Although William Hope Hodgson is mostly known for his fiction and novels, he wrote a number of non-fiction articles over his lifetime. According to the latest version of the bibliography (compiled by S.T. Joshi, Mike Ashley and myself with the assistance of several other researchers), 40 different are listed. They range from physical culture to writings issues to essays about the sea.
In fact, the first piece of writing which Hodgson ever had published was nonfiction. This was his article, “Dr. Thomas’s Vibration Method versus Sandow’s” which appeared in the August, 1901, issue of Sandow’s Magazine. This was the beginning of Hodgson’s professional writing career and, although he would sell several articles on physical culture, they all appeared by 1904 (“Chair Exercises” in Penny Pictorial Weekly, June 25, 1904). It appears that Hodgson wrote nothing more on this subject after this point.
About this time, Hodgson’s attention turned more to ‘authorial’ matters. He wrote several articles for the Author magazine regarding concerns facing writers. Hodgson appeared in this magazine several times:
“Regarding Similar Names.” (Author, January 1906)
“Totems for Authors.” (Author, February 1906)
“The Poet v. the Stonemason; or, Why Not a New Market for Poetry?” (Author, March 1906)
“A Review of the Totem Question.” (Author, April 1906)
These are rather odd little articles as they are obsessed with the problems of authors having similar names and proposes the use of different icons (or “Totems”) to differentiate between authors. The poetry article argues that there is a market for poetry but only as written by genuine poets which is ironic considering Hodgson’s lifelong attempts to publish his own poetry.
Of course, Hodgson wrote several articles about life on the sea and a few of these were transcriptions of lectures he had given. Of these, the best examples are “Through the Vortex of a Cyclone” (Cornhill Magazine, November 1907), “Ten Months at Sea” and “A Sailor and his Camera”. The last two were unpublished during Hodgson’s lifetime but were collected in Jane Frank’s The Wandering Soul. Other notable items are “Is the Mercantile Navy Worth Joining?” (Grand Magazine, September 1905), “The ‘Emergency Door’ of the Sea: ‘Out Boats'” (Westminster Gazette, April 1914), and “The ‘Prentices Mutiny” (Wide World Magazine, 1912). The second article was likely written in response to the Titanic tragedy which had happened two years earlier while the third is an account of an actual mutiny written in the manner of a short story.
Less easy to classify are such items as “Date 1965: Modern Warfare” (New Age, December 1908), “The Peril of the Mine” (Ideas, April 1910), “The Psychology of Species”, and “Writers of Ghost Stories”. The last two were unpublished but also included in Frank’s collection.
The last nonfiction pieces to appear during Hodgson’s lifetime are three short pieces obviously written during the early days of the war:
“How the French Soldier Deals with Spies”
“An Old French Woman and Her Chickens”
“A Pen Picture of How Frenchmen Fight”
All three appeared in the October, 1914, issue of Westminster Gazette. The French aspect is interesting and must relate to the time Hodgson and his wife spent in France between their marriage in 1913 and their return to England in 1914.
Although Hodgson would publish more new fiction between 1914 and his death in 1918, this was the end of his nonfiction input. Although ranging across several different subjects, the spirit of Hodgson comes across strongest in the Physical Culture and Sea articles. In these, we see his devotion to the disciple of the body as well as his true feelings about the sea he spent so much time on in his young years.