William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918) is most widely known as a writer of sea horror stories even though two of his novels (The House on the Borderland and The Night Land) have nothing to do with the sea. It may surprise many readers to learn, then, that WHH wrote a great deal of fiction that is not sea or horror related at all!
Hodgson was a working writer. What that means is that he (and later he and his wife) had to live off of whatever income he made as a writer. He did not have a large trust fund, was not rich by any stretch of the imagination, or had any other appreciable income. So if he did not sell his work, they did not eat!
As such, he was always looking for ways to increase his sales and one of those was to not worry about genres but simply write whatever came to mind. Some of the results of this are debatable but they all are worth some measure of attention.
In fact, the very first story he had published, “The Goddess of Death” (1904), is more of a mystery yarn than horror. A statue is accused of causing some deaths and, during the course of the story, there are some frightening scenes, but the end result is a rational explanation worthy of a Carnacki tale.
“The Captain of the Onion-Boat” (1910), although it does concern a captain of a ship, is far more of a romance than anything else. The title character pines away for a lost love who has committed herself to a convent and Hodgson focuses on their longing to an almost excruciating degree. This story shows an oddly sentimental side of WHH which doesn’t show often in his later work which leads me to speculate if it might have been written earlier than it’s publication date of 1910.
In “The Girl with the Grey Eyes” (1913), a youthful wastrel becomes obsessed with winning the love of a young girl but is stymied by her other ‘suitor’ who turns out to be her brother! It is a mostly forgettable story that is remarkable only for the lack of emotional depth of the characters.
“Judge Barclay’s Wife” (1912) is, of all things, a western. Set in the American West, it is another morality story from Hodgson that plays on the titular character’s disgust at her husband’s seeming ‘softness’ on criminals. It changes when a youth is accused of murder and his mother pleads to the Judge for mercy. Given that Hodgson had never set foot in the American West (near as I am aware), it is a better story than one would expect. Here again, however, we see Hodgson showing a not particularly favorable attitude towards women.
“Kind, Kind and Gentle is She” (1913) is a military adventure story that, once again, revolves around a woman. A soldier in an outpost (possibly India) is deeply in love with the daughter of one of the higher officers who apparently holds him in some affection but it is expected that she will marry one of the junior officers. When the outpost is attacked, it is saved virtually because of this one soldier who literally goes down swinging. Later, it is revealed that the love of his life (whom he died protecting), married the junior officer as expected. This is another unflattering portrait of women by Hodgson.
“My House Shall be Called the House of Prayer” (1911) concerns a poor pastor who becomes forced to sell off his possessions. His parishioners buy the goods, only to place them back in his home as an act of charity. Although charming, the story has little to recommend it. Still, it does reveal Hodgson’s more sentimental side.
“The Smugglers” (1911) tells the story of a customs agent who is pitted against a family of smugglers. Although they appear to get the best of the agent, he prevails in the end and wins (?) the love of one of their daughters. This is an odd story that almost feels as if Hodgson is venting some anger through his words. This is particular clear in the ‘scheme’ that the family concocts to keep the agent out of the way which involves the daughter distracting him by going on long walks and allowing him to ‘woo’ her.
As with many writers, sea and horror stories are but a part of Hodgson’s works. For a fuller understanding of Hodgson as a writer, I encourage readers to check out these and many more of Hodgson’s “OTHER” stories!