We come now to an interesting part of Hodgson’s life as chronicled by R. Alain Everts: his marriage. WHH did not marry until 1913 when he was 35 years old and his new bride was the same age. This would be somewhat unusual at that time and raises more questions than it answers. Was there something about Hodgson that did not make him good ‘marriage material’? We will probably never know but this portion of the essay does give us much to consider.
(As always, this article is being reprinted for the sake of encouraging and promoting knowledge and scholarship about WHH. No copyright infringement is implied or intended.)
SOME FACTS IN THE CASE OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON: MASTER OF PHANTASY
by R. Alain Everts
In London, Hope moved in literary circles, and he either met or looked up one of his old acquaintances from Technical School days–the plain looking Bessie Gertrude Farnworth (called “Betty” by everyone). She was one of the editors of “Woman’s Weekly”, Northcliffe Press, when Hope met and married her in London–Hope of course was quite popular with women–who found him attractive, witty and sociable–but his major drawbacks were his fits of temper, and like all of the Hodgson boys, he was spoiled. In any case, they met and fell in love– up until now Hope had declined marriage with several girls due to his precarious financial state, now somewhat stabilized by his out-put of sea stories.
Bessie G. Farnworth was one of several children of Richard Dobson Farnworth of Cheadle Hulme–and her family was stalked by tragedy–one boy had been drowned in a foot of water in a freak accident crossing the heath; another brother, Gilbert K. Farnworth was killed in action in 1915; while the father was injured fatally trying to repair the roof of the house. The final tragedy in the Franworth family was the tragic and premature death of Hope. However, when they married on 26 February, 1913 in the borough of Kensington in London, Hope and Betty were expecting a long and happy life together. They were both 35 years old–Betty was born in Cheadle Hulme on 14 November 1877 and had attended Blackburn High School where Hope’s brothers and sisters also studied; and later the Technical School. After they married, Betty gave up her post with “Woman’s Weekly”, and the two newlyweds traveled to the south of France where Hope planned to settle and to continue with his writing career.
About March 1913 they moved to France where they planned to live permanently–the inexpensive and healthy life on the Mediterranean attracted the Hodgson pair. They arrive in Sanary, a small vacation resort town, 40 miles east of Marseilles. Here was the ideal spot for Hope and Betty to settle for peace, quiet, love and creativity. Shortly after arriving, Hope wrote to his sister Mary in Canada–
How the years have passed. It must be four or five since last I had a letter from you, or you one from me. Thank you, dear old Girl, for your kind wishes for Betty and me. Betty is one of the Farnworth girls, who used to sketch me at the Technical School. We met again in Town; and now she’s Mrs. Hope. We are the same age, only a day between us. She is not at all good-looking; but we are very happy. I gave her your love, and she sends love to you and yours. How are you? You will be glad to know my new book has gone into a second edition. Give all kind wishes to your husband from me. So much love to you and the kidds (sic).
Your bruder (sic) Hope.
Villa Mimosas, Sanary, Var, May 1913
The bride and groom stayed at the villa “Les Mimosas” located at the foot of the hill which stood the Church Notre Dame de Pitie–only a few hundred feet from the port of Sanary and the downtown area–directly in front of the villa was the Mediterranean across the literal roadside–and a short walk from the front door was the Grande Jetee of Sanary. Truely this was paradise.
The Hodgson’s stayed at the villa Mimosa for less than a year, moving up the beach road to another and very similar villa called Chalet Mathilde, where they also rented an entire floor.