There has not been a great deal of biographical work done on the life of William Hope Hodgson. In fact, there’s really only been three items of any merit. There is the introduction by Sam Moskowitz to OUT OF THE STORM, Jane Frank’s introduction to THE WANDERING SOUL and a long article by R. Alain Everts.
Although the first two are relatively easy to come by, Everts’ article is not.
Originally published in two issues of the fanzine SHADOW in 1973, the article was later revised and reprinted as SOME FACTS IN THE CASE OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON: MASTER OF FANTASY (Strange Co., 1974 and later by Soft Books, 1987). This article is important for several reasons: there is much biographical and genealogical data here as well as some family stories about Hodgson from his then remaining siblings. Everts began his research in the 1960s when a few of Hodgson’s relatives were still alive and had access to many stories, memories and papers that no one else has had.
I am reprinting the version of the article from the Soft Book editions over the next few postings. It is very likely that some will not appreciate my doing so but I believe it is important because the information contained herein deserves to be widely disseminated. My copy of the Soft Books edition does not contain a copyright notice but it is not my intention to subvert or violate any copyright which, unless I hear otherwise, is the property of Everts.
Again, I reiterate that this blog makes me NO money. I do not profit financially from it in any way, shape or form. I am not seeking to make any compensation from this and request that, should anyone copy anything from these posts, if re-posting or using for your own research, please credit Everts for the material. Thank you.–Sam Gafford
PS–You will read in this section a VERY interesting comment that Everts makes regarding Hodgson and Machen. All I can say on that is that I have been unable to independently verify this claim and would welcome input from anyone who can. I am reprinting the essay as it appeared in the Soft Books version, starting with Everts own introduction.
SOME FACTS IN THE CASE OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON: MASTER OF PHANTASY
By R. Alain Everts
This is not meant to be a critical evaluation of the works of W. Hope Hodgson, but primarily a brief account of his life, background, untimely death—excluding many details that I would have liked to include, due to bulk of material, time and other exigencies. This essay was written with the generous cooperation of the divers Hodgson family members, who unhesitatingly opened their records and material to me for my use. I am especially indebted to Chris and Mary—Hope’s last living brother and sister—and to D. Hope Waitt and Hope C. Hodgson and their families—nephews of W. Hope Hodgson, and his namesakes. I am also more than indebted to the fine research ability of Mr. John Ringrose, one of the best and most patient scholars I have come across.
THE EARLY YEARS
William Hope Hodgson, who never in his brief lifetime shewed the slightest religious bent, and in fact, had, as his sister described him, “an extreme disinterest in religion” which caused him some friction with his mother, came from a very religious background. William Hodgson, grandfather of the celebrated writer who received his name, was born in Sheffield, the family seat of his forebears, in the year 1812. At his marriage on 30 May 1838, his trade was given as tailor and that of his father, also named William, as labourer. His bride, Ann Gillott, age 22, was the daughter of John Gillott whose profession was cutter.
Their only child, Samuel Hodgson, was born on 7 October 1846 at 149 West Street, Sheffield, and his father’s occupation was listed as tailor and draper. In 1852, William Hodgson and his family moved to 32 Fitzwilliam Street, and in 1859, William’s occupation was listed as scripture reader. This was the beginning of his rise from the working class to position of gentleman. In 1868, he and his family moved to Cobden View, Crooker and from 1875 until his death on 16 December 1900, William Hodgson was listed as Mr. William Hodgson, gentleman.
William Hope Hodgson’s father, an ascetic, pallid and sternly religious man, was sent to the Lichfield Theological College located in Lichfield, Staffordshire, where he matriculated in 1869. Samuel Hodgson was ordained a deacon of the Anglo-Catholic Church of England on 25 December 1871—and in 1874, a Priest of the Anglican Church. From his ordination, the Reverend Samuel Hodgson became a roving Evangelist—due more to his temper and his disagreements with his Bishop than to his religious zeal—holding the position of Curate at South Darley, Derbyshire from 1871-1873; at St. James in Wednesbury, Staffordshire for one year and on to Pattiswick in Essex for one year. On 1 February 1875, in Wednesbury, Samuel Hodgson married Miss Lizzie Sarah Brown, who had been born on 11 February 1852 in Chepstow Monmouth in Gloucester, the only daughter of Burdett Lambton Brown, a well-to-do engineer and owner of an engineering factory in Birmingham, and his wife, Elizabeth Mary (Brown) Brown. Their daughter was given the finest education for this period, graduating from a finishing school in Brussels, Belgium. Subsequently, the Reverend Hodgson and his wife were sent to St. james Church in Greenstead Green, Essex in 1876, and later that year transferred to the town of Wethersfield in Esex where the Reverend Hodgson was appointed Curate and Windsey Lecturer of the Wethersfield Church, from 1876 until April 1878—and it was here that his most gifted son was born.
William Hope Hodgson, who was always called “Hope” by the family, was born at St. Mary the Virgin, the Blackmore End District Church of the Parish of Wethersfield, in the adjoining house known as St. Mary’s, on 1 November 1877, one of twelve children born to the Reverend and Mrs. Hodgson. Shortly after his birth, on December 2 1877, William Hope Hodgson was baptized by his father in the Wethersfield Church in Blackmore En where he had been born. His elder brother, Samuel Lambton Chad Hodgson (9 March 1876—ca. 1916), and always called “Chad”, had preceded Hope by twenty month—and in between Chad and Hope, another brother, Lawrence Burdett Hodgson who died at 19 months. Following Hope came two other brothers who died before age two—Herbert Arthur Hodgson (1879-1880) and Thomas Edward Raphael Hodgson (1880-1882). The remaining children followed rapidly: Hillyard Charles Earle Hodgson (19 October 1881—ca. 1926) called “Hillyard”; Mary Ellen Elizabeth Hodgson (2 Aprill 1883) called “Mary” or “Pearl”; Francis Xavier Hodgson (29 april 1884-22 October 1942) called “Frank”; Mary Bertha Ann Hodgson (11 July 1995-28 March 1961) called “Bertha”; Lissie Sarah Hodgson (31 July 1886-4 May 1959) called “Lissie”; Sophia Beatrice Eunice Hodgson (27 October 1887-30 January 1962) called “Eunice”, and Christopher George Hodgson (30 June 1890) called “Chris”.
In one of those remarkable literary coincidences, “Chad” Hodgson earned the ire of the family by running off with a divorced woman, some years older than he was. They had one child only, a daughter named Una Hope Hodgson, born in 1909 and who died in 1959. She married on Arthur Hilary Blair Machen, the only son of author Arthur Machen, and had one daughter who today is astounded to learn that she is related by marriage to the two greatest British horror authors of all time.
Meanwhile, the family was traveling and this lack of stability no doubt put a terrible strain on Mrs. Hodgson and the children, for as the family grew larger quite quickly, the income of the Reverend remained small and the family was continually on the move. The lack of secure roots must have affected the sensitive Hope quite early in his childhood, for he ran away from home several times before he was thirteen years old. From 1878-1879, the Reverend Hodgson was stationed as Curate at St. John’s in MIddlesbrough in Yorkshire, and the period 1879-1882 found the family in Skegby, in Stanton Hill, Nottinghamshire. The next five children were all born in or around London, in Kent and in Essex—the Reverend was living in Battersea, London in 1886 for one year as the Curate of St. Andrew’s. In middle 1887, the Reverend Hodgson was sent as a missionary to the “heathen” Catholics in Ardrahan, County Galway, Eire, where the family remained until the end of 1889. During their stay there, Lissie’s father, Burdett Lambton Brown, died a rather wealthy man on February 13, 1888, but apparently his widow received the entire estate of over £600.0.0 It was only at the death of William Hodgson that William Hope Hodgson’s family began to prosper, as the entire fortune of £1,222.0.0 was left to Hope’s mother.
One of Mary’s earliest recollections of her brother Hope is from this period—when the family was living at the Old Rectory in Ardrahan, which had a mile-long drive up to the house. Hope was thrashed by his father for climbing tree3s, and he immediately went to the top of another tree and remained there for several days, being feed by servants. Some unfortunate happenings finally forced the family to leave Ardrahan—for the Catholics resented the presence of Hodgson, and spurred on by the local Catholic leaders, the peasants threatened the family several times. There was fear that the small children might be kidnapped by some of the locals, and one evening the Reverend Hodgson was struck seriously on the head by an anonymously tossed rock—while the orchards of the estate were stripped at the order of the local Catholic hierarchy.
At this period, Hope, who had been attending the new school in Margate during the years 1885-1889, spent the holidays with his family, and the above incident showed that he was all ready somewhat temperamental and unruly, and with his father, rebellious and disobedient. Even at this early age, Hope expressed a desire to run away to sea and become a sailor, completely against the wishes of his father. In 1890, the family moved back to England and settled in Blackburn where the Reverend Hodgson was Curate at All Saints Church—and the family moved into the Fraser Villa at 42 Longshaw Street. Hope returned to the new school and matriculated, but the friction between himself and his father increased, culminating finally in late 1891 when Hope ran away for good. With the assistance of his Uncle, the Reverend Thomas Lumsdon Brown (11 April 1859-5 October 1948), who paid the boy’s expenses and accompanied him to Liverpool where Hope indentured himself on 28 August 1891—apprenticing himself to Master W. W. Nelson, of the firm of Shaw and Savill for four years as a seaman in the Merchant Marine. Although barely 14 years old, the mature and sturdily build youngster gave his age as the minimum 15 years old in order to be accepted. Back in Blackburn, in May, 1892, Hope’s parents opened the Gospel and Salvation Mission together with Mrs. Hodgson assisting her husband’s priestly duties—in fact after his death she was to become an ordained Deaconess. About this same time, a cancerous irritation on the neck of the Reverend Hodgson became malignant, perhaps inflamed by years of wearing the stiff and uncomfortable “dog collar”, and he died on 11 November 1892, only 46 years of age.
(To Be Continued in Part 2)