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Thomas Hood

Thomas Hood

[hood]
Hood, Thomas, 1799-1845, English poet. He was an editor of various prominent magazines and periodicals. The greater proportion of his work was written in a humorous vein, and he was celebrated for his use of figurative language, especially puns. However, it is in his serious poems, notably "The Song of the Shirt" and "The Bridge of Sighs," that he shows his true creative ability. In these poems Hood displays great compassion for the poor and unfortunate, a feeling that was probably influenced by his own suffering from ill-health and poverty. His other noted poems include "The Dream of Eugene Aram" and "The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies."

See his letters ed. by P. F. Morgan (1973); study by L. N. Jeffrey (1972).

Thomas Hood (23 May 17993 May 1845) was a British humorist and poet. His son, Tom Hood, became a well known playwright and editor.

Biography

He was born in London to Thomas Hood and Elizabeth Sands in the Poultry (Cheapside) above his father's bookshop. "Next to being a citizen of the world," writes Thomas Hood in his Literary Reminiscences, "it must be the best thing to be born a citizen of the world's greatest city." On the death of her husband in 1811, Mrs Hood moved to Islington, where Thomas Hood had a schoolmaster who, appreciating his talents, "made him feel it impossible not to take an interest in learning while he seemed so interested in teaching." Under the care of this "decayed dominie", he earned a few guineas--his first literary fee--by revising for the press a new edition of Paul and Virginia.

Admitted soon after into the counting house of a friend of his family, he "turned his stool into a Pegasus on three legs, every foot, of course, being a dactyl or a spondee"; but the uncongenial profession affected his health, which was never strong, and he was sent to his father's relations at Dundee, Scotland. There he led a healthy outdoor life, and also became a large and indiscriminate reader, and before long contributed humorous and poetical articles to the provincial newspapers and magazines. As a proof of his literary vocation, he used to write out his poems in printed characters, believing that that process best enabled him to understand his own peculiarities and faults, and probably unaware that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had recommended some such method of criticism when he said he thought "print settles it." On his return to London in 1818 he applied himself to engraving, enabling him later to illustrate his various humours and fancies by quaint devices.

In 1821, John Scott, the editor of the London Magazine, was killed in a duel, and the periodical passed into the hands of some friends of Hood, who proposed to make him sub-editor. His installation into this post at once introduced him to the literary society of the time; and in becoming the associate of Charles Lamb, Henry Cary, Thomas de Quincey, Allan Cunningham, Bryan Procter, Serjeant Talfourd, Hartley Coleridge, the peasant-poet John Clare and other contributors to the magazine, he gradually developed his own powers.

He had married in 1825, and Odes and Addresses--his first work--was written in conjunction with his brother-in-law J.H. Reynolds, a friend of John Keats. S. T. Coleridge wrote to Charles Lamb averring that the book must be his work. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies (1827) and a dramatic romance, Lamia, published later, belong to this time. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies was a volume of serious verse. But he was known as a humorist, and the public rejected this little book almost entirely.

The series of the Comic Annual, dating from 1830, was a kind of publication at that time popular, which Hood undertook and continued, almost unassisted, for several years. Under that somewhat frivolous title he treated all the leading events of the day in caricature, without personal malice, and with an under-current of sympathy. The attention of the reader was distracted, by the incessant use of puns, of which Hood had written in his own vindication:

"However critics may take offence,
A double meaning has double sense."

He was probably aware of this danger. As he gained experience as a writer, his diction became simpler. In another annual called the Gem appeared the poem on the story of Eugene Aram. He started a magazine in his own name, for which he secured the assistance of many literary men, but which was mainly sustained by his own inactivity. From a sick-bed, from which he never rose, he conducted this work, and there composed well known poems, such as the "Song of the Shirt" (which appeared anonymously in the Christmas number of Punch, 1843 and was immediately reprinted in The Times and other newspapers across Europe. It was dramatised by Mark Lemon as The Sempstress, was printed on broadsheets, cotton handkerchiefs and was highly praised by many of the literary establishment, including Charles Dickens.), the "Bridge of Sighs" and the "Song of the Labourer" which are translated into German by Ferdinand Freiligrath. They are plain, solemn pictures of conditions of life.

Hood was associated with the Athenaeum, started in 1828 by James Silk Buckingham, and he was a regular contributor for the rest of his life. Prolonged illness brought on straitened circumstances; and application was made to Sir Robert Peel to place Hood's name on the pension list with which the British state rewarded literary men. This was done without delay, and the pension was continued to his wife and family after his death.

Nine years later a monument, raised by public subscription, in the cemetery of Kensal Green, was inaugurated by Richard Monckton Milnes.

Examples of his works

Hood wrote humorously on many contemporary issues. One of the most important issues in his time was grave digging and selling of corpses to anatomists (see West Port murders). On this serious and perhaps cruel issue, he wrote humorously thus:

Don’t go to weep upon my grave,
And think that there I be.
They haven’t left an atom there
Of my anatomie
-Thomas Hood
"I Remember, I Remember" (poetry)

Modern references

Bibliography

The list of Hood's separately published works is as follows:

  • Odes and Addresses to Great People (1825)
  • Whims and Oddities (two series, 1826 and 1827)
  • The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies, hero and Leander, Lycus the Centaur and other Poems (1827), his only collection of serious verse
  • The Dream of Eugene Aram, the Murderer (1831)
  • Tylney Hall, a novel (3 vols., 1834)
  • The Comic Annual (1830-1842)
  • Hood's Own, or, Laughter from Year to Year (1838, second series, 1861)
  • Up the Rhine (1840)
  • Hood's Magazine and Comic Miscellany (1844-1848)
  • National Tales (2 vols., 1837), a collection of short novelettes
  • Whimsicalities (1844), with illustrations from John Leech's designs; and many contributions to contemporary periodicals.

References

  • Hood, Thomas, and Walter Jerrold. Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hood. CADAL. London: Henry Frowde, 1906. At http://lookup.lib.hku.hk/lookup/bib/B31417024 via googlebooks Accessed January 12, 2008

External links

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