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ATTENTION ALL SCHOLARS!!!!


scholarFor some time now, I’ve wondered if there might be little caches of Hodgson letters squirreled about in various libraries and universities and the like.  So, I am issuing the call to all those readers of this blog to help me find them!

Seriously, the cause of Hodgson research and criticism has long suffered from a lack of primary sources such as letters and the such.  We need to find out if there are any out there which are available for scholars and historians to use.  This is a project that will benefit everyone looking to do research on/about Hodgson and those who want to read it!  And we’re not just looking for letters that Hodgson may have written but those by his family, friends, etc.

Please use all your resources.  Check everywhere you can!  Post your findings here in the comments section.  I will take all of them (hopefully, there will be some) and create a new page here on the blog listing these resources and those scholars who brought it to my attention.

The only collection I am aware of is the letters that form part of a collection at the Harry Ransom center at the University of Texas at Austin.  Anything else is fair game.

So, as Carnacki would say at the end of a story, “out you go!”

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100!!!!!!


100posts11This marks the 100th posting on the William Hope Hodgson Blog!

Back when I started this blog, several people questioned if there would be enough material to keep it going.  It wasn’t an entirely unjustified question.  After all, Hodgson doesn’t have as much devoted to him as, say, Lovecraft does.  But I felt that, whatever material I did have was important enough to present.

WHHHodgson is kind of the underdog in weird literature.  Doesn’t get a lot of press.  Guillermo del Toro isn’t lining up to direct a move based on THE NIGHT LAND.  There isn’t a convention devoted to Hodgson taking place in Blackburn.  There aren’t even any comic books doing “Hodgsonian” tales.

When I was a small press publisher back in the 1990s, I had a table at a local convention/show where I was selling my Hodgson reprints as well as a couple of Machen books and others.  The convention’s GOH was Neil Gaiman who was kind enough to stop by the table and talk a bit.  We chatted about Machen for a few minutes and gave him complimentary copies of my Machen books but, when I tried to interest him in the Hodgson, he wasn’t biting.  He just wasn’t all that keen on WHH…even when I was trying to give him FREE copies.  I’ve gotten that reaction a lot.

I guess that kind of stuck with me over the years as an example of Hodgson being the “Rodney Dangerfield” of weird fiction.  “He don’t get no respect!”

Through the years, that has always been one of the driving forces behind my efforts.  I want Hodgson to get more respect both from the readers and the literary circles.  WHH will never reach the stature of a Poe or Lovecraft (nor would even I say he deserves to be elevated so far) but there is much in WHH to enjoy and study.

This staged photo of WHH at a ship's wheel was used in his lectures about life at sea.

This staged photo of WHH at a ship’s wheel was used in his lectures about life at sea.

That was one of the reasons why I started this blog because there was no place on the internet to get a lot of this information.  You might get a bit here and there but it wasn’t centralized.  I wanted there to be a place where everyone could come to get old and new material and find out what’s going on in the world of Hodgson.

I hope that I have succeeded in that endeavor.

As we enter 2013, there are already new things in store for Hodgson and his fans.  Some new books are scheduled to come out and WHH is finally getting some of that critical attention that has been denied him for so long.

Hopefully, this year will see the publication of a new collection of Hodgson criticism and studies edited by Massimo Berruti and published by Hippocampus Press called VOICES FROM THE BORDERLAND.  It is an anthology of some old pieces and a lot of new ones as well.  I am happy to say that I will be represented in this volume by several articles and am honored to be included.

One of the most important items in VOICES FROM THE BORDERLAND will hopefully be the long-awaited Hodgson Bibliography which S. T. Joshi, Mike Ashley and I have been working on for well over 10 years now.  It is already over 100 pages long and covers international appearances as well as English.  It has been an invaluable resource in my own work and I look forward to sharing it with others.

A early photo of WHH.  I am not sure of the year but probably roughly around 1903 or so.

A early photo of WHH. I am not sure of the year but probably roughly around 1903 or so.

Already this year we have seen a new paperback of Hodgson stories from Night Shade Books called THE GHOST PIRATES AND OTHERS edited by Jeremy Lassen.  This has marked the first appearance by WHH in an inexpensive, mass produced paperback in several years.  Hodgson also was mentioned in S.T. Joshi’s two volume history of weird literature; UNUTTERABLE HORROR.

Later this year, Centipede Press will be releasing a collection of Hodgson stories compiled by S. T. Joshi.  I do not know the full contents of this book yet but I do know that it will contain the text of the original edition of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND.  Unfortunately, given the tendency of Centipede Press to produce expensive items, I fear it will not be cheap but I am sure that it will be a very attractively pro1 sargassoduced book.

In addition, 2013 will see the first issue of SARGASSO: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies.  This will be a yearly publication highlighting new articles about Hodgson as well as Hodgson inspired art and stories.  I’ve already gotten a number of submissions and am expecting new articles by some of the biggest names in Hodgson criticism.

carnackiAnother project which I’m putting together is a special, 100th anniversary edition of CARNACKI.  This will be a deluxe edition, reprinting the original texts along with annotations.  With luck, I hope to have it available by November.  Going along with that, I would like to announce a collection of all-new Carnacki tales!  I’m opening this up to submissions today, with this post, in the hopes that everyone will spread the word!  I am looking for new tales of Carnacki in the Hodgson tradition so I encourage all of our writers out there to submit a story.  Details are still being negotiated so keep watching the blog for more announcements.

Already I am looking forward to the future.  Within the last 20 years, Hodgson has made great strides in critical and reader popularity.  Virtually all of his major fiction is now available either through e-books, print-on-demand or free online sites.  The next steps are to increase availability of his poetry and non-fiction so that, for new readers, everything is available.  This is a major difference from just a few years ago when it was difficult to easily find even Hodgson’s novels.  Today, we can state that Hodgson is better known and read than ever before.

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

And there is still so much more to learn!  Genealogy research has barely been touched and there is a great need for more study about Hodgson’s own life, opinions and beliefs.  Plus Hodgson has suffered from one major disadvantage: there has yet to be a full, book-length critical study of his works.  I hope to change this in the future.

It’s been a great 100 posts and I hope everyone will still around for the next 100!!

(I’d like to thank everyone who has helped with this blog over the last 100 posts.  I could not have done it without your overwhelming support and I humbly thank you all.  Whether you have contributed materials, shared knowledge, spread the word or just read the blog regularly, you are why I keep going and posting week after week.  I may be the person behind the blog but it is really for all of you.)

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CARNACKI #6: “The Thing Invisible”


carnacki 1(Spoiler warning!  This blog posts discusses plot details in the story, “The Thing Invisible”.  If you have not read this story yet, you can do so here.)

We come now to the sixth, and final, Carnacki story to appear in a magazine during Hodgson’s lifetime.  “The Thing Invisible” was published in the January, 1912, issue of The New Magazine.   It was also the last story to be included in the book collection of Carnacki stories that first appeared in 1913.   It is significant to note that there was a space of 18 months between the publication of this story and June, 1910’s, appearance of “The Searcher of the End House” (which was the last Carnacki story to appear in The Idler).  I have several theories as to why this may have been so which I will take up after the story recap.

After dinner with his friends, Carnacki reveals that he has just returned from South Kent where he was called for a most interesting case.  Sir Alfred Jarnock’s estate has a chapel which has a reputation for being haunted.  There is a legend that if any enemy were to enter the chapel after nightfall, they would be attacked by a dagger which rests over the altar.  Just another curious folktale that would have been ignored had a recent, dangerous, incident not have happened.

One Sunday, after service, the Rector had been talking with Sir Jarnock and Jarnock’s eldest son while the butler was going about extinguishing the candles.  Remembering that he had left his small prayer book on the Communion table, the Rector called to the butler to retrieve it.  As the three men looked towards the butler, he opened the small chancel gate and, before their eyes, was struck by the dagger.

“The Rector’s version was clear and vivid, and he had evidently received the astonishment of his life. He pictured to me the whole affair—Bellett, up at the chancel gate, going for the prayer book, and absolutely alone; and then the blow, out of the Void, he described it; and the force prodigious—the old man being driven headlong into the body of the Chapel. Like the kick of a great horse, the Rector said, his benevolent old eyes bright and intense with the effort he had actually witnessed, in defiance of all that he had hitherto believed.”

The butler survived the attack as the blade missed his heart but broke his collarbone.  It was then that Jarnock’s eldest son, George, had sent for Carnacki.  Sir Jarnock’s nerves had gotten the better of him and he appeared unable to deal with the situation.

After arriving, Carnacki makes his usual exact examination of the place and even spends three days painstakingly inspecting the roof.  He comes to the conclusion that there is no way for someone to hide in the chapel which is problematic as all witnesses, including the butler, claim that there was no one at all near him when the attack occurred.

“Above the altar hangs the ‘waeful dagger,’ as I had learned it was named. I fancy the term has been taken from an old vellum, which describes the dagger and its supposed abnormal properties. I took the dagger down, and examined it minutely and with method. The blade is ten inches long, two inches broad at the base, and tapering to a rounded but sharp point, rather peculiar. It is double-edged.

“The metal sheath is curious for having a crosspiece, which, taken with the fact that the sheath itself is continued three parts up the hilt of the dagger (in a most inconvenient fashion), gives it the appearance of a cross. That this is not unintentional is shown by an engraving of the Christ crucified upon one side, whilst upon the other, in Latin, is the inscription: ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will Repay.’ A quaint and rather terrible conjunction of ideas. Upon the blade of the dagger is graven in old English capitals: I WATCH. I STRIKE. On the butt of the hilt there is carved deeply a Pentacle.”

Finally speaking to Sir Jarnock, Carnacki proposes that he spend the night in the chapel to which Sir Jarnock completely refuses.  It is Sir Jarnock’s habit to lock the chapel every evening so that none would risk harm and he would not yield on this point especially after what had happened to the butler.

Undaunted, Carnacki decides to make an impression of the key when he borrows it the following day and have a duplicate made in secret.  He sets up his camera and takes a picture of the quite chapel in daylight.  Carnacki then goes into town to develop the plate and have the duplicate key made.

That night, Carnacki sneaks into the chapel.  In preparation, he dons several pieces of plate mail over which he wears a shirt of chain mail ‘borrowed’ from the Jarnock’s Armory.  He carries with him a lantern and his gun.

“Now it would be silly to say I did not feel queer. I felt very queer indeed. You just try, any of you, to imagine yourself standing there in the dark silence and remembering not only the legend that was attached to the place, but what had really happened to the old butler only a little while gone, I can tell you, as I stood there, I could believe that something invisible was coming toward me in the air of the Chapel. Yet, I had got to go through with the business, and I just took hold of my little bit of courage and set to work.”

Carnacki resets his camera and re-examines the chapel again to no avail.  He takes another picture of the chapel with the use of his flash and then sits down in one of the pews to wait.  As the evening wears on, he hears odd noises like the sound of a metallic ‘clank’ from the direction of the altar and soft steps near him.  The dark and the quiet bear down on him:

“Suddenly my courage went. I put up my mailed arms over my face. I wanted to protect it. I had got a sudden sickening feeling that something was hovering over me in the dark. Talk about fright! I could have shouted if I had not been afraid of the noise…. And then, abruptly, I heard something. Away up the aisle, there sounded a dull clang of metal, as it might be the tread of a mailed heel upon the stone of the aisle. I sat immovable. I was fighting with all my strength to get back my courage. I could not take my arms down from over my face, but I knew that I was getting hold of the gritty part of me again. And suddenly I made a mighty effort and lowered my arms. I held my face up in the darkness. And, I tell you, I respect myself for the act, because I thought truly at that moment that I was going to die. But I think, just then, by the slow revulsion of feeling which had assisted my effort, I was less sick, in that instant, at the thought of having to die, than at the knowledge of the utter weak cowardice that had so unexpectedly shaken me all to bits, for a time.”

When nothing happens, Carnacki recovers his courage.  He turns on his lantern but sees nothing amiss or worrying so shuts it off and sits for awhile more in the dark.

His nerves fading, Carnacki becomes convinced that he is hearing a slithering sound near the camera and shines his lantern to find nothing there.  Standing up, he is determined to see if the dagger has moved and walks up to the chancel gate to find that the dagger is no long in the scabbard above the altar.

Afraid that it might be floating about somewhere near, he steps up the gate and, as he opens it, is struck mightily in the chest by the dagger!  Thrown backward, he loses his gun and the lantern smashes on the floor.  Panic stricken, Carnacki runs blindly down the aisle, knocking over his camera and out the door.

In his room, Carnacki regains his calm and examines his armor.  The dagger had pierce both the chain and plate armor and left a scratch on his chest.  With a chill, Carnacki realizes that it had been pointed at his heart.

At dawn the next morning, Carnacki returns to the chapel and examines his equipment.  The lantern is shattered but his gun is untouched and the camera only  slightly damaged.  The dagger is lying in the aisle.

With a sudden, unreasoned action, I jumped forward and put my foot on it, to hold it there. Can you understand? Do you? And, you know, I could not stoop down and pick it up with my hands for quite a minute, I should think. Afterward, when I had done so, however, and handled it a little, this feeling passed away and my Reason (and also, I expect, the daylight) made me feel that I had been a little bit of an ass. Quite natural, though, I assure you! Yet it was a new kind of fear to me. I’m taking no notice of the cheap joke about the ass! I am talking about the curiousness of learning in that moment a new shade or quality of fear that had hitherto been outside of my knowledge or imagination. Does it interest you?

Carnacki cleans up and takes the plates out of the camera before heading back to town.  He wakes up the local photographer who grants Carnacki access to his darkroom.  The first plate he develops is of the chapel, taken with the flash but there is nothing unusual in the picture.  The second plate is of what had been in the camera at the time of the attack with the lens open.  It is Carnacki’s hope that something might have imprinted upon the unexposed plate.  Although the second plate shows some shapes which could have been the dagger, they are too vague to be sure.  It is while examining the other photo that Carnacki makes an exciting discovery.

Arriving back at the castle, Carnacki is told that Sir Jarnock is unwell and would prefer that no one enter the chapel without him.  George Jarnock states that it is in keeping with his father’s personality as he would never allow anyone into the chapel.

Carnacki sneaks off and conducts some experiments in the chapel which confirm his suspicions.  He gets George to come with him and they bring a dummy dressed in plate armor to the chapel.  Although surprised when Carnacki produces a key, George says nothing.

16_thingThey place the dummy in the same position where the butler had been attacked.  When George makes a motion to open the chancel gate, Carnacki warns him that he is in danger and to step away.  George steps away to the left and Carnacki, well to the right of the dummy, leans it forward so that it presses on the chancel gate which springs open.  Suddenly, the dummy is stuck by a tremendous blow and thrown to the floor where it lays with the dagger buried in the armor.

Carnacki shows George how the trick was done.  A section of the left hand gatepost has a hinge which, when pressed down, opens a gap in the floor into which the post fits snugly with a click.  Carnacki then takes the dagger and places it in a hole in the post, point upward.  Then, pressing further, the section lifts back up, covering the dagger and closing the hole in the floor.  It is nothing more than a trap set for an unsuspecting enemy.

The case is resolved when Sir Jarnock confesses to setting the trap every night out of habit and that, the day of the butler’s injury, had set it too early.  The hole, Carnacki surmises, was used in previous ages to hide valuables and, indeed, that is where Sir Jarnock has hidden his late wife’s jewelry.

As there was no permanent injury with the butler recovering, the affair is hushed up and the chapel retains it’s ‘haunted’ reputation.

“The Thing Invisible” is definitely one of Carnacki’s weakest cases as written by Hodgson.  Not only is there no supernatural cause but the ‘haunting’ itself is handled poorly and is hardly interesting.  Compare this to other stories where even the manufactured hauntings are more dramatic and we can see why this story lacks.   The only ‘fear’ comes as Carnacki sits alone in the chapel and even this is not as effective as in other stories.

In addition, there is no mention of any of Carnacki’s previous cases (like there are in other stories), the Sigsand Manuscript, or even the SaaaMaaa Ritual.  In some ways, it seems as if this case happened to a completely different Carnacki!  None of his investigative techniques are used here such as sealing the doors or placing wires to determine if anyone else is walking nearby.

It is for this reason that I feel that this is quite possibly the first Carnacki story written by Hodgson.  The story feels as if Hodgson is working his way towards the ‘Carnacki’ that we grow to know in the other stories and even some of his prose style is reminiscent of early works.  In addition, the beginning is written in such as way as to set up the formula for the later stories.  It explains the narrative frame far more than the later tales do and reads like an introduction to the series.

I believe that it was for this reason that August Derleth chose this story to lead the 1947 collection whereas, in the original 1913 edition, it is the last story in the book.  Although I can understand this reasoning, I feel that, in some ways, it is a mistake to lead with this weaker story.  Someone new to Carnacki might read this tale and wonder what all the fuss is about and not bother to read any further.  Far better to maintain either the original collection’s order (with the three additional stories added) or place this story closer to the middle when the strength of the other stories will prop up it’s deficiencies.

I feel that it is likely that The Idler rejected this story and maybe even for the same reasons I’ve just noted.  Perhaps they also felt that this was a ‘weaker’ story.  This would explain the time gap between the Idler appearances and this story later in The New Magazine.  My conclusion is that Hodgson had to shop this story around before finding it a home and that would not happen until 1912.  This was the last Carnacki story to appear in Hodgson’s lifetime.  We don’t know exactly when Hodgson stopped writing stories about his “ghost-finder” but others, like Sam Moskowitz, believe that at least “The Hog” was written closer to Hodgson’s death in 1918.  It is yet another Hodgson question that we will never be able to fully answer.

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Lose Yourself in SARGASSO!


Ok, so I’m not the greatest when it comes to slogans!  I’m open to any suggestions!

I’ve just received the logos for the SARGASSO magazine and I couldn’t wait to share them with everyone.  They are amazing!  More excellent work from famed artist Jason Eckhardt, they will grace the cover and contents page of every issue.  I will also feature them in the SARGASSO webpage which I am currently working on and hope to get up and running by the end of the year.

Here is Jason’s cover logo:

Image

I love the color and the skull!  This will be featured prominently on every cover in color!

For the inside, contents page, Jason has done something more elaborate:

Image

Another excellent job by Mr. Eckhardt!

Regarding SARGASSO, I’d like to remind those that have promised material that time is moving ever forward.  While I have gotten many superb pieces of art and a few stories, I am still waiting on articles.  So, remember, the deadline is March 30th and that will be here sooner than you know it!  I want this magazine to be a repository of premiere scholarship about WHH but that won’t happen without your support!  Sorry, but I gotta crack the whip a bit here!  SARGASSO depends on your support not just as readers but contributors.  Let’s show all those upstarts out there that ol’ WHH is worthy of serious attention too!

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An Index to the Blog!


I love indexes!  They’re just such wonderfully marvelous things!  One of the very first things I usually do when I get a new book is to flip to the back and check out the index and bibliography.  If I like them, I know I’ll like the book!

Given that this blog has now had 65 posts (believe it or not!), there are probably a lot of people who are just now discovering it and want to read more but who wants to wade through 65 posts looking for something?  Well, fear not, true believer! (I grew up on Stan Lee comics obviously.)  What follows is a clickable index of all of the posts so that you can jump to any of them from here.

I’ve also organized them by subjects so you can easily find more of what you’re interested in.

HODGSON’S LIFE

“A Life on the Borderland”

“Smile for the Camera, William Hope Hodgson”

“The Man Who Saved Hodgson”

“Sail on One of Hodgson’s Ships!”

“Meet Mrs. Hodgson!”

“William Hope Hodgson, This is Your Life!”

“A Hodgson Mystery”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part One”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part Two”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part Three”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part Four”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part Five”

“Hodgson Memorial”

“HPL & WHH”

“Mr. Hodgson, Second Mate”

“A Medal for Hodgson”

HODGSON’S FICTION

“Hodgson’s First Story”

“From the Tideless Sea”

“More News from the Homebird”

“The Baumoff Explosive”

“The Voice in the Night”

HODGSON’S NON-FICTION, POETRY, ETC.

“Physical Culture: A Talk with an Expert”

“Why Am I Not At Sea?”

“The Calling of the Sea”

HODGSON CRITICISM

“Hodgson’s Publishing History”

“Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson”

“A Brief History of Hodgson Studies”

“The First Literary Copernicus”

“WHH: Master of the Weird and Fantastic by H.C. Koenig”

“The Weird Work of William Hope Hodgson by H. P. Lovecraft”

“In Appreciation of William Hope Hodgson by Clark Ashton Smith”

“William Hope Hodgson by August Derleth”

“The Poetry of William Hope Hodgson by E. A. Edkins”

“William Hope Hodgson and the Detective Story by Ellery Queen”

“WHH: Writer of Supernatural Horror by Fritz Leiber, Jr.”

“An Appreciation”

“A NIGHT LAND Review”

“A Biographical Item”

HODGSON TEXTS AND MEDIA

“Free Hodgson”

“What’s That I Hear?”

“William Hope Hodgson and Arkham House”

“MATANGO!!!!”

“Canacki on the TV!”

“Hodgson on the Web!”

MISC.

“The Dreamer in the Night Land”

“My First Hodgson”

“Updates”

“A Borderland Gallery”

“Why Carnacki?”

“E. A. Edkins and some Updates!”

“New Sargasso Sea Story”

“The REAL Sargasso Sea”

“A Carnacki Gallery”

“The Derelict of Death by Ford and Clark”

“The House on the Borderland by Corben and Revelstroke”

“Why I’m doing this…”

“Sign Here, Please”

“Announcing SARGASSO!!!”

“Updates and New Poll”

“A Curious Matter of Books”

“A Hodgson Parody”

“Odds and Ends”

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Kernahan Letters, Part Five


Today we present the last of the letters written by William Hope Hodgson to his writer friend, Coulson Kernahan.  Although not as packed with information as the previous letters, they still present a good view of WHH’s character and personality.

In these letters, we see WHH still concerned over his streak of “refusals” despite seeing some success with the publication of “The Valley of Lost Children” in CORNHILL MAGAZINE (February, 1906).  WHH also briefly discusses his interest in physical culture as well as giving some specifics as to how strong he ‘used’ to be!  Apparently he had suffered a bad case of the flu the year previously and also blames writing for making him ‘weaker’.

Due to the space of time between Letter #8 and #9 (March 2 to November 2), it is very likely that we are missing letters.  I’d like to say that they might reappear someday but history is not in our favor.  I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading these letters and getting to know a little bit about the man behind the stories!

Letter #7

December 1st—05

Dear Mr. Kernahan,

Every morning for a fortnight have I pondered weak and weary

O’er letters still unanswered that are scattered round your floor.

While I’ve pondered, nearly napping, sometimes there has come a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping on my outer door;

“’Tis the Postman,” I have muttered, “dropping MSS through the door—–

                Only that and nothing more.”

Then my soul has leapt up stronger, and I’ve stayed in bed no longer,

For a glad idea has whispered that the Post is at the door.

And that all that gentle tapping which has stirred me in my napping

Is the postman dropping billet doux from C.K. on the floor.

And at the thought (loud cheering) have I galloped to the door——-

“REFUSALS”—-nothing more.

See, Man, I know you’re kept horribly busy, but the Monument of Despair is rising higher week by week, and I would check the building of it before it has blotted out every bullock of the Sky of Hope.  Do you think that my idea of printing one volume of my verse, and sending it round to a lot of the big papers and critics (I’m afraid you would be included) would be likely to attract the notice of one of ‘em, and in such case do you think that the lift he could give me would be sufficiently powerful enough to yanke me out of this damned mud of “refusals”?  You see, if I could but gain some little literary reputation, then would the Editors be less afraid of my stuff, and I might be able to sell some of my stories, and so be saved from everlasting damnation in this accursed pit of disappointment.

As I mentioned in my two last letters, the book could be produced only in a cheap fashion—matter o’ funds, ye see–: but that is no reason why it should be anything but tasteful.  I would have it bound quite simply in brown paper.  It’s the stuff inside upon which I am reckoning!!!  If it were put in hand now, I’m afraid it would be too late for Christmas.  I should like to have had it out for then . . . People buy verse books for presents, and that might have helped to cover the cost of production; but it isn’t on the sale that I’m depending, it’s on its proving an advertisement for me.  What thenk ye?

S’long, O Mountaineer.  I am yet in the valley!

Thine,

[Signed “William Hope Hodgson”’]

Letter #8

March 2nd—06

Dear Mr. Kernahan,

How funny!  And so you also are interested in strength, as I can tell from that one little line in your letter regarding your height and muscularity.

My dear Sir, let us shake hands on this further matter; for strength has been, and is still—spite of indifferent health–, a thing of tremendous interest to me.

From your remark, I gather that the gods have given you a length of seventy two inches, while they have given this child something under sixty six.  With such length I refused to be content, so make it up in breadth and muscularity.

Sometime, if you would really care to have one, I must send you a decent photograph of myself, showing development.  In the meanwhile I have snipped you out a couple of weeny ones from some old postcards of mine.  They may interest you.

Of course, I’m nothing like as strong as I used to be before the flue bowled me over last year, and left my heart a wee bitte weak.  Also I think that writing has taken off a lot of muscle—confound it!  But I suppose one mustn’t be greedy.

Before I was ill, I could take two fifty-six pound weights in one hand, and put them at arm’s length over my head, and, in fact, lift a good deal more than that with more convenient weights.  Now, I very much doubt if I could lift more than eighty of ninety pounds over my head with one hand.  Another thing, I could lift considerable more than a quarter of a ton off the ground, using my bare hands— no straps around hand and wrist.  And that takes a bit of doing.  And now— well, if I go easy, I daresay I shall come back to my old form in time—let but the editors smile on me a bit.

And you— what form of sport most appeals to you?  With your length you will be a fine reach in cricket . . . It’s useful too, in boxing, that is if your arms match the rest of you—eh?  And you ought to be able to cover ground at a tremendous rate.  Tell me when you write.

Dear me, I’m almost to the end of my paper.  Yes, I’m hoping you will prove right about the editors.  Ever so many thanks for your kindly congratulations re story in “Cornhill”, and for all the other nice things you have been saying to people.  I’m tremendously pleased to hear that your health is A.1. at Lloyd’s.  Health’s a great thing.  Weel, weel, the gods be with you.

And give you all good things,

Thine,

[Signed “William Hope Hodgson”’]

Letter #9

November 2nd—06

Friday

Mr Dear Mr Kernahan,

Thanks muchly for your kind little note.  I shall be in Town from the 7th to the 14th, and a card addressed to 516, King’s Road, Chelsea, S.W., will find me during that period.  If your lecturing engagements took you up to Town, then it might be possible (did you fire a preliminary card at me) for me to meet you somewhere and look upon my “humble” (devilishly so!) “admirer”.  Eh! But it bites! It bites!

This is a strange world.  The gods wobble their hands, and we do funny tricks.  I’m on the lecturing war-path.  I’ve a splendid subject, and some ripping slides—absolutely original—with which to back it up.  I wonder whether I shall be able to “deliver” the blessed thing.  I shall have to do my best, as already I’m booked, and the guineas are very blessed things also.  I suppose I ought to have an agent; but don’t know where to go for one; at least, I mean I’m “kinder shy like”.  Know the feeling?  Not you!  And yet, it is very possible.  “Narves, Me B’y,” as the Oirishman said.

The gods keep guard over this “fretful midge”.

[Signed “William Hope Hodgson”’]

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Kernahan Letters, Part Three


Today we present just ONE letter from William Hope Hodgson to his friend, Coulson Kernahan, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it is an important one.

In this letter, WHH confirms that he has finished his FOURTH book.  This proves that all four of his novels were written by the end of September, 1905.  This is a monumental feat.  Consider also that he would not write another novel in his lifetime.  It is difficult not to speculate why he did not do so.

WHH identifies this fourth book as THE BOATS OF THE “GLEN CARRIG”.  He also names THE GHOST PIRATES and THE HOUSE OF MYSTERIES as two more of his completed books which he has been shopping around to publishers.  It is my contention that THE HOUSE OF MYSTERIES is merely an early name for THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND.  The one missing novel which he does not mention is THE NIGHT LAND but I feel that it is a logical deduction that it is the ‘fourth’ book which is not identified in the letter.

I have no idea who the writer of WARES OF FATE was or anything about the book WHH mentions.  Perhaps someone can enlighten us?

It is likely that the story which WHH mentions as being accepted by CORNHILL MAGAZINE is “The Valley of Lost Children”.  This story was published for the first time anywhere in the February, 1906, issue of that magazine and was the first of WHH’s appearance in that title.

Stranger, however, is the mention of WINDSOR MAGAZINE.  WHH states that they have accepted one of his stories but are taking a long time to do anything with it.  The only work by WHH to appear in the WINDSOR MAGAZINE is “The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder”.  If this is the story that WHH refers to then they did indeed take their time with it as the story did not appear until their November, 1912, issue.  That would be SEVEN YEARS after the writing of this letter.  A long time indeed.

Letter #4

September 25th—05

Dear Mr Kernahan,

I’ve just finished my fourth book—Hooray!!!!!!!  I’m puzzling now as to a publisher to whom to send it.  Blackwoods, when refusing THE HOUSE OF MYSTERIES, spoke very nicely of it, so I am tempted to try them again.  Yet, W.L., and C., have a man whose opinion I’m mightily anxious to have, so I think after all I’ll send them this book, and if they don’t accept it, may they go to hell.  There must be a mighty big fool somewhere clogging their machinery or they’d never have refused the writer of WARES OF FATE: dear lord! but they must feel sick, and the man’s next book gone into thirty editions.  I guess that’s like thirty punches in the wind-bag.

The title of this book is THE BOATS OF THE “GLEN CARRIG”, and I’ve tried hard to be commonplace in it; but, I’m afraid, with but poor success.  I cannot ride above that failing of mine which urges me to write original stuff.  However, “berrer luck ‘n fushure”.

You may be interested to know that THE HOUSE OF MYSTERIES has been refused twenty-one times, and THE GHOST PIRATES fourteen.  So I’ve put the naughty pirates to be in the house of mysteries, and there I’ll let ‘em rest until there’s a Publisher comes to me and begs to be plundered, then—

Now I’ve heered ye’ve writted a noo buke; but I’ve not getten at yon title O’ et (how’s that for a mixture).  However, I shall be going down town some day (you see, I live on a hill), and then I’ll make inquiries.  The man who told me about it, said it was a mighty fine book, and to that I answered one word; but you’ll have to guess what it was.

And now to a weeny confession.  I’ve sent THE VOICE IN THE NIGHT to the GRAND MAGAZINE, telling him your opinion of it; though I had the slight rag of decency left to do so under the secrecy of that magic “PRIVATE AND PERSONAL”.  And now I have a letter from the Editor, saying that he quite endorses your opinion; but is afraid that the story is too gruesome for the “Big” Public.  I suppose he means they like their horrors watered down, and sweetened with the sugar of Unreality—eh?  Still, he seems sufficiently struck with the yarn to be unable to decide all at once to send it back.  Wonder what the dear boy is thinking.  Perhaps he’s not recovered sufficiently to tell the office boy to send back the “   “ thing.

And now, my Father Confessor, I do feel that I have lightened a load from my breast (why not my back?); and so to another matter.  The yeaditor of the CORNHILL MAGAZINE has taken one of my stories, and said nice things of some of my others.  Bless him.  May he live to be ninety.  May the gods cease not to smile upon his kindly old head.  I wish I were a girl, I’d go up and insist on marrying him.

I say, Man, who’s the Editor of the WINDSOR?  We’ve written a pile to one another about a short story of mine, THE FINDING OF THE ‘GRAIKEN’, and he tells me that it’s unusual for a contributor to make “severe comment” upon the actions of the Almighty, sometimes known to the common herd (of which the said contributor is the basest) as the Editor.  I’m afraid I’ve imperiled chances of a happy hereafter.

And now let me confess in secrecy my opinion of the WINDSOR MAGAZINE and the manner in which it is carried on.  In the first place I’m sure the Editor wears mittens, reads his TIMES through every morning, and has a tabby cat; for a more damnably go-slow, behind-the-times, don’t-speak-to-me-I’m-the-EDITOR, sort of way of doing things I’ve never met.  It takes the WINDSOR THREE months to accept a story, and FIFTEEN to waken up sufficiently to send one the proofs.  They’ve had that story of mine since the First of July 1904.  And they’re still languishing over it.  As for their stories, dear lord!  I never read such muck, and this in spite of the fact that they’ve one of mine, which should make me think highly of ‘em.  They published a thing, I think in a Christmas number, about a journey through the center of the earth, that would have made a Yankee Editor blush for the sanity of his paper.  And now and again they try to climb back to their supposed standard of (popular) literary excellency, by publishing a diluted imitation of a kailyard story.  One final word, their rate of pay, 15’- bob per thou., has proved such an inducement to me, that they’re simply inundated with my stuff.

There!  There! did it then!  I feel much better.  Nothing like breaking your feeding bottle to show your damned indesanguinarypendence.  But, seriously, is it Mr. Lock’s aunt who edits the WINDSOR?

And now, My Dear Sir, if you have come through so far as this without weariness, then am I satisfied.  May the gods insure you an Edition de Luxe.

In peace,

  Faithfulness,

Good-will,

And the love of fine work,

This scribe,

[signed “William Hope Hodgson”]

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Kernahan Letters, Part Two


Today we present the next two letters which William Hope Hodgson sent to his writing friend, Coulson Kernahan.  These are shorter than the first letter and yet they still have much of interest.  In here, we learn that WHH began writing professionally in August of 1902.  This is likely to be soon after the closing of his “School of Physical Culture” in Blackburn.  By the time of these letters, he had been facing rough times with few acceptances.

In 1903, the only published work from Hodgson were three articles on physical culture.  1904 was not much better with only two items published: the story “The Goddess of Death” and another physical culture article.    So when WHH complains about the lack of acceptances, he is not being dramatic.

The story that WHH mentions as having been accepted by The Grand Magazine in Letter #3 was “A Tropical Horror” which has the distinction of being his first published sea-horror story.  It appears that WHH decided not to allow The Westminster Review to publish his article gratis as we there are no items listed as appearing in that publication.  WHH did publish several articles in another magazine called The Westminster Gazette in 1914 that dealt with WWI.

The poem that WHH refers to in Letter #2 and names in Letter #3 is “Little Garments” which appeared only during WHH’s lifetime in a copyright volume which he published in 1912 (“POEMS” AND “THE DREAM OF X”).  It would not appear again until 2005’s THE LOST POETRY OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON (edited by Jane Frank).  It is a minor and very sentimental poem.

As always, one of the most important aspects of these letters is how WHH himself comes through.  Even in these few letters, we can see that WHH talked very much in the same style in which he wrote.  Through these letters, we get to enjoy a look at WHH’s personality which, sadly, we still know little about.

Letter #2

April 28th—05

Look here, Mr. Kernahan,

Are you a father?  If you are, show this piece of verse to Mrs. Kernahan.  She may be able to supply the reason why the confounded fools of editors (they ain’t wuth a capital) won’t look at it.

I think my stuff must be bewitched.  I continue to have my two, three or four refusals weekly, and never an acceptance.  It is beginning to get on my nerves.  I try all sorts of papers and magazines with all sorts of ‘stuff’; but “they ain’t havin’ any”.

It’ll be three years in August since I commenced, and where am I?

There.  I’ve blown off steam.  Better to do that ‘n bust ther biler—eh?  Don’t bother to answer this; for I know you must be frightfully busy.  I shan’t apologise for writing thus.  I won’t have trouble you very terribly to run your eye through this, and there’s always the back of the fire—puff!  I suppose I ought to; but I feel too bad tempered.

This letter is something like a pistol shot—flash, bang!  Hard luck on the billet.

S’long, and again S’long

[Signed William Hope Hodgson]

Letter #3

May 5th—05

Dear Mr. Kernahan,

Please do not think that, (because you have on three occasions allowed your kindly nature to get the better of your judgement, and written me three epistles born of the milk of human kindness) I am going to bombard you forever with queries, regrets, growls, and all the other inanities—fine word that—which the young writer is prone to.

However, in this case—as in the last—I have thrown decency to the winds (hope it’ll make ‘em more modest), and decided to worry you in a matter which is worrying me.  I have to-day received a letter from the “WESTMINSTER” Review, telling me that they are willing to publish an article of mine—on the sea—if I will rise above the gross consideration of ‘remuneration’.  Now, would you advise me to do so?  Ought I, as a young, unknown writer, to be delighted of the chance of publicity in one of the big Reviews?—it is a big Review, is it not?— or ought I to ask ‘em what the devil I’m to fill my belly with if I am to work for nothing.  Would it be a better spec for me to let them have it for nothing, than to take a few guineas from a Magazine lower down in the scale of literary grandeur?  Am I lucid?

And now, to another matter, Mr. Kernahan, I am in a state of nervous collapse.  THE GRAND MAGAZINE—ever heard of it?—has justified its name and its claim to be the “most original magazine in the world”, by accepting one of my short stories.  I can assure you it is a most original action, and makes me inclined to believe that their claim is true.  Do you think the Editor drinks—bless him?  If he does, may he never be un-drunk.  A-m-e-n!  I trust that you are sympathizing with me.  I find it is rather an expensive thing having acceptances.  Took six pennoth of whiskey to pull me round.  I do hope they’ll be careful.

Well, and has Mrs. Kernahan discovered the reason why editors—with a little ‘e’—grow ‘regretful’ over stuff as ‘Little Garments’?  I cannot conceive of a Mother not realizing the true ring of the thing!

Damn the editor of the “GRAND”!  I don’t know what I shall do if he starts accepting my stories.  I’ve grown so used to sending ‘em outh, that I shall be lost if he insists on keeping the critters.

Well, man who knows,

S’long

I’m praying that your heart and the clock will permit you to answer this, e’en though it be the last time we twain e’er cross pens.

I beg no forgiveness.  I plead the weakness of the unnerved.

I am,

One who hath received a shock,

Thine,

[Signed William Hope Hodgson]

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Kernahan letters, Part One


As I’m said before (and I’m sure people are sick of hearing me say it), we don’t have a lot of William Hope Hodgson’s letters.  This is a tragedy as it severely limits our understanding of WHH as a man and as a writer.  Probably the most significant find was a small cache of nine letters from William Hope Hodgson to Coulson Kernahan.  I found these at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin and have no idea what they were doing there.  To this day, I still do not know much about Coulson Kernahan and it’s my hope that perhaps one of the readers of this blog will enlighten us all about this mysterious figure in WHH’s past.  That he, and his wife, were writers can be drawn from WHH’s letters but that is mostly all we know.

These 9 letters formed the basis of my article, “Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson”.  From these I formed my theory that WHH wrote his novels in the reverse order in which they were published.  That makes THE BOATS OF THE “GLEN CARRIG” the last book written (but first published) and THE NIGHT LAND the first book written (but last to be published).   I posted this article on the blog previously and, if you haven’t read it, you can find it here: https://williamhopehodgson.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/writing-backwards-the-novels-of-william-hope-hodgson/

Over the next few posts, I will be presented the complete texts of all NINE letters.  Some are important, some are merely interesting but they all deserve to be read and studied by Hodgson fans and scholars.  This first letter is one of the longest and most revealing.  I am reprinting it as he wrote it with no editing.–Sam Gafford

Letter #1

c/0 W. Bird, Esq.,

127, Barnsley Road,

Cudworth,

Near Barnsley

January 17th–05.

Dear Mr. Kernahan,

I have just finished cleaning my typewriter; if, therefore, a queer little air of virtue peeps out ever and anon between the lines, you will know that there is justification.

Your letter came to night.  Had you been maid and I man, it had not—– No!  you must guess the rest.  Were I with you this night I would say unto you:– “Shake!”

Curious, was it not, that I was on the point of writing to you?  I had a confession to make, and, like all confessions, it must be made after a circular pattern.

Firstly, then, an unaccepted writer is–in that respect, at least– a maiden.  That being granted, it is well known that such creatures are allowed to change their minds.  I, being a maid, claim that privilege.  I  have changed my —- mind.  In my last letter to you, I said I would send the “GHOST PIRATES” to Mr. John Long, with a word that you thought well of it, and him.  I changed both my mind and the MS., and sent “OUT OF THE STORM”, and with it the following quotations from your letter.  Note how blatantly I–a maiden–have praised my ‘charms’, and never a blush.  I have quoted you only in those parts where you said terrible nice things, and have omitted all less (in mine eyes) matters.  Truly am I grown shameless.  Thus, O White Man, ran the selections:

(First, I introduced them with a graceful little passage thus:–“As I am sending you this particular MS., it struck me that the following passages from a letter by Mr. Coulson Kernahan might prove of interest:–)

“Your stories…seem to me to have a touch of something like Edgar Poe’s genius… I have read nothing more impressive than that human fungi story for years… Have you tried Mr. John Long?  He publishes for my wife, and we have found him straight and energetic.”

Now, how relieved I feel.  I have not grace

To linger in this penitential mood;

Therefore, to other things I change, and thou

Shalt follow on, and following on, for–

It lies with you to decide the finish.  And now to the other ‘things’.

Is there some great Thing in next Place determined to starve me into subjection!  I cannot get even an article into a newspaper.  I had an introduction, when I was in Town, to Philip Wilson, of the “DAILY NEWS”.  He asked me to do him a strong paper on the sea, to be entitled “WHY I AM NOT AT SEA”.  He would not guarantee its insertion in the paper until he had seen the sort of ‘stuff’ I could do.  I showed him the short sketch–“OUT OF THE STORM”, and he seemed pleased a bit.  Thought it very smart, don’tcherknow!  I sent him the article as soon as I got home–to be accurate, Nov. thirtieth.  It came back to day, with regrets!  Do you know I’m getting nervous.  I’m afraid someday I shall open an envelope, and find— an acceptance.  Such things do happen.  By the way, if ever you do write to me again, I should so much like to know how the short ‘key-note’ sketch–OUT OF THE STORM–struck you.

I say, may I ask you who the Publisher was who accepted that chap’s book.  Of course, if this question is–well, indiscreet, keep an opposite silence.

An idea has struck me.  Young, original writers are unnatural.  If Nature had intended such, she would have made ’em without tummies.  Yes, it’s plain that they’re abnormalities.  Nature abhors a vacuum– so do I.

Somehow the letter-writing feeling has run away.  I’m feeling kittenish, or is it sentimental?  I’ll pull this letter out of the machine, and see if I can write verse…

***

Worse! and worse!  I shoved in a fresh piece of paper, and thumped the keys for awhile.  After a bit, I seemed to detect an odd grumpety grumple, grumbling sort of note coming to the surface of the melody.  I grew suspicious, and pulled out the paper.  Really!  I’m beginning to lose faith in this instrument; it is losing its one-time modesty.  Such a subject!  The PUBLIC have no appreciation of this form of indelicacy–

OUR TUMMIES

We’re “writin’ chaps”, O Lord;

Yet had we all been mummies

We’d had more beef aboard

Our tummies.

Why, Lord, this vacancy–

This empty ache to fill?

Sure, in our infancy,

Thou lack’st Thy usual skill;

Or, Chance, Thou dids’t know

Or that to which we’d grow,

Else Thou had’st made each one, Good Lummy!

Without a tummy.

For a “writin’ chap”, O Lord,

Who scribbles “stuff” that’s rummy

Is likely only to be bored

By’n (empty) tummy.

So, Lord, we pray Thy Might,

That Thou will give us dummies;

Else shall we have to cease to write,

                   To fill our tummies.

Now, look here, Mr. Kernahan, if this wretched machine wanted oil, that is no excuse for spoiling what might have been a decent piece of verse.  I shall have to repeat the whole operation.  It’s as bad as spoiling a bunch of sausages.  Think of what it might have been–

“WE ARE SEVEN”— Ah me!  the might have beens (Not the vegetables).  Confound that sentimental note !  It will keep coming to the surface.

And now to try and stop rotting.  You know, I am so tremendously in the dark.  Who are the big publishers and who the little?  I suppose Unwin, Methuen, Smith Elder, Macmillan, Ward Lock, are big guns, and yet even among these I may be mixing them up.  I’m afraid I’m very much out of the world up here.

The barrier of ‘refusals’ continues unbroken.  I have just had back both the GHOST PIRATES and the HOUSE OF MYSTERIES.  From the Strand Magazine, however, there has been a variation of the monotony.  They seem to have lost the MS. of one of my short stories, instead of ‘regretting’ it.  I suppose that even they tire of so much regret.  I can scarcely blame them.  I have been projecting a letter to serve as a missile at Editots and Publishers.  It is to run somewhat as follows:–

Dear Sir,

It may interest you (probably it will not) to learn that I have had one thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine refusals of such ‘stuff’ as that which I submit.  If you care to increase the number to two thousand, kindly return the enclosed as regretfully as possible.

                                     Yours faithfully,

On consideration, I shall not send it.  A photograph might be more effecutal.

Thanks muchly for your suggestion re Arrowsmith of Bristol.  If I find that I cannot make an impression otherwise, I shall certainly try it.  Though, why should Arrowsmith prove more (shall we say) foolish, or foolhardy, than his bretheren?  Was he not that man who published “CALLED BACK”?  At least, I think that is its title.

No, I won’t give in, not as long as I can sit at the typewriter.  I say, man, you must understand that I do most thoroughly appreciate your thoughtful kindness and interest in the matter of my failures.

You say that you wish you could do something ‘practical’ to lend a hand.  Well, do you not think you are helping me by your advice and sympathy?  Nay, but you have extended a most hartening hand-grip across the present dismay.

Of a truth, but Faith doth smite me shrewdly!  I write verse; but even that the wretch refuses to smile upon.  It is not bad stuff, as you shall have proof of definitely by the piece which I inclose.  Whether THE DEATH CRY will appeal to you, I cannot say; for you may have no liking for verse: yet, for all that, it is not without some quality to command attention.  But, think you an Editor would look at it?  Nay!  save it be to utilise the blank underside for scribbling upon.  Well! well!  ‘Tisn’t given to everyone to discourse sweetly upon Little Lambs (whether Mary’s or anothers).  For my part, being other than a Publican, I catch myself thanking God that I am not as these others!  Dear me!  Youth is very flatulent.  On second thoughts, though I cannot discourse upon lambs; yet could I discuss mutten in a manner eminently satisfactory to myself.  Woa!  If I don’t watch the machine it’ll be getting back again to that most disreputable subject.

I didn’t know you went in for Editorial work.  I do wish you were putting more time in at creative work.  Plenty of clever men–who lack entirely the creative ability–could do much of the work you are doing, couldn’t they?  And leave you more time to put in at creating.  Yes, from what I’ve read of yours, I know very well that you’ve ideas.  Why not let the men who lack ’em do some of your more ephemeral work?  I feel sure that you will not think me in any way officious in thus commenting upon your actions.  I do hate to think of power running to waste.  Winter comes very quickly, when the streams run no longer.

This letter had been with you a fortnight gone, only that the gods evinced a desire to extend their love to me.  I am dressed for the first time to day after a sudden collapse which sent me to blanket fair for some ten or twelve days.  The Doctor said ‘overwork’.  I added (to myself) ‘disappointment and bad temper.’

Well, well, I may hang out yet to see something of mine in print.  Hope so, at any rate.

You will note that the address at the top of this letter is changed.  I expect to be here for about a month; so, if you decide that it is the will of the Celestials that you should write to this lonesome one, please to send your letter here.

And now, if thou has come through so far as this in safety, I will commend thee to the Watchers.  May they deal kindly with thee.  They will love thee none the less for thy kindly thoughts and words.

S’longa, White Man,

[signed “William Hope Hodgson”]

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