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.