I’ve talked many times before about the difficulty in doing biographical research on William Hope Hodgson. Apparently, I am not the only one who has had some problems in this area.
Sam Moskowitz wrote a 3 part series about Hodgson which appeared in Weird Tales in Summer 1973-Winter 1973. This was the basis for his introduction to the later collection Out of the Storm (1975). This was one of the first expanded essays covering Hodgson’s life.
R. Alain Everts, who had himself done research on Hodgson, had some issues with Moskowitz’s work. In a brief article that appeared in Outsider #6, Everts had this to say:
“Sam Moskowitz and WEIRD TALES – two names to conjure up the highest interest and praise. In fact, I personally consider Sam Moskowitz to be one of the’ finest researchers in the history of ancient pulp magazines – but unfortunately, his research is flawed by hasty conclusions and errors of fact, due more to lack of access to certain sources of information than due to any lack of zeal, for he is untiring and tremendous in this area.
“In the resurrected WEIRD TALES, Moskowitz steps somewhat out on a limb and declares that his “William Hope Hodgson – The Early Years” is part of his “most definitive work on Hodgson ever attempted.” Even the foreword to his essay contains errors – the remaining papers of the Hodgson Estate are not in England.
“The essay itself, at least this first third of it, makes some basic and easily verifiable mistakes: Samuel Hodgson was not ordained an Anglican Priest in 1871; WHH’s mother was named Lizzie Sarah Brown, and her husband did not disagree with any Church doctrines, but rather personally with his Bishops; the names of the Hodgson children given by SaM are all nicknames, not their full and given names; Hope’s father was not at all “unfailingly kind” to Hope; Hope attended the New School in Margate; Hope’s father certainly did not apprentice Hope to sea – in fact, Samuel Hodgson severely opposed WHH in all of his choices until his death in 1892. The information regarding Lizzie’s father is incorrect; Samuel did not lose his voice during the period Sam seems to indicate; while sister Lissie Hodgson at this time (she being six years old) could not have possibly assisted the family – “Lisswood” was not occupied until late 1912; details on Hope’s education are incorrect; Hope was 5 foot 7 or 8 inches tall, but so slim that his height was not noticed; the dates for his Physical Culture School are not correct; Hope’s relationship with his mother was, at best, strained and not excellent, and one sister recalls many tiffs and fights between Hope and his mother and Hope and his sisters; Hope was indeed a “skirt-chaser” and was at one time engaged to a society girl. “Goddess of Death” and “A Tropical Horror” were written prior to age 27, in fact, so was THE BOATS OF THE ‘GLEN CARRIG.’ Hope’s last novel, THE NIGHT LAND, was written during the winter of 1906 in Wales; facts about the heroism medallion are wrong; I doubt that there is an hiatus of publication during 1906-1907 since more and more previously uncollected tales keep cropping up; in the year 1906, there was no income at all from the younger boys supposedly at work – in fact, Chad had gone and had married already, Frank was gone, Chris at school, Hillyard married and moved away.
“The highest merits should go to SaM for the bibliographical information contained in this article. I have declined to comment or make any statement on WHH’s magazine contributions, since I am continually locating stories in obscure and divers periodicals.”
This highlights the difficulty we face today in doing Hodgson research. We do not have access to many of the resources which Everts and Moskowitz enjoyed especially the ability to interview some of Hodgson’s surviving family members. Of particular difficulty is determining WHH’s personal relationships with his family. Moskowitz hints that WHH and his father were not at odds with each other while Everts states the opposite. How can we know? It remains the greatest stumbling block to Hodgson scholarship today.