Tag Archives: h. p. lovecraft

New Lovecraft Letter Surfaces!


LovecraftHP_Letters_HennebergerJC_010The Lovecraft world is all abuzz with news that a previously unknown, 5,000 word letter from H.P. Lovecraft has been discovered. The letter (dated February 2, 1924) was from Lovecraft to then editor of WEIRD TALES, J. C. Henneberger. The letter was discovered by accident by James Machin at the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at the University of Texas at Austin. The HRC is home to many different collections of various materials and is, in fact, where I discovered Hodgson’s letters to Coulson Kernahan many years ago.

This letter is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Lovecraft providing brief synopses of his novels, “Azathoth” and “The House of the Worm”, which were apparently never written or lost. I encourage everyone to go over to the site that explains the find and provides scans of the typewritten letter. It’s at:
http://blog.hrc.utexas.edu/2015/01/27/fellows-find-h-p-lovecraft-letter/

This is one of the most significant finds in Lovecraft letters in many years but, I hear you ask, “what does this have to do with Hodgson?”

Unfortunately, Lovecraft does not mention Hodgson by name  in the letter and, being written in 1924, this was still years before Lovecraft would even become aware of Hodgson. However, Lovecraft does mention the story “Fungus Island” by Phillip Fisher. Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I discussed Fisher’s story and it’s strong similarity to WHH’s “Voice in the Night” almost two years ago. (You can find the blog post where I talk about Fisher and the story itself here: https://williamhopehodgson.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/fungus-isle-by-phillip-fisher/.)

In the letter, Lovecraft has this to say about Fisher’s story:

 

Another man with promise is Phillip M. Fisher, Jr., who had a fine thing in a recent ALL-STORY, spoiled only by a tame ending obviously designed to suit the gentle Bob Davis. Told to let the human race go to hell, Fisher could accomplish wonders. His tale was called “Fungus Island”.

Given that Fisher’s story (mistakenly recalled by Lovecraft as “Fungus Island” rather than “Fungus Isle“) is so similar to Hodgson’s tale, it would seem reasonable to conclude that Lovecraft would have also enjoyed “Voice in the Night”. However, we have no evidence that HPL ever read this story by Hodgson or, indeed, any of Hodgson’s short stories other than the Carnacki series. Still, there may be a missing letter out there that might come to light someday and prove this theory.

 

 

 

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The Life of William Hope Hodgson–Part 7


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

Mrs. Bessie Hodgson, wife of William Hope Hodgson.  Date undetermined.

Mrs. Bessie Hodgson, wife of William Hope Hodgson. Date undetermined.

MARRIAGE

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–

Mary Dear,

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.

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The Life of William Hope Hodgson–Part 5


We continue today with the reprinting of R. Alain Evert’s biographical article on Hodgson.  This part reflects on the beginning of Hodgson’s writing career.  I venture to say that many readers probably do not know the details which Everts presents here.  They are, of course, uncredited and are likely the memories of Hodgson’s few surviving siblings through interviews.  As such, we can not really establish them as definitive.  However, they are the best we have right now.

There are several items of note here: the concept of most of WHH’s best fiction being written early in his career, the details of his family during their time in Blackburn and Borth and the tantalizing mention of an early romance for WHH.  As always, I reprint this part solely to encourage conversation and scholarly study of WHH and intend no copyright infringement.

WHHSOME FACTS IN THE CASE OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON: MASTER OF PHANTASY

by R. Alain Everts

LITERARY CAREER, Part One

It was in the year 1902 that Hope commenced his writing career—at least seriously.  One of his earliest pieces appeared in Cassell’s Magazine, November 1903, entitled “Health from Scientific Exercise”, in which Hodgson expounded some of his physical health theories—this article was also profusely illustrated with photographs of the twenty-four year old author demonstrating various body-building exercises.  At this time, he composed several short stories in the horror genre, which apart from “The Riven Night” remain unpublished.  In fact, most of Hodgson’s horror tales were written during the early period, as well as his horror and phantasy novels.  His fascination with these themes, and for the sea, is evident in Hodgson’s work right from the start—while other essays not in the same vein, such as “The Poet Versus the Stonemason or Regarding Similar Names” appeared in The Author in early 1906.

Hope’s short stories he always referred to as his “pot-boilers”—and he was delighted that they brought in some money from the London magazine markets.  Later the American magazine market picked him up by paying the fabulous sum of $40 for each story.  These “pot-boilers” provided Hope with some steady income and permitted him to devote his time to his more serious writings—his phantasy novels.  Both The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” (London, Chapman & Hall, 1907) and The House on the Borderland (Chapman & Hall, 1908) were completed prior to 1904 in Blackburn—the ‘house’ in The House on the Borderland is a mixture of the house in Blackburn and the Old Rectory in Ardraham—both works written directly means of a typewriter, with minor corrections made later.  Hope had to teach himself to type, and read every book he could lay his hands on on how to write, also on the supernatural, the occult, spiritualism, and contemporary phantasy and horror authors—such that there were.

He would sometimes stay up all night long typing his ideas out—and anyone who dared to interrupt him would be soundly taken care of.  Hope had the whole study at the Revidge Road house made over into his own private room where he slept on a cot-bed, and wrote at his leisure.  Not only his novels, but many of his short stories and his poetry date from this early period—Chris never recalls a time when his brother was not writing poetry, and most likely the majority of it is lost today.  His first actual horror story to be published is not (as once thought) “The Voice in the Night” (Blue Book, November 1907)—many of Hodgson’s short stories are lost in the divers British and American periodicals, and it seems likely that several appeared prior to this date—I have not yet located “A Tropical Horror” (The Grand Magazine, June 1905), or “The Goddess of Death” (The Royal Magazine, April 1904).  [editor (Everts) note: both now seen.]

The children all recall Hope telling them many of these stories before he wrote them—among them the perhaps autobiographical “The Room of Fear” one of his earliest tales (unpublished).  His two stories, “From the Tideless Sea” (Blue Book, April 1906) and its sequel “More News from the ‘Homebird’” (Blue Book, August 1907) see to be among his first published works in a true horror vein.  All of the Carnacki short stories were early as well—and Hope himself was in actuality Carnacki, while many of the adventures were actual adventures of Hope—who was something of a sensitive (in the psychic term of the word).  One of his psychic incidents occurred late at night when Hope was writing at the dining room table (before he had his own study), and his mother cam to the upstairs banister and rapped on it as she would do when she retired.  Hope heard the door to her room close as she retired for the night.  But on his way to bed he noticed that the door to her room [was] open, and waking her he discovered the she had not rapped on the banister.  Another time a rug was pulled under the door, and there was no one on the other side.

In 1904, the family decided to move to Borth, a small seaside resort near Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, where the Reverend Samuel Hodgson and his family used to spend their summers from the late 1870s onward.  The house in Blackburn was retained until 1908, when most of the Hodgson children had left home, while a house in Borth, on High Street, was rented yearly.  From 1904 on, Hope spent most of his time in Borth, living in the house called “Blaneifion” that had its back to the sea, while Hope’s room overlooked the sea.  During the summer, the whole family lived there, but during the rest of the year Hope had the entire house to himself and he wrote peacefully.  When the whole family gathered together, jammed in the small house, there would be picnics, beach outings, boatings, and carnivals.  For most of the year Hope was left alone, and in one six month period, possibly during 1905-1907, Hope wrote The Night Land (London, Eveleigh Nash, 1912) and most likely The Ghost Pirates (London, Stanley Paul, 1909) mostly writing at night.  No one in the family really knew how creative Hope was—the most interested in Hope’s writing was his younger brother Chris.

The family began to break up during the early 1900’s—Hillyard and Frank left as immigrants to Canada about 1905—followed by Mary about 1906, Chris and Eunice and Bertha about 1908.  Chad who had possibly been married once previously, married a widow, several years older than he and was rarely, if ever, heard of again by the family.  In 1908, Mrs. Hodgson now a complete invalid and Lissie, her devoted daughter, moved to Glaneifion permanently to live with Hope.  With the children gone, things were much calmer in the family, and Hope was able to travel from time to time to town (as he called London), specifically to visit his publishers, and a friend of Mr. W. R. Horner, the sculptor Earnest George Gillick (1877-1951).  In Borth, Hope was well remembered.

Hope was apparently engaged in Borth for some time to a beautiful young girl.  He was very popular with the girls—he dressed well, and took an extremely long time grooming himself in the morning—and was extremely handsome.  At his prime, he stood about 5’ 7” but was so slim tht his height was hardly noticed as terribly short, he had black hair and dark eyes, and a very smooth complexion—it was almost as if he had Spanis blood in him.  He would always turn to watch good-looking girls—especially if they had to lift their skirts to step from the curb, for he would remake on the “swell ankle” thus exposed.  If he held a door open for girls, they would continue to turn around and stare at Hope until they were out of sight.

His mother was quite miffed at Hope, for he never brought any of his men friends home with him when they were living in Blackburn—she wanted to introduce them to the girls—but Hope only brought his girl-friends over.  He was quite the ladies man it would seem; however, his engagement in Borth broke off, and Hope was not to marry until he was 35 years old.

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SARGASSO #1


I am pleased to announce the contents of the forthcoming SARGASSO: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies Issue #1!  I think we have an outstanding selection of essays, fiction, poetry and art all devoted to WHH.  I’m sure you will agree.

1 sargasso

SARGASSO #1

Essays

“Shadow Out of Hodgson” by John D. Haefele

“A Reassessment of William Hope Hodgson’s Poetry” by Phillip A. Ellis

“William Hope Hodgson’s Sales Log: The Pleasure and Consequences of Collecting” by Jane Frank

“The ‘Wonder Unlimited’–The Tales of Captain Gault” by Mark Valentine

“Always Sea and Sea: The Night Land as Sea-Scape” by Emily Alder

“The Long Apocalypse: The Experimental Eschatologies of H. G. Wells and William Hope Hodgson” by Brett Davidson

“Ab-Reality: The Metaphysical Vision of William Hope Hodgson” by Neal Alan Spurlock

“Things Invisible: Human and Ab-Human in Two of Hodgson’s Carnacki Stories” by Leigh Blackmore

Poetry

“In Memory of Hope” by Phillip A. Ellis

“Beyond the Deaths of Worlds” by Phillip A. Ellis

Fiction

“A Question of Meaning” by Pierre V. Comtois

“The Blue Egg” by William Meikle

Artwork from

Andrea Bonazzi

Steve Lines

Pete Von Sholly

Nick Gucker

Allen Koszowki

Not bad for a first issue, eh?

The only problem is how to top this?  I should probably start working on that now!

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The Life of William Hope Hodgson, Part 2


One of the promo shots WHH did of himself for his "School of Physical Culture"

One of the promo shots WHH did of himself for his “School of Physical Culture”

Today we continue with the reprinting of R. Alain Everts biographical article about the life of William Hope Hodgson.  As mentioned in the last post, this comprehensive article has not been seen since the last reprint in 1987.  We are providing it here as a helping resource for those wanting to learn more about Hodgson’s life and, hopefully, wish to use it in their own research.

This particular portion contains some very sobering facts regarding the type of life that Hodgson’s family faced after the death of the Reverend Samuel Hodgson in 1892.  Except for some grammatical corrections, this article is being reprinted as it appeared in the 1987 Soft Books edition.

SOME FACTS IN THE CASE OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON: MASTER OF PHANTASY

By R. Alain Everts

The Early Years, Part Two

In 1895, Hope qualified as a seaman, and shortly thereafter he became an office in the Merchant Marine.  At this time, he indulged in a lifelong hobby—photography—taking pictures not only aboard ship at sea, but also at home of his mother and brothers and sisters.  He also commences building his physique—this a lifelong interest to the remainder of his days.  As a friend reported:

When one day he saw the first mate knock down one of the crew, Hodgson, then senior ‘prentice, made up his mind that no man should do that to him without getting as good as he gave.  From that time onward he started training, and not only trained himself to become a first-rate boxer, but fired all of his junior ‘prentices to follow suit, so that the whole crowd were conspicuous for their physique and splendid general health.  To a landsman this many sound an easy thing to do; but to a sailorman it means much.  It means the sacrifice of much that makes life bearable on board.

During his service in the Merchant Marine, Hope sailed three times round the world, and between trips he continued his schooling—either attending the Blackburn technical school at this time, or later after his return from the sea, and meeting there his future wife, Bessie Farnworth, who sketched his face for the class—and once off Port Chalmers, New Zealand, Hope dived into the shark-infested sea in order to save a fellow sailor, on 28 March 1898.  The report to the Humane Society read:

Salvor:              William Hope Hodgson, Aged 20.

                        Ships Apprentice,

                        Henry Street,

                        Blackburn.

Saved:              A. Seaman.

                        6.30. pm. 28th.  March 1898

                        Port Chalmbers, New Zealand.

Summary:         The man fell overboard from a height of 120 feet 600 yards from shore, 50 feet deep strong current and water infested with sharks.  Hodgson jumped after him and with the aid of a life buoy held him up for 25 minutes till they were picked up by a bot.

Honorary Award:         Bronze Medal.

For this act of courage, Hope received a medal from the Royal Humane Society.  Mary recalls the police coming to the house and taking Hope away (around 1899), and the entire family was worried and puzzled, thinking Hope was in trouble. But no, it was to be presented the medallion of bronze from the society.  However, Hope’s mother and the remaining children were not having things quite so easy.  In early 1896, the destitute Mrs. Hodgson applied to the Clergy Orphan Corporation in London to try and obtain entry for her daughter Lissie—for at this period, any children of deceased cleargy could apply for free schooling at the Corporation equivalent of the High School and Junior High School years (in America).  Lissie not yet 10 years old, was attending a day school on London Road in Blackburn, several blocks from the Hodgson house.  It was on one of Hope’s leaves from the Merchant Marine that Mary recalls Hope walking the children home from the day school that Chris, Mary, Lissie, Bertha and Eunice were attending, through the Corporation Park and reciting the tale of the statue with the monster beneath it.  This scared the children so that they were never able to set foot in the park again—the story appeared later in The Strand Magazine entitled “The Goddess of Death”.  Chad, who had graduated from Westminster prior to his father’s death, entered the British Army in April 1895, much against his Mother’s wishes—he was soon to marry also against his mother’s wishes and was rarely ever seen again at home.  Hope of course was away to sea for many months at a time—while both Frank and Hillyard were attending the Orphan’s School which their mother had successfully enrolled them during 1893.

In January of 1896, Mrs. Hodgson had no income, and nothing had been left to her or to her family by her late husband.  She and the children were completely at the mercy of Church charity—the family had in fact been given several donations–£15.0.0. in 1886 and another £15.0.0. in 1893 from the Rochester Diocesan Society—while friends in Blackburn, at the death of Reverend Hodgson, collected £30.0.0. for her family.  Mrs. Hodgson’s brother, the Reverend T.L. Brown wrote to the clergy Orphan Corporation:

Dear Sir,

            Mrs. Hodgson is my sister, therefore I can speak with certain knowledge as to her circumstances.

            Mr. Hodgson left her without a penny – he was not assured – we have done what we can.  My mother is a widow – and I am married and therefore our means are small.  I paid my sister a visit a few hours last August and was appalled to see the struggle for the bare necessities of life for herself and the children remaining at home.  Out of nine there is not one bringing in a farthing towards their maintenance, there are the two lads in the C.O.S., a girl at Belper, one boy, apprenticed at sea and the eldest has enlisted in the Line—in a York regiment.  There are now the four younger ones at home.  She tells me she had not more than £25.0.0. per annum to live on.

            The case is a hard one and needs help, and if your committee can possibly see your way clear to accept the child, Lissie Sarah, as a candidate I think it will be a real charity.

And Mrs. Hodgson, who [was] by this time an ordained Deaconess—who did not preach, but rather administered to the poor—bringing them food and medicines, wrote from her new address of 16 Henry Street, on February 8, 1896:

Dear Sir,

            I am sorry your letter was not answered earlier.  I overworked and had to pay the penalty of doing the very least possible for a week or more.

            I did not see in the petition, any questions as to occupation or salary, I am sorry I omitted any answers I ought to have given.  And to answer is difficult and painful.  I am no in a situation: you will know how impossible it is for a gentlewoman between forty and fifty years of age, with a family of young children to get a situation.  Had my dear children been older I perhaps would have become matron in a School or Institution—but my precious children!  I would have just gone on from day to day, working away, doing my best, and trusting my heavenly Father’s promise to provide, and He has never let us want.  Friends kindly send me yard and old clothes, out of which I clothe the children and myself.  I sell what I do not use.  I buy articles wholesale, and retail them.  I make articles of clothing which I find a ready sale; I conduct meetings and have a class for women and girls to learn useful sewing.  It is impossible to say what my small earnings amount to—they vary much, and I have not time to keep a proper account.  Of course since last April I have found it harder, not having my eldest son’s wages, which were 17/- a week.  Our God very wonderfully undertook for us at Christmas and bought us through the extra expense of the dear boys home from Canterbury.  A friend paid their railway fares; another sent a load of coal,another a load of firewood, and ten dear friends sent money in sums from 3/- to £2.0.0.!! (in all nearly £10.0.0.), besides food.

            Forgive my troubling you with so much detail; but you will more clearly see my position.

            I daily praise God for His dear care in opening the doors of the C.O.S. to my boys.  I exult in it; for how otherwise could they have been educated!  If your committee are lead to alloy my little girl to become a candidate, my heart will indeed sing for joy.  She is the brightest of my four little girls, and I did so long for her to have an education.

            Pardon such a lengthy epistle.

 To be Continued in Part 3

[I do not know if Lissie was accepted into the C.O.S. but, based on these two letters, it would seem very likely.–Sam Gafford]

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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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A REAL TRIP TO THE SARGASSO?


Our good friend, Georges Dodds, sends in this interesting item which he found in an archive.  It is a news report regarding a Danish explorer’s attempts to penetrate the Sargasso Sea in 1871.  It reads as if it could have been a story written by Hodgson or H. P. Lovecraft.  Georges states that he found it “searching in a 19th century British newspapers archive” and we thank him for passing this very interesting item along to us.

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Monday, July 16, 1894; Issue 7848

SARGASSO’S SEAWEED SEA
EXPLORER LOSES HIS REASON.
A VENTURESOME AMERICAN

The Sargasso’ Sea is that portion of the mid-Atlantic east of the coast of Florida, about the centre of the triangle between the Azores, the Canaries, and Cape Verde Islands. It covers an area of fifteen degrees of north latitude and ten degrees of west longitude—a space seven times the area of France and larger than the whole basin of the Mississippi. Few ships ever pass near this unknown sea. Along its borders the great currents of the Atlantic meet and turn and swirl, forming great seaweed meadows as far as the eye can reach. Columbus himself skirted along the margin of this great, floating continent of _débris_ and seaweed, and he it was who named it the Sargasso Sea. The centre of the Sargasso Sea has been supposed to be a dead region of almost perpetual calm, without currents. The predominating vegetation, is the _fucus natans_. The only man who is reported to have attempted a visit to the heart of the Sargasso Sea is a Danish naturalist, who died twenty years ago in poverty. In June, 1870, so the tale goes, “he was on a wrecking schooner from Madeira Inagua, and on the voyage the vessel skirted the bank. The sight so fascinated him that he began devising apparatus for overcoming the obstruction of seaweed, earnestly believing that an exploration would settle the question of the island of St. Borondon if not that of the lost Atlanties. In 1871, while botanizing on one of the West India islands, he met an eccentric Englishman named Lisle, owner of a steam yacht. Mr. Lisle became interested, in the subject, and after making preparations the yacht started for the unknown sea. Professor Aukarswards’ apparatus, on which he relied the most, was a drum or hogshead with hoops inside, 10ft. in diameter at the centre and 8ft. long. The frame of the drum was of seasoned live oak, the hoops of hickory were bent with mathematical accuracy, and the planking of cedar was laid on and lapped clinker fashion, and fastened with copper. In the centre was an iron axle, the length of the drum, playing freely in a well-oiled axle at each end. To the centre of this axle was attached a stirrup, to which the water-breaker and provisions could be jung. On the inner surface of the drum cleats were nailed a foot apart. The operator put his machine into the water, and, holding on to the stirrup, climbed up the cleats like a tread-mill horse, the machine rolling forward with every step, propelled through the water by the overlapping of the edges of the drum’s skin. It was the obverse of an undershot mill-wheel. Its draft was only five inches in the water, and it could be worked on land or water. The drum could be balanced, trimmed, and steered with ease, and propelled at the rate of forty miles a day. Lisle and Auckarsward, on February 1 steamed into the sea on the yacht. On the 7th the weeds stopped further progress. The lead sunk only twenty fathoms, and the mast of a sunken ship was in plain sight; so steam was blown off, the fires banked, and the sea balloon or drum was gotten out of the hold ready for a trip, Lisle and the professor made a visit to the sunken vessel, a barqentine, the “Santa Maria de Toledo, of Cartagena, 1817.” The next day, February 8, Auckarsward started for the seaweed banks, Lisle agreeing to wait with the yacht twenty days, and signal rocket every night. He was provided with a compass, a quadrant, and provisions. The report that he made of his journey was as follows: —

”Eleven o’clock a.m.—Ship no longer in sight. Noon.—Sun very hot. Stopped to dine and rest. Legs very tired. Distance travelled fourteen miles and three quarters. Many turtles in sight, floundering about on the grass; grass so thick matted that little water is seen. Put my feet in it and tried to walk, but will not bear my weight. Sea birds (larus rudibundus, porcellaria, and some grallatores of unknown species) digging the seaweeds up with their bills in search of crustacea. How came these
waders here?.

“Six o’clock p.m.—Distance twenty-three miles. Tired out! Best here. Very little wave motion of the grass, but tide motion quite perceptible. Shall have to close my windows tonight. While at supper just now an enormous conger, as thick as my leg, looked in upon me as if he might do battle.

“Feb. 9, 5 a.m.—Rested well. But for the birds these sea meadows would be awfully desolate. Excepting some small pools on the surface of the weeds the water has entirely disappeared. Nothing but an illimitable level green everywhere.

“Three p.m.—Have just stopped to examine the bow of a vessel that protrudes above the weeds. She is sunk stern down, and the bow protrudes almost perpendicularly. I will not be believed when I say that a brass cannon, hanging to her bleached deck, the carriage long since rotted away, has the Spanish crown mark and the date 1625. Was this a galleon returning with treasure from Caracas or Darien, and captured by this treacherous Sargasso?

“Five p.m.—The bottom of the Tiber is thought to contain relics of priceless value and many ages, but this Sargasso Sea, if it could he searched, would yield more curious and valuable things still. Imprisoned here must be vessels of all the centuries from the time when the Phoenicians galleys sailed outside the Pillars of Hercules to the date of the missing brig from Boston to the Cape or to the River Plate. I do not like the looks of the heavens. A storm is brewing.

“7.30p.m.—Distance run, 27 miles; I am tired out and ill-prepared for the tornado that is coming. I wish I had brought a grapnel or even a boat-hook. My harpoon is useless. Heaven help me!

“10th, 1.30 a.m.—The storm about to break. I never saw such lightning, the thunder is awful, and the wind—I know how it will blow! I light my candle to write this. Should anything happen to me and this log be found—not likely—let it be known that I do not regret the end.

The above was the last entry in Auckarsward’s log for many days. In his narrative he said that the hurricane came, and, as he feared, the drum rolled before it with appalling rapidity. He had a light in his lantern. He sprang into the stirrup, lashed himself there, and clung to the axle, while the drum spun before the storm with sickening velocity. He was forced to put out his light. He closed his eyes, and had finally no consciousness of anything but clinging with desperate tenacity to his supports, of hearing the wind shriek and the thunder roar.

A sudden lull in the storm aroused him, after how long he could not say. He tore open a shutter and sprang out. The weeds were firm under his feet, but the storm was rushing up again. He put his shoulder against the drum, seeking to slow it around so as to be endwise to the gale. He lifted it; it came slowly. around, the storm struck him like a flail, the rain smote him—he had only time, as he felt himself lifted off his feet, to fling himself flat on his face, dig his hands and toes in the matted dead fucus, and so keep from being blown away like a feather. At last day broke. The rain had ceased. The tornado only survived in a chill north-east gale. He saw, low down, a clump of trees, four or five miles off. He walked towards them. They were mangroves, short, stunted, with a cocoa palm beginning to grow among them—an island forming in mid-ocean. It grew lighter. Half a mile off Auckarsward saw another and larger grove of mangroves. He approached it, and his heart beat high when he saw dashed at the roots of the tree the wreck of his drum. How he re-embarked and made his way out of the sea again, undergoing a series of hardships and narrow escapes no less exciting than before, is another weird chapter it this astonishing narrative of adventure. Lisle found him a maniac and all but dead. Auckarsward recovered his reason, and in May, 1872, returned to the United States to arrange for a series of explorations of the Sargasso Sea. He believed that there was a solid island in the heart of the Sargasso banks, and that in the masses of external fucus are cushioned the wrecks of ages still keeping their treasures of gold and silver and jewels.

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Where next?


The study of the life and work of William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918) has been making great strides lately.  I’d like to think that this blog might be one of the reasons for this increased interest.  Whatever the cause, Hodgson is getting some more attention and this will only increase later this year with the publication of the first issue of SARGASSO: JOURNAL OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON studies.  We have already received several important contributions discussing WHH’s poetry, characters and even the legendary ‘writing log’ WHH kept.  As we move forward, I think it’s important to identify and illuminate some of the areas that need more attention.

1. Biography

We still know very little about Hodgson the man.  We can state that WHH was in certain places at certain times and did certain things but we know little about who he was or what he thought.  As I’ve said before, we have very little of his personal letters to study.  Reminiscences of WHH are also in short supply.  We can theorize and guess the type of fellow he was and his thoughts and ideas but, in the end, these are just educated guesses.  More than anything, I would love to see more researchers trying to piece together this puzzle.  I send out a call for researchers and archivists to search out more biographical information.  Perhaps a worldwide search (of libraries, universities, collections) will yield more letters and memos.  I would happily self-publish a volume of Hodgson’s letters IF I had enough to publish!

2. Hodgson’s other characters

Everyone knows Carnacki but Hodgson’s other characters such as Captain Gault, Captain Jat and others have been virtually ignored.  Thanks to Mark Valentine, the first issue of SARGASSO will include an article on Captain Gault which will hopefully open up this field.  I truly feel that, in order to understand a writer, we have to consider their entire output and not just those things we like and enjoy.

3.  Hodgson’s poetry

Hodgson considered poetry a major part of his life and yet the study of this has been severely limited.  Again, the first issue of SARGASSO will contain a major study of WHH’s poetry by Phillip Ellis but this is a framework upon which much more work needs to be done.  To correctly criticize poetry, to me, requires as poetic a soul as the poet themselves.

4. Hodgson’s influence

One of the ways to prove the value of a writer is to examine how they have influenced others who have come after them.  Virtually no work has been done in this area.  Surely there is much to be said?

These are merely a few areas that I believe we need to focus on as we strive to bring Hodgson to both a wider audience and a deeper critical appreciation.  This blog is meant to be an area for the sharing of such information and work.  Please take advantage of it and help us advance the cause of Hodgsonian Studies!

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Introduction by A. St. John Adcock


Shortly after Hodgson’s death in 1918, his widow arranged for the realization of one of his dreams: publication of a book of his poetry.  In 1920, Selwyn & Blount published The Calling of the Sea, a short collection of 16 of Hodgson’s poems about the sea.  The edition was prefaced with an introduction by WHH’s close friend, Arthur St. John Adcock.

Adcock was an English novelist and poet who also served as the editor of The Bookman which was a magazine from publisher Hodder & Stoughton.  Although primarily a public relations tool, The Bookman also included reviews and illustrations.  Adcock would accept several items from Hodgson during their friendship and we owe several anecdotes about Hodgson to Adcock’s writings.

A year later, in 1921, Selwyn & Blount would also publish WHH’s The Voice of the Ocean which is Hodgson’s longest poem about the sea.  I have suspicions that Selwyn & Blount were paid by Mrs. Hodgson to publish these books making it a vanity press item.  At the time of his death, Hodgson had also assembled three more collections of poetry which remained unpublished.  My belief is that Mrs. Hodgson did not have the funds to publish these as well.

Thankfully, those three volumes were found by Sam Moskowitz and, after purchasing the Moskowitz collection, later published by Jane Frank in her book, The Lost Poetry of William Hope Hodgson (2005).

The Calling of the Sea and The Voice of the Ocean were reprinted in 1977 (Poems of the Sea) by Ferret Fantasy.  They combined them into one edition but omitted Adcock’s introduction which is a shame.  Perhaps there were copyright issues with Adcock’s introduction as he has only died in 1930.

In any case, Adcock’s introduction is an affectionate memoir of his dear friend and provides one of the few glimpses we have of Hodgson from an outside source.  It is very moving and worthy of reading.

We thank the ever helpful Phillip Ellis for providing the transcript of this introduction.  Ellis is doing breakthrough work in the study of Hodgson’s poetry and has just written an extension review of these works for the first issue of SARGASSO.

“Introduction [to The Calling of the Sea]” / Arthur St. John Adcock.

I first met Hope Hodgson about eleven years ago. At that date, his three best novels had been written; two of them, “The Boats of the Glen Carrig” and “The House on the Borderland,” had been published, and the third, “The Ghost Pirates,” was in the press. In those three stories he showed himself a writer of quite exceptional imaginative gifts, a master of the weird, the eerie, the terrible, whose strange and grim imaginings were not unworthy of comparison with the bizarre creations of Poe. He had already given himself so entirely and enthusiastically to a literary career that the talk of our first meeting was wholly of books and of his hopes as an author. He aimed high and, taking his art very seriously, had a frank, unaffected confidence in his powers which was partly the splendid arrogance of youth and partly the heritage of experiences, for he had tested and proved them.

There was something curiously attractive in his breezy, forceful, eager personality; his dark eyes were wonderfully alert and alive; he was wonderfully and restlessly alive and alert in all his mind and body. He was emphatic and unrestrained in his talk, but would take the sting out of an extravagant denunciation of some inartistic popular author, or of some pestilent critic, and the egotism out of some headlong confession of his own belief in himself with the pleasantest boyish laugh that brushed it all aside as the mere spray and froth of a passing thought. His dark, handsome features were extraordinarily expressive; they betrayed his emotions as readily as his lips gave away whatever happened to rise in his mind. Always he had the courage of his opinions and no false modesty; it never seemed to occur to him to practise politic subterfuges; and it was this absolute candour and naturalness that compelled you to like him and before long strengthened your liking round the world into a friendly affection.

Only once, and then casually, he mentioned to me that he had been a sailor, but, though there was nothing in his manner or trim, sturdy figure that suggested the seafarer, one might have guessed as much from his books and from the fact that the ablest of them were all of sailors and the sea. He was the son of an Essex clergyman, and left home to serve for eight years aboard ship, roughing it at the ends of the earth in all manner of picturesque places and voyaging three times round the world. His record as a sailor includes the story of a daring plunge overboard and the saving of a life at sea, for which he received the Royal Humane Society’s Medal; and much of the rest of his recollections of those eight years have gone to make the characters and incidents and scenery of his stories.

One novel of his, “The Night Land,” which appeared in 1912, turns altogether aside from the sea and might almost seem to have presaged, in some dim fashion, the coming of the Great War. He ranked it as his highest achievement and owned he was disappointed that it was not generally regarded as such. The story is told in quaint, archaic language; it is by turns grim, idyllic and touched with supernatural horror; it unfolds a romance of the far future when, in the last days of the world, the powers of evil are grown so assertive, so almost all-conquering that the civilised remnant of the human race seeks refuge in an enormous and impregnable pyramid, building their city tier above tier within it, while all around this Last Redoubt stretches immeasurably the Night Land peopled with primeval and loathsome material monsters and dreadful immaterial things of the spirit world banded together to destroy the soul of mankind. It is a strikingly original piece of work, giving full scope to Hope Hodgson’s sombre imaginative power and his peculiar flair for the weirdly horrible and the hauntingly mysterious. But it does not grip and hold one as do those three earlier novels that, for all their uncanniness, wear an air of everyday realism and never lose touch with the normal elements of actual earthly life.

He introduced some of his verse into the last book of short stories, “Captain Gault,” which came out a few months before his death; but most of what he wrote in this kind is here published for the first time. And in his poems, as in his prose, it is the mystery, the strength, the cruelty, the grimness and sadness of the sea that most potently appeal to him. He visions it as a House of Storms, a Hall of Thunders; calm at times, but with such a calm as one sees

“When some fierce beast veils anger in his breast,”

or raging and heaving and roaring tumultuously as though through its tortured waves

“Some frightful Thing climbed growling from cold depths.”

For him the voices of the sea are the sighing or calling of its multitudinous dead, and there are lines in which he hints that one day he, too, will be called down to them; but that was not the death that he was to die.

When the war came, he and his wife had for some while been living in the South of France, but he could not remain there in safety, with the folk at home arming for battle, and, though he was then near forty, he returned to England at once and obtained a commission, in 1915, in the 171st Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. He put aside all literary work and threw himself heart and soul into his new duties. With characteristic simple frankness, he said his only fear was lest he should feel any shrinking when his time came—a fear that nobody who knew him could ever had for him. In October, 1917, he went to France with his battery, and was soon in the thick of the fighting. Early in April, 1918, he and a brother officer with a new N.C.O.’s successfully stemmed the rush of an overwhelming number of the enemy who had broken through their line right up to the guns; they fought a gallantly stubborn rear-guard action, under a hail of rifle and machine-gun fire, for three miles across country. A week or two later, on the 17th April, 1918, he was killed in action, whilst acting as observation officer.

It is hard to think of him as dead, he was so vigorously and intensely alive. That vigour and intensity of life pulses and burns in everything he has written; and I think he will still be living in, at least, those three of his novels when we who knew and loved him are passed from remembrance. In the world of letters he had only half fulfilled his promise, but in the larger world of men he left no promise unfulfilled and has an abiding place for ever among the heroic company that the seventeenth-century seaman Thomas James commemorated, when he wrote:

“We that survive perchance may end our days

In some employment meriting no praise,

And in a dunghill rot, when no man names

The memory of us but to our shames.

They have outlived this fear, and their brave ends

Will ever be an honour to their friends.”

A. St. John Adcock

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Call for Help!


Recently, I came across this listing for a London magazine:

picture_politics_190206-07Picture Politics, A Penny Popular Monthly [No. 104, June-July 1902] ed. F. Carruthers Gould (The Westminster Gazette and Budget; London, 1d, 16pp, 9½” x 13″)

    [fiction and poetry only have been listed] [JE]

  • 2 · “Peace”: June 1, 1902 · Arabella Romilly · pm
  • 8 · A Way They Have in the Navy · W. H. H. · pm; [by William Hope Hodgson ??????]
  • 11 · The Political Jungle-Book: III. Hugheera’s Hunting · Saki · vi
  • 13 · The New Gregorian Chant · W. H. H. · pm; [by William Hope Hodgson ??????]
  • 15 · May 24 · S. C. S. · pm
  • 15 · The West Indian Disaster · L. A. C. · pm
  • 15 · A Song of Peace · E. C. · pm

As you can see, it lists two poems possibly being by WHH.  Does anyone know anything about this or have a way to track down a copy of this magazine?  Any help is deeply appreciated.–Sam Gafford

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