“An Appreciation”

This marks the final item to appear in the June, 1944, issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR.  It is unsigned and, although I know that it marked half of an obituary of Hodgson, I have not been able to identify in which paper it was originally printed.  The author of the piece appears to have been a close friend of Hodgson but not part of the family.  One of the most powerful passages quotes a letter which WHH wrote during WWI.  Sadly, few letters like this exist although it is always possible that more may be held in private collections.

I would like to express my extreme admiration and gratitude to Mr. Gene Biancheri, the son-in-law of the late H. C. Koenig.  Gene generously sent me a photocopy of this very rare issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR and has been unceasingly supportive of both this blog and my efforts regarding Hodgson scholarship.  Gene has constantly been both open and willing to share any information I asked for and I hope that all other Hodgson scholars will adapt his example.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading these essays as much as I have.  They show that Hodgson had already garnered a wide variety of supporters which included many prominent writers of the day.–Sam Gafford

An Appreciation*

William Hope Hodgson

“It is written of some men that to know them is to love them”.  It is frequently written without sincerity, but it cannot be so written with regard to one who has just passed over.  It was in September last that he wrote to me expressing the hope that at some future date we might meet and “find in each other kindred spirits”.  It was just like  him to assume that an obscure person whose name he did not even know and who followed the same road, but far behind him, should be worth of his friendship.  He wrote: “Eight years at sea, three times around the world, ten years an author, and now nearly two and a half years a soldier—for I left my little chalet on the French Riviera to join up—brings me to 1917, and if good fortune attends me I shall be in France this week-end”.  It was characteristic of his large hearted personality the he should have enclosed his photograph—and it is curious that never since that letter was received has it left my pocket.  There are some letters like that—but how few from the hundreds are worthy keeping and carrying for seven months.  What he was as an author one is not competent to judge.  His critics were all of one mind, and each new work as it appeared brought from the leading literary weeklies some new word of praise.  On the only occasion we ever met he asked me, “Do you like imaginative stuff,” and the next day’s post brought me his wonderful romance, “The Nightland”.  What he was pleased to call pot-boilers were eagerly sought after by the leading London magazines but his heart lay in the bigger tasks.  What it must have meant to a temperament like his to leave his quiet home and work for the big guns can be imagined.  He did it cheerfully, as many others have done.  To some it is worse than to others.  To the sensitive, to the poet, to the writer, it is something different from what it can be to the ordinary person.  They see further and they feel more acutely.  No man “left all” in a more literal sense than did Hope Hodgson, and what it meant to him will never be known.  He laughingly said once that it was “good for local colour”.  He joined from a great sense of duty, and now his duty done he is free from earthly things.  In one of his last letters he wrote “Shells bursting all around us, and yet one did not seem to care, hardly even noticed them.  The moment was too intense, tremendous—looked forward to through weary months with hope and expectation and some wonder and perhaps dread lest one should fall short—and then in a moment the event was upon us…and that with gun-firing with two of us loading it, firing a round every three seconds, and even faster, I should say.  The whole road where the Germans were coming round the end of a wood was simply one roar of dust and smoke where our shells were striking.”  “A dread lest one should fall short”—there was no need for dread on his part.  His work remains.  A life work crowned not with fullness of years and praise of men, but with the sublimest heroism.  The praise of men he had for all the work he did; not that he wanted it, but it was his due.  In his wife he had a collaborator of like talent and sympathy.  To her remain the best memories; to us an odd letter or two and his writings.  “There is no one who can fill his place in his home nor in his sphere of work.”

*This letter of appreciation originally appeared in a British newspaper.



Filed under Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson

2 responses to ““An Appreciation”

  1. Daniel del Valle

    Mike Ashley in his introduction to the Dover Publications edition of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND quotes from a letter Hodgson wrote to his mother from the Western Front:
    “The sun was pretty low as I came back, and far off across that
    desolation, here and there they showed- just formless, squarish,
    cornerless masses erected by man against the infernal Storm
    that sweeps forever, night and day, day and night across that
    most atrocious Plain of Destruction. My God! talk about a Lost
    World- talk about the END of the World…”
    How can you not read this and feel goosebumps.

  2. Thanks very much for republishing these Sam. It’s a rare glimpse that I never thought we’d have access to. And thanks to Gene Biancheri for helping to make it happen!

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