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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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A Guide to Hodgson Criticism

Sometimes I am asked what is the ‘best’ scholarly work on Hodgson to read?  Usually this comes from people who have read Hodgson’s writings and want to learn more about the man and his work.  Happily (or unhappily), unlike Lovecraft, there has not been so much work done on Hodgson as to be overwhelming.  Indeed, there is much yet to be done but, like everything, there is a beginning.  This list contains comments regarding the items which are purely my own opinion.

We must first divide this list into two parts: Biographical and Critical.  Although some contain elements of both, most fall firmly into one camp or the other.


There have been several significant biographical pieces on Hodgson.  It is due to them that we have what little information that we do today.

evertsThe earliest came from R. Alain Everts 1974’s, William Hope Hodgson: THE NIGHT PIRATE, Volume 2 .  This was the result of much individual research by Everts and interviews with Hodgson’s then surviving siblings.

Sam Moskowitz provided the longest and most detailed analysis with his essay which first appeared in three issues of Weird Tales in 1973 when he was that magazine’s editor.  These installments were combined into one article which served as the introduction to the important collection, Out of the Storm (Grant, 1975).

Both Everts and Moskowitz deserve reading.  However, they often disagree on various points.  Moskowitz, for example, claims that WHH had a good relationship with his parents while Everts refutes this.  Because much of this information is apocryphal, it cannot be independently verified at this point.  My belief is that much of the information both scholars quoted was gained from interviews they conducted with WHH family.  As such, we must adjust for faulty memories or the more typical tendency to ‘revise’ history to make it appear more palpable.  Read with an open mind.

PamperoMoskowitz would go on to pen two more forewords to the other two WHH collections from Grant that he edited.  Much useful information is contained in both.  In The Haunted Pampero (1991), Moskowitz describes the efforts of Hodgson’s widow to keep his work alive until her death in 1943.  In Terrors of the Sea (1996), Moskowitz’s introduction picks up after the death of Hodgson’s widow when the literary estate reverted to Hodgson’s sister, Lissie.  This essay is particularly interesting in that it describes how Lissie often did more harm than good albeit unintentionally as she did not understand publishing and contracts.

The next major biographical step would come with Jane Frank’s The Wandering Soul.  After Moskowitz’s death in 1997, Frank and her husband purchased Moskowitz’s Hodgson collection which Jane Frank used to put together this anthology of WHH’s non-fiction and essays.

In addition to an excellent essay covering Hodgson’s life and career, Frank presents several unpublished WHH items that have significant impact on our knowledge of Hodgson’s life.  These include the lectures “A Sailor and His Camera” and “Ship’s Log”.  Recently, Frank has mentioned that she still has some unpublished items from Moskowitz’s files and is searching for a publisher for them.


One of the earliest examples of Hodgson Criticism is H. P. Lovecraft’s essay, “The Weird Work of William Hope Hodgson”.  This was originally published in The Phantagraph in 1937 and then later in H. C. Koenig’s amateur magazine, The Reader and Collector (1944).  This essay was reprinted in full on this blog here.  Lovecraft had taken the portions on Hodgson that he had included in his revised essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature, and expanded them in this article.

That issue of The Reader and Collector marked the first time that serious critical attention had been focused on Hodgson.  Through the kind generosity of Koenig’s son-in-law, Gene Biancheri, we have reprinted that issue in it’s entirety on this blog.  The issue included essays by Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Koenig, E. A. Edkins and Ellery Queen.

Arkham House, 1946.

Arkham House, 1946.

In 1947, Koenig provided the introduction to Arkham House’s edition of House on the Borderland which was the first time many readers had read anything about Hodgson.

For the next several decades, the bulk of Hodgson Criticism would primarily be contained in introductions to various reprints of his work.  Many library encyclopedias and indexes would appear in the 1970s and 80s which would include sections on Hodgson but would be priced beyond the means of most readers.

In 1987, Hodgson enthusiast Ian Bell would self publish William Hope Hodgson: Voyages and Visions which would collect many significant essays on Hodgson.  It was the most significant gathering of scholarly articles on Hodgson since 1944’s Reader and Collector.

Recently, academic scholars have taken up the Hodgson banner.  Writers such as Emily Alder and Kelly Hurley have placed articles in volumes published by Cambridge University Press and others.

I would be remiss if I did not at least mention my own article, Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson”, which was first published in 1992.  In it, I provided evidence that Hodgson’s novels were published in the reverse order of publication which changes many conceptions about Hodgson and his work.  I reprinted the essay on this blog here.

These are, to my mind, the primary sources that one should read for a basic understanding of Hodgson Criticism.  In an earlier post, I provided a more detailed listing of what was published and when which can be read here.

There is a great deal more work left to be done on Hodgson.  To date, he has not even received a book length analysis of his life and work.  In many ways, the field of Hodgson Criticism is as unexplored as many of the locales in his stories.  This needs to be corrected.–Sam Gafford

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My new column about Weird Fiction!

Although this is not specifically Hodgson related, I wanted to let everyone know that I have just started writing a new column on weird fiction for NAMELESS Magazine!  You can read it online at:


In this first installment, I talk about what “weird fiction” actually is and my response may surprise you.  I’m sure that, at some point, I’ll ramble on about Hodgson unless editor Jason Brock wises up and shuts me down first!  😉

I hope that you all will check out the column and let me know what you think.  You should also take the time to check out their regular website as well!  NAMELESS is a really great magazine which I am proud to be associated with them.  I am sure that it will be around for quite some time and, if you miss out on any issues, you will really regret it!

—Sam Gafford


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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.


“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”


“Mr. Hodgson, Second Mate”

“A Medal for Hodgson”


“Hodgson’s First Story”

“From the Tideless Sea”

“More News from the Homebird”

“The Baumoff Explosive”

“The Voice in the Night”


“Physical Culture: A Talk with an Expert”

“Why Am I Not At Sea?”

“The Calling of the Sea”


“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 Biographical Item”


“Free Hodgson”

“What’s That I Hear?”

“William Hope Hodgson and Arkham House”


“Canacki on the TV!”

“Hodgson on the Web!”


“The Dreamer in the Night Land”

“My First Hodgson”


“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 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,


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–


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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