Thomas Hood: Part II.

Home Up Biography Poetry Reviews News Reports Miscellanea Main Index Site Search
 


 

LIFE AND WRITINGS OF THOMAS HOOD.

(Continued from Part I).

HOOD is very successful in unravelling the perplexities of a mind too full of matter,—if the shade of Berkeley will excuse the expression,—or ignorance in a state of spontaneous  combustion, trying to wreak itself on language. Some very droll humour will be found in his many mock-epistles, purporting to be from servants running 'all ways to once' in their frantic endeavours to express all their meaning forthwith. The more bewildering the way for them, the clearer case is it for him; the more inadequate their utterance, the more perfectly it serves his purpose; the more they are racked in feeling, the more is language racked by him. A very forcible description of Holland is thus struck out in one of Martha Penny’s letters. 'Hlowsumever hers we are thank providens on dry land if so be it can be cauld dry that is half ditchis and cannals, at a form city, by name Rotter—D—m. The King lives at the Ha-gue and I’ll be bound it’s haguish enuf for Holland is a cold marshy flatulent country and lies so low they are only saved by being dammed.'

   
A great deal of Hood’s wit is apparently purposeless; the natural result of his habit of instantly detecting the oddest coincidences in the world, and spying out some point of likeness and affinity in the remotest opposites—extremes always chancing to meet in his mind as in his life. Yet it was not without a purpose if it served to supply the waiting mouths that turned to him for bread. He was no diner-out, whose flashes of manufactured merriment lighted up the tables of the rich and great with laughing-gas. But his happy whimsicalities, his graceless puns past all pardon, were carefully booked and sent to market to supply his own dinner-table; his own “good things” were duly exchanged for the world’s. When dying, propped up with pillows, his long white face more serious-looking than ever, so thin and spare of body that his spirit appeared to be shining through its sheath, he was found to be toiling away, cheery as Mark Tapley under his difficulties, putting into his last work all the funny thoughts and humorous hints he could find on a bed of death, with the view of leaving as much bread as possible in the cupboard for the dear ones when their bread-winner was gone. Thomas Hood could be witty to very noble purpose—witty in pleading the cause of authors, as in his petition for Copyright, where he urges with very uncommon common sense that 'to be robbed by Time is a sorry encouragement to write for Futurity;' that 'it must be an ungrateful generation which, in its love of cheap copies, can lose all regard for the dear originals; 'that' when your Petitioner shall be dead and burned, he might with as much propriety and decency have his body snatched as his Literary Remains; that 'as a man’s hairs belong to his head, so his head should belong to his heirs; and the very law of nature protests against an unnatural law which compels an author to write for everybody’s posterity except his own.' And in his 'Ode to Rae Wilson,' he pleads the cause of toleration and genuine religion as effectively as though he never saw double in his life, and only fired single-barrelled meanings. For example—

'Mild light, and by degrees, should be the plan
    
To cure the dark and erring mind;
 
But who would rush at a benighted man,
    
And give him two black eyes for being blind?’

Or, again—

'Spontaneously to God should tend the soul,
 
Like the magnetic needle to the pole
 
But what were that intrinsic virtue worth,
    
Suppose some fellow, with more zeal than knowledge,
    
Fresh from St. Andrew’s College,
Should nail the conscious needle to the north?'

Many are the pages of Hood's writings we might point to and show that, when the sparkling particles of his wit have had their dance, they settle down into a rich precipitate of golden wisdom.  But, even at the lowest range of his humour, Hood is alive to the least touch of nature.  He has a quick sympathy with humanity trying to get expression under grotesque difficulties. Any genuine human affection wins his respect.  He never despises it however much he may laugh.  In one of his pieces called a 'Singular Exhibition at Somerset House,' there is a pleading ground-tone of seriousness taking part all the while against the imp of mirth and mischief that is so provocative.

'No Cow! there an’t no Cow, then the more’s the shame and pity!
Hang you and the R. A.’s, and all the Hanging Committee!
No Cow—but hold your tongue, for you needn’t talk to me—
You can’t talk up the Cow, you can’t, to where it ought to be—
I haven’t seen a picture high or low, or any how,
Or in any of the rooms to be compared with David’s Cow!
You may talk of your Landseers, and of your Coopers, and your Wards,
Why hanging is too good for them, and yet here they are on cords!
They’re only fit for window frames and shutters and street doors,
David will paint ‘em any day at Red Lions or Blue Boars,—
Why, Morland was a fool to him, at a little pig or sow—
It’s really hard it a’nt hung up—I could cry about the Cow!
But I know well what it is, and why—they’re jealous of David’s fame,
But to vent it on the Cow, poor thing, is a cruelty and a shame.
Do you think it might hang by and by, if you cannot hang it now?
David has made a party up, to come and see his Cow.
If it only hung three days a week, for an example to the learners
Why can’t it hang up, turn about, with that picture of Mr. Turner’s?
Or do you think from Mr. Etty you need apprehend a row,
If now and then you cut him down to hang up David’s Cow?
I can’t think where their tastes have been, to not have such a creature,
Although I say, that should not say, it was prettier than Nature;
It must be hung—and shall be hung, for, Mr. H—, I vow,
I daren’t take home the catalogue, unless it’s got the Cow!
As we only want it to be seen, I should not so much care,
If it was only round the stone man’s neck a-coming up the stair,
Or down there in the marble room where all the figures stand,
Where one of them three Graces might just hold it in her hand—
Or maybe Baily’s Charity the favour would allow,
It would really be a charity to hang up David’s Cow.
We haven’t nowhere else to go if you don’t hang it here,
The Water-Colour place allows no oilman to appear—
And the British Gallery sticks to Dutch, Teniers, and Gerrard Douw,
And the Suffolk Gallery will not do—it’s not a Suffolk Cow:
I wish you’d seen him painting her, he hardly took his meals
Till she was painted on the board correct from head to heels
His heart and soul was in his Cow, and almost made him shabby,
He hardly whipped the boys at all, or helped to nurse the babby.
And when he had her all complete and painted over red,
He got so grand, I really thought him going off his head.
Now hang it, Mr. Hilton, do just hang it any how,
Poor David, he will hang himself, unless you hang his Cow.—
And if it’s unconvenient and drawn too big by half—
David sha’nt send next year except a very little calf.’

    The brilliancy and versatility of Hood’s wit have somewhat dimmed for many eyes the glowing lights and graces of his serious fancy.  Readers are apt to forget how truly and richly the poet was endowed.  Some of his early poetry has a fresh breath of the old English pastures, and in various ways shows a touch of kinship to the Elizabethan men.  He shared with Keats in the modern return to the youthful health and poetic luxury of our earlier literature, and came back with something of that poet’s love for a flashing phrase, a purple word, a quaint conceit.  He tried a variation of the same theme as Keats’s 'Lamia,' wherein he holds his own by some subtle touches of true poetry.  His creation, however, has more flesh and blood, and does not rise airily like Keats’s golden exhalation of the dawn or bubble of the earth.  Some of his little lyrics have the gay grace and lilt of the old dramatists when they wrote in the lyrical mood.  The 'Plea of the Midsummer Fairies' is an exquisite poem; the Muse that inspired it was a 'delicate Ariel' indeed.  It wafts us into real fairy-world, where we find the wee folk, the pretty children of the world’s childhood at home.  Here are the dainty diminutives, the lovely small underbodies that can swing on a flower, or float on a leaf; a pretty importunate crowd of kindly little mimic humanities, moving in quaint attire and sylvan colours, with the quickness of sparkles of sunshine, pleading with a tiny tinkle of tender speech, to be rescued from the destroyer Time, and allowed a little room in our world, and they will fill it with the largest life of good possible to their frailness; for 'we are very kindly creatures,' they urge; 'we soothe all covert hurts and dumb distress.'

'And we are near the mother when she sits
 
Beside her infant in its wicker bed:
 
And we are in the fairy scene that flits
 
Across its tender brain: sweet dreams we shed,
 
And whilst the tender little soul is fled
 
Away to sport with our young elves, the while
 
We touch the dimpled cheek with roses red,
 
And tickle the soft lips until they smile,
 
So that their careful parents they beguile.'

    One relates the pageant tricks that he and his merry mates played to beguile a poor wretch from thoughts of suicide.

'Therefore as still he watched the waters flow,
 
Daintily we transformed, and with bright fins
 
Came glancing through the gloom; some from below
 
Rose like dim fancies when a dream begins,
 
Snatching the light upon their purple skins
 
Then under the broad leaves made slow retire:
 
One like a golden galley bravely wins
 
Its radiant course,—another glows like fire,—
 
Making that wayward man our pranks admire.'

And so they wiled him away from death.

   
Puck, caught in the midst of his freakish fun, urges the harmless life of himself and Robin Goodfellow:—

' ‘Tis we that bob the angler’s idle cork,
 
Till e’en the patient man breathes half a curse;
 
We steal the morsel from the gossip’s fork,
 
And curdling looks with tickling straws disperse,
 
Or stop the sneezing chanter at mid-verse.'

    But the pleading is in vain.  Titania’s self, with all her beauty and her tears, fails to touch grim Time, bent on doing his work; when lo! a timely apparition glides between the stern destroyer and the doomed fairy band.  This is Shakspeare, though he seemed

'A mortal at mere hunt
 
For coneys, lighted by the moonshine cold,
 
Or stalker of stray deer, stealthy and bold.'

    The pretty crowd felt secure in the shadow of this interposing power, and they were rescued to live on safe in the immortality conferred by him in a certain 'Midsummer Night’s Dream.'

   
Hood’s 'Haunted House' is one of the most perfect pictures of still life to be found in all poetry.  It is true and graphic, as though the writer had spent years on years in some such desolate ruin, on the shadowy borderland of life and death; peered into all the dim and dusty nooks, with the vision strained to that preternatural acuteness which takes note of the minutest details of physical circumstances; had lain awake o’ nights, and felt the phantoms flitting through the gloom, or caught glimpses of them crossing the moon-rays; had known all the mute significance of the conscious silence, and listened until there came from out it those strange sounds that underlined the stillness, as it were, and made it more boding and fearful!  It required the finest mental apprehension, the white heat of imagination, the most sensitive perception, to take such a picture as this, wherein the indefinite is caught and fixed so definitely; the dim and shadowy is turned to tangible reality with a most startling distinctness; the abode of death, darkness, and doom is quickened and set swarming with ghastly life; and a living lonely human being is thus isolated and suspended betwixt the spirit-world of the air overhead and the reptile-world of crumbling ruin at the feet:—

'The centipede along the threshold crept,
    
The cobweb hung across in mazy tangle,
 
And in its winding-sheet the maggot slept,
    
At every nook and angle.

 
The keyhole lodged the earwig and her brood,
    
The emmets of the steps had old possession,
 
And marched in search of their diurnal food
    
In undisturbed procession.'

What a perfect sense of security from human invasion in that nest of earwigs, and what leisure is implied by the long, slow march of the ants!

'Such omens in the place there seemed to be,
    
At every crooked turn, or on the landing,
 
The straining eyeball was prepared to see
 
    Some apparition standing!

 
The dreary stairs, where with the sounding stress
    
Of every step so many echoes blended,
 
The mind, with dark misgivings, feared to guess
    
How many feet ascended.'

    Everywhere the place is haunted, and everything appears to feel the consciousness of crime.  In a thousand ways the world of dumb things speaks, palpably enough, its knowledge of the mystery.  The ancestral portraits on the walls are filled with no mere simulated life:—

'Their souls were looking thro’ their painted eyes
       
With awful speculation.'

At the sound of the door creaking on its rusty hinges it seems as though the murder would out at last! The screech-owl appears to 'mock the cry that she had heard some dying victim utter!'

'A shriek that echoed from the joisted roof,
   
And up the stair and farther still and further,
 
Till in some ringing chamber far aloof
    
It ceased its tale of murther!

 
The wood-louse dropped and rolled into a ball,
    
Touched by some impulse, occult or mechanic;
 
And nameless beetles rang along the wall
    
In universal panic.

 
The subtle spider that from overhead
    
Hung like a spy on human guilt and error,
 
Suddenly turned, and up its slender thread
    
Ran with a nimble terror.'

There was no human voice in the place to speak the tale of horror and amazement.  Only every bit of red shone ominously vivid, as though it were self-lighted, and the 'Bloody Hand' pointed with prophetic hints to a chamber, across the door of which no spider hung its web, and not even a midge dare dance in the sunbeam when it fell there:—

'The Bloody Hand, significant of crime,
    
That, glaring on the old heraldic banner,
 
Had kept its crimson unimpaired by time
    
In such a wondrous manner!

 
And over all there hung a cloud of fear
    
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
 
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
    
"The place is haunted!"'

    Hood’s novel of 'Tylney hall' is worth reading, and will be read when our present popular sensation stuff is long forgotten.  It contains one capital character, that of 'Unlucky Joe,' which might have been an early sketch from the hand of Mr. Dickens.  Poor Joe, with his inevitable 'Fridays' and wallowings in the Slough of Despond, is a specimen of Hood's peculiar mixture.  He is so sure that fate is dead against him, and so sick of his unlucky life, that 'if it pleased God Almighty to chuck down from heaven a handful of sudden deaths, you’d see me scrambling after one as hard as ever a barefoot beggar boy for a copper out of a coach window.'  There are good hints in Mrs. Hanway, who reckoned it second only to the mortal sin that so horrified John Bunyan, to have let a sick gentleman go to heaven without having taken his physic; in Twiggs, the vulgar, who thought it strange that a man of his property could not have a fine day for his fete; and in the Baronet, a genuine bit of old English foxhunting nature, florid as a picture by Rubens; sound in heart and brain as in wind; a man that lived up to the traditionary mark, which was not low-water mark, and only died once.

    Hood, we are informed, amongst other literary projects, thought of writing a set of Books for Children.  It is to be regretted that he did not live to create such a child’s world of fancy, fun, and faerie as it must have been.  He had a remarkable knack of getting into all sorts of small places, whether it was the insect world or fairy world, or the world of infantine humanity.  Into the latter he would slyly creep, as it were on all fours, in such unexpected ways as would pleasantly startle his small friends with shouts of laughter.  He could always get to the heart of a child, however much he might bewilder its mind with the movement and glitter of his fun, which dazzled too much for the meaning to be quickly apprehended, filling the young imagination with a thousand sparkles of splendour, all alive as the dress of Harlequin.

    It must have been a droll entertainment to have watched the child-face, and seen it lifted every now and then, with the eyebrows arched in wonder at what was coming next, and heard the 'Oh, Mr. Hood!'  As a sample of his frolic with the little ones, and his way of playing with them and puzzling them, we turn over his letters to the children of his good friend, Dr. Elliot:—

'MY DEAR MAY,

    'I promised you a letter, and here it is.  I was sure to remember it, for you are as hard to forget as you arc soft to roll down a hill with.  What fun it was! only so prickly I thought I had a porcupine in one pocket, and a hedgehog in the other.    The next time, before we kiss the earth, we will have its face shaved.  I get no rolling at St. John’s Wood.  Tom and Fanny only like roll and butter; and as for Mrs. Hood, she is for rolling in money.  Tell Dunnie that Tom has set his trap in the balcony, and caught a cold, and tell Jeannie that Fanny has set her foot in the garden, but it has not come up yet.  I hope we shall all have a merry Christmas.  I mean to come in my most ticklesome waistcoat, and to laugh till I grow fat, or at least streaky.  Fanny is to be allowed a glass of wine, Tom’s mouth is to have a hole holiday, and Mrs. Hood is to sit up to supper. There will be such doings, and such things to eat! but pray, pray, pray, mind they don’t boil the baby by mistake for a plump pudding!'

The next quotations are from letters written to the children at the seaside:—

'MY DEAR JEANNIE,
    'So you are at Sandgate!  If you should catch a big crab, with strong claws,—and like experiments,—you can shut him up in a cupboard with a loaf of sugar, and see whether he will break it with his nippers.  Besides crabs, I used to find jelly-fish on the beach, made, it seemed to me, of sea-calves’ feet, and no sherry. There were starfish also, but they did not shine till they were stinking.  I hope you like the sea!  I always did when I was a child, which was about two years ago.  Sometimes it makes such a fizzing and foaming, I wonder some of our London cheats don't bottle it up and sell it for ginger-pop.  When the sea is too rough, if you pour the sweet oil out of the cruet all over it, and wait for a calm, it will be quite smooth—much smoother than a dressed salad.  Some time ago exactly, there used to be large white birds, with black-tipped wings, that went flying and screaming over the sea.  Do you ever see such birds?  We used to call them ‘gulls,’ but they didn’t mind it.

'Well, how happy you must be! Childhood is such a joyous, merry time, and I often wish I was two or three children!  And wouldn’t I pull off my three pairs of shoes and socks, and go paddling in the sea up to my six knees!

'When I can buy a telescope powerful enough, I shall have a peep at you.'

    So the rare pen goes romping on from one child’s mind to the other; the tickling inquiries and funny information flowing from it with the most natural gradation, until, in the letter to the youngest, we have the crowning touches of nature, and a fine flash of imagination:—

'MY DEAR MAY.
'How do you like the sea?  Not much, perhaps; it’s 'so big.'  But shouldn’t you like a nice little ocean, that you could put into a pan?

'Have the waves ever run after you yet, and turned your little two shoes into pumps full of water?  Have you been bathed yet in the sea, and were you afraid?  I was, the first time; and, dear me! how I kicked and screamed!—or at least meant to scream, but the sea, ships and all, began to run into my mouth, and so I shut it up.  Did you ever try, like a little crab, to run two ways at once?  See if you can do it, for it is good fun; never mind tumbling over yourself a little at first.  It would be a good plan to hire a little crab for an hour a day, to teach baby to crawl, if he can’t walk, and if I was his mamma, I would, too!  Bless him!  But I must not write on him any more—he is so soft, and I have nothing but steel pens.  And now, good bye!     The last fair breeze I blew dozens of kisses for you, but the wind changed, and, I am afraid, took them all to Miss H——, or somebody that it shouldn’t.'

Of Hood’s power to enter into the heart of a child, and measure the world through its eyes, his remark on the size of the sea is a felicitous illustration.  It so admirably expresses that affection of the little one which seeks to embrace what it loves, and is not satisfied with the greater possessions and less power; while the description of the sea running, ships and all, into the youngster’s mouth is overwhelming.

    It is now some twenty years since Thomas Hood, with heart aching for the poor, sang his famous 'Song of the Shirt,' but its echoes have not yet died out of the minds of all good men and true women.  Much floating, hazy sympathy for the lower classes—which may at all times be found amongst the real aristocrats—has since then been condensed, and fallen like refreshing rain from heaven to enrich the life of the poor, making many of the waste places blossom.  Without any canting about the progress of our age, we may congratulate ourselves on living in a time when the wealthy and the high-born have a livelier sense of their responsibilities—think more of their duties than their dues—more of serving, less of compelling service, than in any time past.  Still the day has not yet come when poems like these are no more needed to work with their finer particles in the mind of our nation; to kindle kindly thoughts, and keep the conscience quick, the ear open to the cry of suffering, the eyes clear to see the wrongs that are done to labour, under the sanction of Law, in the common light of day.  The feelings to which these make appeal will always be necessary to supplement and soften the hard hearts of those who do not understand what political economy is, and are fond of claiming its sanction for the neglect of duty. The more perfect the societary arrangement, according to the Manchester ideal, the greater surely is our heed of that humanity which, working by personal influences, can alone bring about any better relationship betwixt rich and poor. Many no doubt easily shook off the influence of Hood’s startling midnight cry, which still rings in the ears of others, on behalf of the slaves of the needle.  Their blinds were drawn down to shut out the sorry sight which the poet showed them in the street, and the silken pillow soon dulled the sound to their delicate ears.  It is not at all comfortable to be told how much human life goes to the making of the robes you wear, or how many roses are taken from fair childish checks to give a moment’s sweetness and a glow of colour to a costly faded life!  So they turned away and forgot it as quickly as possible.  A recent event has proved to us how necessary it is that the vision of the 'Lady’s Dream' should be shown again and again, with its appalling sights that will be seen though the eyes are shut.  The poet tells us how the lady lay in her soft warm bed, a very nest of luxury; she moaned in her broken sleep, and tossed her restless arms.  So great was her terror that she started up, and seemed to see some dreadful phantom in the dark, and the curtains shook with her tremblings:—

'And the light that fell on the bordered quilt
   
Kept a tremulous gleam;
And her voice was hollow, and shook as she cried—
   
"Oh, me! that awful dream!"

That weary, weary walk
   
In the churchyard’s dismal ground
And those horrific things with shady wings,
   
That came and flitted round,—
Death, death, and nothing but death,
   
In every sight and sound!

And oh! those maidens young,
   
Who wrought in that dreary room,
With figures drooping and spectres thin,
   
And cheeks without a bloom;
And the voice that cried,  "For the pomp of pride,
   
We haste to an early tomb!"

And then they pointed.    I never saw
   
A ground so full of graves!
And still the coffins came
   
With their sorrowful trains and slow;
Coffin after coffin still,
    In sad and sickening show!'

But for the vision the lady had never dreamed of this world’s walking spectres and the moving shadows, so to speak, of Fashion’s fleeting brightness—of the hearts that break daily, the tears that fall hourly, the naked she might have clothed, the hungry she might have fed, the darkly-bewildered on whose way she might have shed some little guiding light.  Now all was revealed:—

'The sorrow I might have soothed,
   
And the unregarded tears;
For many a thronging shape was there,
   
From long-forgotten years.

Each pleading look, that long ago
   
I scanned with a heedless eye,
Each face was gazing as plainly there,
   
As when I passed it by:
Woe! woe for me if the past should be
   
Thus present when I die!

Alas!  I have walked through life
   
Too heedless where I trod;
Nay, helping to trample my fellow-worm,
   
And fill the burial sod.

Oh! the wounds I might have healed!
   
The human sorrow and smart!
And yet it never was in my soul
   
To play so ill a part:
But evil is wrought by want of Thought,
   
As well as want of Heart.'

When a man like this has lived his life and done his work, and Death has put his 'Finis' to the book, one great question is, 'What has he laid up for himself out of this life to bear interest in another?'  The question on our side is, 'What has he done for the world; what is the value of his life and writings to us?'  Hood’s life was a long disease, for which death alone possessed the secret of healing; a hand-to-hand, foot-to-foot, and face-to-face struggle day by day with adverse circumstances for the means of living.  Yet out of all the suffering he secreted a precious pearl of poetry which will be a 'thing of beauty;' and, in spite of poverty and pain, he shed on the world such a smile of fun and fancy as will be a merry memory 'forever.'

    But it is Thomas Hood’s chief glory that he 'remembered the forgotten.'  His greatest work is that which his poems will do for the Poor.  The proudest place for his name is on the banner borne at the head of their great army as it marches on to many a victory over ignorance, crime, and wrong.  The lines written by Æschylus for his own epitaph show us that he was prouder of having fought at Marathon and left his mark upon the Mede than of all the works he had written.  Heine, the German Poet-Wit, tells his countrymen he does not know whether he has won the laurel, nor does he care what they say of him as a poet; but they may lay a sword upon his coffin because he was a brave soldier in the war for the freedom of mankind.  In like manner, when we may have expatiated on the wit of Hood, or shown his fancy at the daintiest, the highest praise we can award is symbolled on his own tomb-stone, 'He sang the Song of the Shirt:' he gave one fitting voice to the dark, dumb world of poverty.  Whilst others might be discussing the 'Condition-of-England' question, and some were for reforming humanity by new societary systems, and many sat with folded arms, saying, 'There is nothing new and there is nothing true, and it does not matter; come, let us worship Nirwana! the poet went straight to the heart of the matter, which was the common human heart that underlies all difference of condition, all heavings of the body politic, all shapes of government.  We do not say that he was faultless, or that he always succeeded in holding the balance even between the different classes of men.  Indeed, his very last aspiration was to correct an error which some of his writings might seem to encourage.  He says in the letter to Sir Robert Peel above alluded to,—the last letter that he ever wrote,—

'My physical debility finds no tonic virtue in a steel pen, otherwise I would have written one more paper—a forewarning one—against an evil, or the danger of it, arising from a literary movement in which I have had some share, a one-sided humanity, opposite to that catholic Shaksperian sympathy, which felt with king as well as peasant, and duly estimated the mortal temptations of both stations.  Certain classes at the poles of society are already too far asunder; it should be the duty of all writers to draw them nearer by kindly attraction, not to aggravate the existing repulsion, and place a wider moral gulf between rich and poor, with hate on the one side and fear on the other.  But I am too weak for this task, the last I had set myself; it is death that stops my pen, you see, and not the pension.’

    Finally, Hood was not one of those lofty and commanding minds that rise but once an age, on the mountain ranges of which light first smiles and last lingers.  He does not keep his admirers standing at gaze in distant reverence and awe!  He is no cold, polished, statuesque idol of the intellect, but one of the darlings of the English heart.  You never think of Hood as dead and turned to marble.  Statue or bust could never represent him to the imagination.  It is always a real human being, a live workfellow or playfellow that meets you with the quaintest, kindliest smile, takes you by the hand, looks into your face, and straightway your heart is touched to open and let him in.  In life he complained of his cold hand; it used to be chilly as though he was so near an acquaintance of Death that they shook hands daily.  You cannot feel the cold hand now; that was put off with the frail mortality.  The hand he lays in yours is warm with life.  He draws you home to him.  You must see Hood in his home to know him: see how he touches with something of beauty the homeliest domestic relationships; see how he will transmute the leadenest cares into the gold of wit or poetry; keep a continual ripple of mirth and sparkle of sunny light playing over the smiling surface that hides the quiet dark deeps where the tragic life is lived unseen; from the saddest, dreariest night overhead bring out fairy worlds of exquisite fancy touched with rosiest light.  And whatsoever place his name may win in the Temple of Fame, it is destined to be a household word with all who speak the English language.  Though not one of the highest and most majestic amongst Immortals, he will always be among those who are near and dear to the English heart for the sake of his noble pleading of the cause of the poor, and few names will call forth so tender a familiarity of affection as that of rare 'Tom Hood.'

GERALD MASSEY.

 



[Home] [Up] [Biography] [Poetry] [Reviews] [News Reports] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk