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William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

I’m happy to announce that Phillip Ellis and I are collaborating on assembling the first ever COMPLETE POETRY OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON!  This will include the entire contents of the two volumes of verse posthumously published by WHH’s widow in 1920 as well as the poems which Jane Frank published in her collection, THE LOST POETRY OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON (2005).

Together, these collections present the entirety of Hodgson’s poetry. Never before has this material been available in one edition! Due to the scarcity of the 1920 volumes, many have never seen these poems before. Jane Frank has kindly given her permission to the reprinting of the material that had been in the Sam Moskowitz collection which only appeared previously in her 2005 anthology.

In addition, this book will contain all of the known criticism about Hodgson’s poetry. The ground-breaking articles by Phillip Ellis and Jane Frank will be reprinted as well as new material and introduction.

Work is continuing on the design and layout of the book and I am hopeful for a November, 2014, release!  Keep watching this space for updates!




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Contemporary Reviews of WHH

We are still finding examples of contemporary reviews of Hodgson’s work.  Many of WHH’s books were widely reviewed and it is likely that we will continue to find new examples of this for some time.  Thanks to our intrepid researcher, Phillip A. Ellis, we now have two more reviews to add to the list.  Phillip contacted me regarding these items and has graciously allowed us to reprint them here with some of his comments.

Phillip states that…

“The first item comes from Robert Barr, from a column, “The Idler’s Club”, in The Idler; this particular item has the subtitle “Ghosts, and that Sort of Thing”. Barr (321-322) discusses The Ghost Pirates in the last section of this column, under the further subheading “A Creepy Ghost Book”; it goes:

“I happened the other day upon a recently-published book which seems to have gained certain favourable notices. It is written by William Hope Hodgson, and issued by Stanley Paul and Co. My attention was drawn to the book because it possesses a frontispiece by that greatest of the world’s weird artists, Sidney H. Sime. I know of no other artist so capable of illustrating a creepy ghost story as Sime, and if this book should ever become “popular,” I hope the publisher will be enterprising enough to issue an edition de luxe with pictures galore by Sime. Such a volume would be a unique possession.

“The Ghost Pirates” is its title, and I see by the preface that this book is the last of three, all of which, I take it, deal with the supernatural. I must confess that I have not yet seen the first two books, which are called respectively “The Boats of Glen Carrig,” and “The House on the Borderland.” I intend to read these two, and then, perhaps, I shall be sufficiently equipped to express an opinion upon the last one, for although I have read it from beginning to end, I admit I don’t know what to say about it.

“It is a rather ignorant sailor who tells the story, so the somewhat commonplace diction with which it begins should not be held against the author. This sailor joins a ship at San Francisco and sails away. Gradually you gain the impression that there is something indefinably wrong with the ship; tantalising shadows flit about, and one is exasperated that nothing tangible happens. I began to come to the conclusion that this was a most commonplace book; the sailors appeared to be an uninteresting lot; also it seems unnecessarily profane here and there, but I am told that sailors at sea are not very choice with their language.

“By-and-bye, however, I was compelled to admit that the characters were pretty well differentiated; the second mate particularly began to stand out, although his name was never mentioned, so far as I can remember.

 “Trouble begins after a fortnight out, and it happens during the watch between eight and twelve at night:–


“It was nothing less than the form of a man stepping inboard over the starboard rail, a little abaft the main rigging. I stood up, and caught at the handrail, and stared.

 “The thing, whatever it was, had disappeared into the shadows at the lee side of the deck.”


“I will not attempt to tell the story, but these slimy, Sime-y things, sometimes visible to one and not to the rest, began to permeate the ship, and get into the rigging, with the result that death in various forms picked off one member after another of the crew. Just imagine a dark night, and the upper rigging of a ship cluttered with mucilaginous beings, evolved out of the fearsome inner consciousness of Sidney H. Sime: objects that editors shudder at, and dare not print, and you begin to have some idea of the state of things on board the ship that left ‘Frisco.

 “The book repelled me continually, yet I continued reading it, and at night, when I went to sleep, I experienced the worst nightmare I have had since I was a boy. These creatures of cold glue stuck to me, and I could not shake them off. I think “The Ghost Pirates” is a horrible book, and I don’t know whether to recommend it to the gentle reader or not; neither can I make up my mind whether or not it is a notable piece of work. I hope to come to a conclusion when I have read the other two volumes.


“The second item is part of a portmandeau review by Francis Bickley, in The Bookman. Under the title “Magic, Symbol and Philosophy”, it includes a single paragraph on The Voice of the Ocean; the relevant passage (96) reads:


“With Mr. Hope Hodgson we are in another world, the serious Victorian world of philosophical problems stated in verse. He reminds one of Tennyson and John Davidson. In “The Voice of the Ocean” the sea holds converse, with various souls in trouble, and has much to say on the large questions of God, life and death. The poem does not escape banality, and once or twice comes perilously near the ludicrous, but it has dignity and an intention which merits respect.”


These are part of a larger article from Phillip A. Ellis which will be published in the forthcoming issue of SARGASSO.




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“After SARGASSO” by Phillip A. Ellis

Today, guest blogger Phillip A. Ellis talks about a few of his ideas regarding upcoming WHH projects. Give it a read and let him know what you think!

After Sargasso

Having received my contributor copy of Sargasso 1:1, I now find
that my thoughts are turning to what I will be writing next about the
poetry of William Hope Hodgson. I already have one item in an inchoate
stage, about The Voice of the Ocean, and I have fleeting ideas
for more.

I wanted to talk about two of my projected items, and to solicit your
feedback on them. I know that not many of us are interested in the poetry,
for whatever reasons. I won’t be discussing why this is, only noting it in

But… what would you say if there were a single, collected edition of the
poems of William Hope Hodgson? What I am thinking of is a single book,
with all of the extant poems, and with notes on where they have appeared,
and on features of note within them.

There isn’t much scope for notes about what has been written concerning
them: too little has; but I am interested in getting an affordable, easily
obtainable edition out there that can be used by readers and collectors.

After I have done that, what I want to do is as follows: using the texts
of the collected edition, I plan on compiling a concordance of the poetry.
That means that we would be able to study the language more carefully,
noting significant words and images, and where they appear.

So: what do you think and/or feel about both proposals? Do either or both
interest you? Would you use one or both of them? Feel free to leave your
comments below….


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A Note On The Future of Hodgson Studies

My good buddy, Philip Ellis, sends along this great op-ed piece.  He says a lot of what I’ve been saying for awhile and I hope that we can inspire others to take up the banner.  Because, in truth, it’ll take more than just one or two of us to truly bring about a Hodgson revival.


by Phillip A. Ellis

It’s up to us!

I have been thinking a number of things, most of which involve either
Hodgson’s poetry or the study of Hodgson’s poetry. Yes, as Sam Gafford has
written, “There hasn’t been a great deal written about William Hope
Hodgson’s poetry.” That’s from the exact opening of Beyond the
Dawning: The Poems of William Hope Hodgson, at the top of page three.
Part of me wants more of that writing about the poetry, as it does about
the poetry of other work I enjoy or admire.

I realized early on that, if I want that sort of material, I had best be
prepared to write it myself. This is why I write guest blogs here, about
the poetry. And it is why I have also written about it for
Sargasso. Yet that’s not enough for me; I want more.

This is why I decided to write this particular guest post. If you want to
read about Hodgson, or Machen, or Lovecraft, or Derleth or whoever, it’s
up to you to do so. If we all waited for other people to write what we
want to read, nothing will get written at all. We would have the desire,
but not the fulfillment.

This is why I’d like you to consider supporting places like
Sargasso by writing the analyses of the fiction (and the poetry)
that only you can write. And the more we write and read, the more we
participate in the critical dialogue around us, the more we find to read
and enjoy, and even respond to.

Now, I’m going to make an illustration of this, but with an example about
Lovecraft. Don Burleson once had a piece on Lovecraft’s “Mirage”
published. I’ve read it, and I wanted a reply to it; and I have done so.
My piece has yet to be published, but I am working on that, and what
matters is that I took the first step of writing what I wanted to read.

Quite often, you’ll find others wanting to read the same things.

Note: Beyond the Dawning: The Poems of William Hope Hodgson was
edited by our Sam Gafford, illustrated by Ken Alves, and published by
Hobgoblin Press in Bristol, RI, in 1995.

<Note from editor:  I’d like to add to Phillip’s post by stating that this blog is always open to article submissions about Hodgson.  The more people who are writing about Hodgson, the more people who will read him and want to write about Hodgson themselves.>

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“Billy Ben”

Courtesy of Phillip Ellis and S.T. Joshi, we present a ‘lost’ poem by William Hope Hodgson.  Sadly, this is not a supernatural or sea poem but it is a charming little poem which was probably written for a more mainstream magazine.

“Billy Ben” has only appeared once and that was as part of the British edition of Captain Gault: Being the Exceedingly Private Log of a Sea-Captain (1917).  It was NOT included in the American edition which was published by McBride & Sons in 1918.  Sadly, the American edition is far easier to find than the British which caused this poem to be ‘lost’.  It was not included in either of the two volumes of WHH’s poetry which his widow published after his death nor was it included in The Lost Poetry (edited by Jane Frank) which collected many of the remaining, unpublished poems.

Long having been ignored by previous critics (the only notable example being Jane Frank’s analysis in The Lost Poetry), Hodgson’s poetry will be receiving renewed analysis in the forthcoming first issue of SARGASSO.

Billy Ben

Billy saw a crocodile

Bathing in a bath tub.

The crocodile stood by the stile

And waited there a little while;

But Billy went the other way round home.

Billy Ben and a Bull Frog

Met one summer day

By a boggy bog

And a floating log,

And the Bull Frog sang on the bottom:—

“Take the short cut home by the marsh with me;”

But Billy went the other way round home.

Billy met a Fire Fly

On a dark and summer night,

And Billy said

“I wonder why

It doesn’t burn you dead in bed,

You’re all alight!”

And the Fire Fly said, “Oh, come with me,

Oh, come with me and you will see;”

But Billy went the other way round home.

Billy met a Nanny Goat

Digested of a tablecloth

And Billy had a little white shirt

Under his little blue coat

And he carried a nice little boat.

But Billy made old Nanny wroth

And likewise a little hurt,

For she said with a tear

“Come here, my dear,

And let me see your nice little boat

And smell your nice little shirt;”

But Billy went the other way round home.


Billy saw a Bull in a field

And the field stood the other side a fence

And the Bull grinned at Billy

And called him small and silly,

’Cause Billy funked to pass

Beside him through the grass;

Said the Bull, “Oh, never fear,

You simple little dear!”

But Billy went the other way round home.

A Rabbit discovered Billy Ben

On the side of a mossy bank

Where the grass was long and rank

And the thistles grew

As Billy knew

As tall as a boy of ten,

And Billy beckoned the Rabbit near,

Coaxed it much and called it “Dear,”

And explained there was no room for fear;

But the Rabbit went the other way round home.

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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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