceased but Lord John Russell, grandfather of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, made arrangements for a fifty pound pension for the maintenance of Hood's two children, Francis and Tom.[8]

Nine years later a monument, raised by public subscription, in the cemetery of Kensal Green, was inaugurated by Richard Monckton Milnes.

Writer and friend of Hood, William Makepeace Thackeray, gave this assessment of Thomas Hood:"Oh sad, marvelous picture of courage, of honesty, of patient endurance, of duty struggling against pain! ... Here is one at least without guile, without pretension, without scheming, of a pure life, to his family and little modest circle of friends tenderly devoted."[9]

Examples of his works

Hood wrote humorously on many contemporary issues. One of the most important issues in his time was grave robbing and selling of corpses to anatomists (see West Port murders). On this serious and perhaps cruel issue, he wrote humorously thus:

Don’t go to weep upon my grave,
And think that there I be.
They haven’t left an atom there
Of my anatomie
-Thomas Hood

"I Remember, I Remember" (poetry)
I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought to long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.

I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white,
The violets, and the lily-cups
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birth-day,
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember
Where I used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow.

I remember, I remember
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy.

Hood’s most widely known work during his lifetime was a poem entitled The Song of the Shirt which was a lament for a poor London seamstress who had been compelled to sell shirts that she had made, the proceeds of which lawfully belonged to her employer, in order to feed her malnourished and ailing child. Hood’s poem appeared in one of the very first additions of Punch (magazine) in 1843 and quickly became a public sensation, being turned into a popular song and inspiring social activists in defense the countless laboring women who lived in abject poverty despite their constant industriousness. Below are two verses of The Song of the Shirt:

WITH fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread--
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt, And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the "Song of the Shirt."

"Work! work! work!
While the cock is crowing aloof!
And work—work—work,
Till the stars shine through the roof!
It's Oh! to be a slave
Along with the barbarous Turk,
Where woman has never a soul to save,
If this is Christian work!

Modern references

Works by Thomas Hood

The list of Hood's separately published works is as follows:

  • Odes and Addresses to Great People (1825)
  • Whims and Oddities (two series, 1826 and 1827)
  • The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies, hero and Leander, Lycus the Centaur and other Poems (1827), his only collection of serious verse
  • The Dream of Eugene Aram, the Murderer (1831)
  • Tylney Hall, a novel (3 vols., 1834)
  • The Comic Annual (1830-1842)
  • Hood's Own, or, Laughter from Year to Year (1838, second series, 1861)
  • Up the Rhine (1840)
  • Hood's Magazine and Comic Miscellany (1844-1848)
  • National Tales (2 vols., 1837), a collection of short novelettes
  • Whimsicalities (1844), with illustrations from John Leech's designs; and many contributions to contemporary periodicals.

References

  1. ^ J.C. Reid page 10
  2. ^ J.C. Reid page 19
  3. ^ Memorials Page 5
  4. ^ His living situation in Dundee was pieced together by George Maxwell in Hood in Scotland. See particularly Chapter III
  5. ^ In the Memorials of Thomas Hood His daughter Francis gives the date of her parents marriage as May 5th 1824. (page 17) J.C Reid, on the other hand gives the date of the marriage as May 5th of the following year.(page 67)
  6. ^ Memorials of Thomas Hood pages 23-24
  7. ^ Clubbe page 181
  8. ^ Clubbe page 196
  9. ^ Reid page 235

Further reading

  • John Clubbe. "Victorian Forerunner; The Later Career of Thomas Hood (Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, 1968).
  • Francis Hood. "The Memorials of Thomas Hood" (Ticknor & Fields, Boston, 1860).
  • Douglas Jerrold. "Thomas Hood; His Life and Times" (John Lane, New York, 1909).
  • Charles Maxwell. "Hood in Scotland" (James P. Matthew & Co., Dundee, 1885).
  • J.C. Reid. "Thomas Hood" (Routledge & Kegan Paul, New York, 1963).

External links

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Thomas Hood
File:Thomas Hood from
Born May 17, 1799(1799-05-17)
London, England
Died May 3, 1845 (aged 45)
London, England
Nationality British
Period 1820s-1840s
Genres Poetry, Fiction
Spouse(s) Jane Hood (née Reynolds)
Children Tom Hood

Thomas Hood (23 May 1799 – 3 May 1845) was a British humorist and poet. His son, Tom Hood, became a well known playwright and editor.

Contents

Early life

He was born in London to Thomas Hood and Elizabeth Sands in the Poultry (Cheapside) above his father's bookshop. Hood's paternal family had been Scottish farmers from the village of Errol near Dundee. The Elder Hood was a partner in the business of Verner, Hood, and Sharp, and was a member of the Associated booksellers. Hood's son, Tom Hood, claimed that his grandfather had been the first to open up the book trade with America and he had great success in new editions of old books.[1]

"Next to being a citizen of the world," writes Thomas Hood in his Literary Reminiscences, "it must be the best thing to be born a citizen of the world's greatest city." On the death of her husband in 1811, Mrs Hood moved to Islington, where Thomas Hood had a schoolmaster who, appreciating his talents, "made him feel it impossible not to take an interest in learning while he seemed so interested in teaching." Under the care of this "decayed dominie", he earned a few guineas—his first literary fee—by revising for the press a new edition of Paul and Virginia.

Hood left his private school master at 14 years of age and was admitted soon after into the counting house of a friend of his family, where he "turned his stool into a Pegasus on three legs, every foot, of course, being a dactyl or a spondee."; However, the uncongenial profession affected his health, which was never strong,and he began to study engraving. The exact nature and course of his study is unclear and various sources tell different stories. Reid emphasizes his work under his maternal uncle Robert Sands.[2] But no papers of apprenticeship exist and we also know from his letters that he studied with a Mr. Harris. Furthermore, Hood's daughter in her Memorials mentions her father's association with the Le Keux brothers who were successful engravers in the City.[3] The labour of engraving was no better for his health than the counting house had been, and Hood was sent to his father's relations at Dundee, Scotland. Here he stayed in the house of his maternal aunt, Jean Keay, for some months and then, after a falling out with her he moved on to the boarding house of one of her friends, Mrs Butterworth, where he lived for the rest of his time in Scotland.[4] In Dundee, Hood made a number of close friends with whom he continue to correspond for many years, led a healthy outdoor life, and also became a large and indiscriminate reader. It was also during his time here that Hood began to seriously write poetry and had his first published work, a letter to the editor of the Dundee Advertiser.

Early writings and introduction to literary society

Before long Hood contributed humorous and poetical articles to the provincial newspapers and magazines. As a proof of his literary vocation, he used to write out his poems in printed characters, believing that that process best enabled him to understand his own peculiarities and faults, and probably unaware that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had recommended some such method of criticism when he said he thought "print settles it." On his return to London in 1818 he applied himself to engraving, enabling him later to illustrate his various humours and fancies by quaint devices.

In 1821, John Scott, the editor of the London Magazine, was killed in a duel, and the periodical passed into the hands of some friends of Hood, who proposed to make him sub-editor. His installation into this post at once introduced him to the literary society of the time; and in becoming the associate of John Hamilton Reynolds, Charles Lamb, Henry Cary, Thomas de Quincey, Allan Cunningham, Bryan Procter, Serjeant Talfourd, Hartley Coleridge, the peasant-poet John Clare and other contributors to the magazine, he gradually developed his own powers.

Marriage and family life

File:Jane Hood (née Reynolds) from
Thomas Hood's wife Jane

He was married in May 1824,[5] and Odes and Addresses—his first work—was written in conjunction with his brother-in-law J.H. Reynolds, a friend of John Keats. S. T. Coleridge wrote to Charles Lamb averring that the book must be his work. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies (1827) and a dramatic romance, Lamia, published later, belong to this time. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies was a volume of serious verse. But he was known as a humorist, and the public rejected this little book almost entirely.

Hood was particularly fond of practical jokes which he was said to have enjoyed perpetrating on members of his family. In the Memorials of Thomas Hood, which was largely written by his daughter, there is a story of Hood playing one such joke on his wife. He instructs Mrs. Hood to purchase some fish for the evening meal from the woman who regularly comes to the door selling her husband’s catch. But he warns her to watch for any plaice that “has any appearance of red or orange spots, as they are a sure sign of an advanced stage of decomposition.” Of course when the fish-seller comes Mrs. Hood refuses to purchase her plaice she exclaims “My good woman… I could not think of buying any plaice with those very unpleasant red spots!” Hood was much amused by the fish-sellers expression of amazement at complete ignorance of the appearance of plaice.[6]

The series of the Comic Annual, dating from 1830, was a kind of publication at that time popular, which Hood undertook and continued, almost unassisted, for several years. Under that somewhat frivolous title he treated all the leading events of the day in caricature, without personal malice, and with an under-current of sympathy. The attention of the reader was distracted, by the incessant use of puns, of which Hood had written in his own vindication:

"However critics may take offence,
A double meaning has double sense."

He was probably aware of this danger. As he gained experience as a writer, his diction became simpler.

Later writings

In another annual called the Gem appeared the poem on the story of Eugene Aram. He started a magazine in his own name, for which he secured the assistance of many literary men, but which was mainly sustained by his own activity. From a sick-bed, from which he never rose, he conducted this work, and there composed well known poems, such as the "Song of the Shirt" (which appeared anonymously in the Christmas number of Punch, 1843 and was immediately reprinted in The Times and other newspapers across Europe. It was dramatised by Mark Lemon as The Sempstress, was printed on broadsheets, cotton handkerchiefs and was highly praised by many of the literary establishment, including Charles Dickens.) Likewise "The Bridge of Sighs" and "The Song of the Labourer" which are translated into German by Ferdinand Freiligrath. They are plain, solemn pictures of conditions of life which appeared shortly before Hood's own death in May 1845.

Hood was associated with the Athenaeum, started in 1828 by James Silk Buckingham, and he was a regular contributor for the rest of his life. Prolonged illness brought on straitened circumstances; and application was made by a number of Hood's friends to Sir Robert Peel to place Hood's name on the pension list with which the British state rewarded literary men. Peel was known to be an admirer of Hood's work and in the last few months of Hood's life he gave Jane Hood the sum of 100 Pounds without her husband's knowledge, to alleviate the family's debts.[7] The pension that Peel's government had bestowed upon Hood was continued to his wife and family after his death. Jane Hood, who also suffered from poor health and had expended tremendous energy tending to her husband in his last year, died only 18 months after Hood. The pension then ceased but Lord John Russell, grandfather of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, made arrangements for a fifty pound pension for the maintenance of Hood's two children, Francis and Tom.[8]

Nine years later a monument, raised by public subscription, in the cemetery of Kensal Green, was inaugurated by Richard Monckton Milnes.

Writer and friend of Hood, William Makepeace Thackeray, gave this assessment of Thomas Hood:"Oh sad, marvelous picture of courage, of honesty, of patient endurance, of duty struggling against pain! ... Here is one at least without guile, without pretension, without scheming, of a pure life, to his family and little modest circle of friends tenderly devoted."[9]

Examples of his works

Hood wrote humorously on many contemporary issues. One of the most important issues in his time was grave robbing and selling of corpses to anatomists (see West Port murders). On this serious and perhaps cruel issue, he wrote humorously thus:

Don’t go to weep upon my grave,
And think that there I be.
They haven’t left an atom there
Of my anatomie
-Thomas Hood

"I Remember, I Remember" (poetry)
I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought to long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.

I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white,
The violets, and the lily-cups
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birth-day,
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember
Where I used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow.

I remember, I remember
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy.

Hood’s most widely known work during his lifetime was a poem entitled "The Song of the Shirt", which was a lament for a poor London seamstress who had been compelled to sell shirts that she had made, the proceeds of which lawfully belonged to her employer, in order to feed her malnourished and ailing child. Hood’s poem appeared in one of the very first editions of Punch in 1843 and quickly became a public sensation, being turned into a popular song and inspiring social activists in defense of the countless laboring women who lived in abject poverty despite their constant industriousness. Below are two verses of "The Song of the Shirt":

WITH fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread--
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt, And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the "Song of the Shirt."

"Work! work! work!
While the cock is crowing aloof!
And work—work—work,
Till the stars shine through the roof!
It's Oh! to be a slave
Along with the barbarous Turk,
Where woman has never a soul to save,
If this is Christian work!

Modern references

Works by Thomas Hood

The list of Hood's separately published works is as follows:

  • Odes and Addresses to Great People (1825)
  • Whims and Oddities (two series, 1826 and 1827)
  • The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies, hero and Leander, Lycus the Centaur and other Poems (1827), his only collection of serious verse
  • The Dream of Eugene Aram, the Murderer (1831)
  • Tylney Hall, a novel (3 vols., 1834)
  • The Comic Annual (1830-1842)
  • Hood's Own, or, Laughter from Year to Year (1838, second series, 1861)
  • Up the Rhine (1840)
  • Hood's Magazine and Comic Miscellany (1844-1848)
  • National Tales (2 vols., 1837), a collection of short novelettes
  • Whimsicalities (1844), with illustrations from John Leech's designs; and many contributions to contemporary periodicals.

References

  1. ^ J.C. Reid page 10
  2. ^ J.C. Reid page 19
  3. ^ Memorials Page 5
  4. ^ His living situation in Dundee was pieced together by George Maxwell in Hood in Scotland. See particularly Chapter III
  5. ^ In the Memorials of Thomas Hood His daughter Francis gives the date of her parents marriage as May 5th 1824. (page 17) J.C Reid, on the other hand gives the date of the marriage as May 5th of the following year.(page 67)
  6. ^ Memorials of Thomas Hood pages 23-24
  7. ^ Clubbe page 181
  8. ^ Clubbe page 196
  9. ^ Reid page 235

Further reading

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Thomas Hood, British humorist and poet

Thomas Hood (May 23, 1799May 3, 1845) was a English humorist and poet.

Contents

Sourced

  • His death which happened in his berth,
    At forty-odd befell:
    They went and told the sexton, and
    The sexton tolled the bell.
  • I remember, I remember
    The house where I was born,
    The little window where the sun
    Came peeping in at morn;
    He never came a wink too soon
    Nor brought too long a day;
    But now, I often wish the night
    Had borne my breath away.
  • I remember, I remember
    The fir-trees dark and high;
    I used to think their slender tops
    Were close against the sky:
    It was a childish ignorance,
    But now 'tis little joy
    To know I'm farther off from Heaven
    Than when I was a boy.
    • I Remember, I Remember, st. 4
  • And there is ev'n a happiness
    That makes the heart afraid!
  • There's not a string attuned to mirth
    But has its chord in melancholy.
    • Ode to Melancholy, st. 8
  • But evil is wrought by want of thought,
    As well as want of heart.
  • I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
    Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
    To silence.
  • Never go to France
    Unless you know the lingo,
    If you do, like me,
    You will repent, by jingo.
    • French and English, st. 1 (1839)
  • No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
    No comfortable feel in any member—
    No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
    No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds—
    November!
  • One more Unfortunate,
    Weary of breath,
    Rashly importunate,
    Gone to her death!

    Take her up tenderly,
    Lift her with care;
    Fashion'd so slenderly
    Young, and so fair!
  • Alas! for the rarity
    Of Christian charity
    Under the sun!
    • The Bridge of Sighs, st. 9

The Song of the Shirt (1843)

  • With fingers weary and worn,
    With eyelids heavy and red,
    A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
    Plying her needle and thread—
    Stitch! stitch! stitch!
    In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
    And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
    She sang the “Song of the Shirt.”
    • St. 1
  • Work! work! work!
    While the cock is crowing aloof!
    And work—work—work,
    Till the stars shine through the roof!
    • St. 2
  • Oh, Men, with Sisters dear!
    Oh, Men, with Mothers and Wives!
    It is not linen you're wearing out,
    But human creatures' lives!
    • St. 4
  • Oh, God! that bread should be so dear,
    And flesh and blood so cheap!
    • St. 5

The Dream of Eugene Aram [1]

  • 'Twas in the prime of summer-time
    An evening calm and cool,
    And four-and-twenty happy boys
    Came bounding out of school:
    There were some that ran and some that leapt,
    Like troutlets in a pool.
  • And lo! the universal air
    Seemed lit with ghastly flame;
    Ten thousand thousand dreadful eyes
    Were looking down in blame
  • My head was like an ardent coal,
    My heart as solid ice;
    My wretched, wretched soul, I knew,
    Was at the Devil's price:
    A dozen times I groaned: the dead
    Had never groaned but twice!
  • That very night while gentle sleep
    The urchin's eyelids kissed,
    Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
    Through the cold and heavy mist;
    And Eugene Aram walked between,
    With gyves upon his wrist.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

THOMAS HOOD (1799-1845), British humorist and poet, the son of Thomas Hood, bookseller, was born in London on the 23rd of May 1799. "Next to being a citizen of the world," writes Thomas Hood in his Literary Reminiscences, " it must be the best thing to be born a citizen of the world's greatest city." On the death of her husband in 1811 Mrs Hood removed to Islington, where Thomas Hood had a schoolmaster who appreciated his talents, and, as he says, "made him feel it impossible not to take an interest in learning while he seemed so interested in teaching." Under the care of this "decayed dominie," whom he has so affectionately recorded, he earned a few guineas - his first literary fee - by revising for the press a new edition of Paul and Virginia. Admitted soon after into the counting-house of a friend of his family, he "turned his stool into a Pegasus on three legs, every foot, of course, being a dactyl or a spondee"; but the uncongenial profession affected his health, which was never strong, and he was transferred to the care of his father's relations at Dundee. There he led a healthy outdoor life, and also became a large and indiscriminate reader, and before long contributed humorous and poetical articles to the provincial newspapers and magazines. As a proof of the seriousness with which he regarded the literary vocation, it may be mentioned that he used to write out his poems in printed characters, believing that that process best enabled him to understand his own peculiarities and faults, and probably unconscious that Coleridge had recommended some such method of criticism when he said he thought "print settles it." On his return to London in 1818 he applied himself assiduously to the art of engraving, in which he acquired a skill that in after years became a most valuable assistant to his literary labours, and enabled him to illustrate his various humours and fancies by a profusion of quaint devices, which not only repeated to the eye the impressions of the text, but, by suggesting amusing analogies and contrasts, added considerably to the sense and effect of the work.

In 1821 Mr John Scott, the editor of the London Magazine, was killed in a duel, and that periodical passed into the hands of some friends of Hood, who proposed to make him sub-editor. His installation into this congenial post at once introduced him to the best literary society of the time; and in becoming the associate of Charles Lamb, Cary de Quincey, Allan Cunningham, Proctor, Talfourd, Hartley Coleridge, the peasant-poet Clare and other contributors to the magazine, he gradually developed his own intellectual powers, and enjoyed that happy intercourse with superior minds for which his cordial and genial character was so well adapted, and which he has described in his best manner in several chapters of Hood's Own. He had married in 1825, and Odes and Addresses - his first work - was written in conjunction with his brother-in-law Mr J. H. Reynolds, the friend of Keats. S. T. Coleridge wrote to Charles Lamb averring that the book must be his work. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies (1827) and a dramatic romance, Lamia, published later, belong to this time. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies was a volume of serious verse, in which Hood showed himself a by no means despicable follower of Keats. But he was known as a humorist, and the public, which had learned to expect jokes from him, rejected this little book almost entirely. There was much true poetry in the verse, and much sound sense and keen observation in the prose of these works; but the poetical feeling and lyrical facility of the one, and the more solid qualities of the other, seemed best employed when they were subservient to his rapid wit, and to the ingenious coruscations of his fancy. This impression was confirmed by the series of the Comic Annual, dating from 1830, a kind of publication at that time popular, which Hood undertook and continued, almost unassisted, for several years. Under that somewhat frivolous title he treated all the leading events of the day in a fine spirit of caricature, entirely free from grossness and vulgarity, without a trait of personal malice, and with an under-current of true sympathy and honest purpose that will preserve these papers, like the sketches of Hogarth, long after the events and manners they illustrate have passed from the minds of men. But just as the agreeable jester rose into the earnest satirist, one of the most striking peculiarities of his style became a more manifest defect. The attention of the reader was distracted, and his good taste annoyed, by the incessant use of puns, of which Hood had written in his own vindication: "However critics may take offence, A double meaning has double sense." Now it is true that the critic must be unconscious of some of the subtlest charms and nicest delicacies of language who would exclude from humorous writing all those impressions and surprises which depend on the use of the diverse sense of words. The history, indeed, of many a word lies hid in its equivocal uses; and it in no way derogates from the dignity of the highest poetry to gain strength and variety from the ingenious application of the same sounds to different senses, any more than from the contrivances of rhythm or the accompaniment of imitative sounds. But when this habit becomes the characteristic of any wit, it is impossible to prevent it from degenerating into occasional buffoonery, and from supplying a cheap and ready resource, whenever the true vein of humour becomes thin or rare. Artists have been known to use the left hand in the hope of checking the fatal facility which practice had conferred on the right; and if Hood had been able to place under some restraint the curious and complex machinery of words and syllables which his fancy was incessantly producing, his style would have been a great gainer, and much real earnestness of object, which now lies confused by the brilliant kaleidoscope of language, would have remained definite and clear. He was probably not unconscious of this danger; for, as he gained experience as a writer, his diction became more simple, and his ludicrous illustrations less frequent. In another annual called the Gem appeared the poem on the story of "Eugene Aram," which first manifested the full extent of that poetical vigour which seemed to advance just in proportion as his physical health declined. He started a magazine in his own name, for which he secured the assistance of many literary men of reputation and authority, but which was mainly sustained by his own intellectual activity. From a sick-bed, from which he never rose, he conducted this work with surprising energy, and there composed those poems, too few in number, but immortal in the English language, such as the "Song of the Shirt" (which appeared anonymously in the Christmas number of Punch, 1843), the "Bridge of Sighs" and the "Song of the Labourer," which seized the deep human interests of the time, and transported them from the ground of social philosophy into the loftier domain of the imagination. They are no clamorous expressions of anger at the discrepancies and contrasts of humanity, but plain, solemn pictures of conditions of life, which neither the politician nor the moralist can deny to exist, and which they are imperatively called upon to remedy. Woman, in her wasted life, in her hurried death, here stands appealing to the society that degrades her, with a combination of eloquence and poetry, of forms of art at once instantaneous and permanent, and with great metrical energy and variety.

Hood was associated with the Athenaeum, started in 1828 by J. Silk Buckingham, and he was a regular contributor for the rest of his life. Prolonged illness brought on straitened circumstances; and application was Iriade to Sir Robert Peel to place Hood's name on the pension list with which the British state so moderately rewards the national services of literary men. This was done without delay, and the pension was continued to his wife and family after his death, which occurred on the 3rd of May 1845. Nine years after a monument, raised by public subscription, in the cemetery of Kensal Green, was inaugurated by Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton) with a concourse of spectators that showed how well the memory of the poet stood the test of time. Artisans came from a great distance to view and honour the image of the popular writer whose best efforts had been dedicated to the cause and the sufferings of the workers of the world; and literary men of all opinions gathered round the grave of one of their brethren whose writings were at once the delight of every boy and the instruction of every man who read them. Happy the humorist whose works and life are an illustration of the great moral truth that the sense of humour is the just balance of all the faculties of man, the best security against the pride of knowledge and the conceits of the imagination, the strongest inducement to submit with a wise and pious patience to the vicissitudes of human existence. This was the lesson that Thomas Hood left behind him. (H.) Bibliography. - The list of Hood's separately published works is as follows: Odes and Addresses to Great People (1825); Whims and Oddities (two series, 1826 and 1827); The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies, Hero and Leander, Lycus the Centaur and other Poems (1827), his only collection of serious verse; The Dream of Eugene Aram, the Murderer (1831); Tylney Hall, a novel (3 vols., 1834); The Comic Annual (1830-1842); Hood's Own; or, Laughter from Year to Year (1838, second series, 1861); Up the Rhine (1840); Hood's Magazine and Comic Miscellany (1844-1848); National Tales (2 vols., 1837), a collection of short novelettes; Whimsicalities (184.4), with illustrations from Leech's designs; and many contributions to contemporary periodicals.

The chief sources of his biography are: Memorials of Thomas Hood, collected, arranged and edited by his daughter (1860); his "Literary Reminiscences" in Hood's Own; Alexander Elliot, Hood in Scotland (1885). See also the memoir of Hood's friend C. W. Dilke, by his grandson Sir Charles Dilke, prefixed to Papers of a Critic; and M. H. Spielmann's History of Punch. There is an excellent edition of the Poems of Thomas Hood (2 vols., 1897), with a biographical introduction of great interest by Canon Alfred Ainger.


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