Thomas Hood, 1799-1845


Biographical note

Poet and comic writer, son of a bookseller in London, where he was born, was put into a mercantile office, but the confinement proving adverse to his health, he was sent to Dundee, where the family had connections, and where he obtained some literary employment. His health being restored, he returned to London, and entered the employment of an uncle as an engraver. Here he acquired an acquaintance with drawing, which he afterwards turned to account in illustrating his comic writings. After working for a short time on his own account he became, at the age of 22, sub-editor of the London Magazine, and made the acquaintance of many literary men, including De Quincey, Lamb, and Hazlitt. His first separate publication, Odes and Addresses to Great People, appeared in 1825, and had an immediate success. Thus encouraged he produced in the next year Whims and Oddities, and in 1829, he commenced The Comic Annual, which he continued for 9 years, and wrote in The Gem his striking poem, Eugene Aram. Meanwhile he had married in 1824, a step which, though productive of the main happiness and comfort of his future life, could not be considered altogether prudent, as his health had begun to give way, and he had no means of support but his pen. Soon afterwards the failure of his publisher involved him in difficulties which, combined with his delicate health, made the remainder of his life a continual struggle. The years between 1834 and 1839 were the period of most acute difficulty, and for a part of this time he was obliged to live abroad. In 1840 friends came to his assistance, and he was able to return to England. His health was, however, quite broken down, but his industry never flagged. During the five years which remained to him he acted as editor first of the New Monthly Magazine, and then of Hood’s Monthly Magazine. In his last year a Government pension of £100 was granted to his wife. Among his other writings may be mentioned Tylney Hall, a novel which had little success, and Up the Rhine, in which he satirised the English tourist. Considering the circumstances of pressure under which he wrote, it is little wonder that much of his work was ephemeral and beneath his powers, but in his particular line of humour he is unique, while his serious poems are instinct with imagination and true pathos. A few of them, such as The Song of the Shirt, and The Bridge of Sighs are perfect in their kind.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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