A Letter from the WWI Front


As a coda to yesterday’s post regarding Hodgson’s WWI experiences, I present this excerpt from a letter that WHH wrote to his mother in 1918:

“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 for ever, 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; talk about the ‘Night Land’–it is all here, not more than two hundred odd miles from where you sit infinitely remote.  And the infinite, monstrous, dreadful pathos of the things one sees–the great shell-hole with over thirty crosses sticking in it; some just up out of the water–and the dead below them, submerged….If I live and come somehow out of this (and certainly, please God, I shall and hope to), what a book I shall write if my old ‘ability’ with the pen has not forsaken me.” (OUT OF THE STORM, Donald Grant.  West Kingston, Rhode Island, 1975.  Pg 115.)

The letter is all the more poignant with the knowledge that Hodgson did not, after all, “come somehow out of this”.  Who knows what vistas of horror that the Great War might have spurred him to write?

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6 Comments

Filed under William Hope Hodgson

6 responses to “A Letter from the WWI Front

  1. I came across the piece in an obituary of WHH, by Arthur St John Adcock, in a magazine column that he was editing. I have since lost the reference, and the photocopies that I had made, but I may have sent the citation, at the time, for the WHH bibliography.

  2. The same letter was quoted in an obituary i located over a fifteen years ago, by Arthur St John Adcock, in a magazine appearance. I did have a photocopy of it, but have since lost it, and can’t remember when and where it appeared. I may have sent the bibliographic information to you for the bibliography, when I was working on it prior to starting the Machen bibliography.

    • Hmmmm… I shall have to see if I can find that, Phillip. Looking through the latest version of the biblio, I do not see any listings for the obituaries. Definitely something for me to discuss with S.T.

  3. Micky

    You can find it here; the site is devoted to WHH’s “The Night Land”

    http://www.thenightland.co.uk/MYWEB/nightletters.html (the extract)

    http://www.thenightland.co.uk/nightmap.html (mainpage)

  4. Micky

    I saw the extract of the letter some five or six years ago but having read your version, Sam, I thought there was something missig; I remembered reading about the blockhouses and an unknown French soldier in the original extract; so I made a search a dug out what it again. Here it is:

    “What a scene of desolation, the heaved-up mud rimming ten thousand shell craters as far as the sight could reach, north and south and east and west. My God, what a desolation! And here and there, standing like mute, muddied rocks-somehow terrible in their significant grim bashed formlessness-an old concrete blockhouse, with the earth torn up around them in monstrous craters, and, in some cases, surged in great waves of earth against the sides of the blockhouses. 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 for ever, 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; talk about the “Night Land”–it is all here, not more than two hundred odd miles from where you sit infinitely remote. And the infinite, monstrous, dreadful pathos of the things one sees–the great shell-hole with over thirty crosses sticking up in it; some just up out of the water–and the dead below them, submerged. And near the centre there was one cross inscribed to “Adolphe Dehaut, tué Nov. 26th, 1917.” And on the centre of the cross, lashed with a piece of cross-wire, was an empty bottle, upside down. (“Turn down an empty glass,” I suppose.) Who, I wonder, was Adolphe Dehaut? If I live and come somehow out of this (and certainly, please God, I shall and hope to) what a book I shall write if my old “ability” with the pen has not forsaken me. Who, I wonder, was Adolphe Dehaut? Some day, if it please God, I’ll see that at least one French soldier’s name is not lost in the dreadful oblivion that, like the mud of this hideous world, falls on the dead, and they pass out, wrapped in their blanket.”

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