William Hope Hodgson

This section is devoted to the books of William Hope Hodgson. William Hope Hodgson was a British writer of horror and supernatural fiction. His career ended far too early when he was killed in action during World War 1.

William Hope Hodgson
William Hope Hodgson

Hodgson was born in Essex, England on November 18, 1877, the son of an Anglican minister. At the young age of only 13, ran away from home in order to go to sea. He was caught and returned to his family, but a year later his father consented to allow the young Hodgson to join the merchant navy and he was apprenticed as a cabin boy. Over the next 8 years, Hodgson rose to the rank of petty officer, and later attended school to obtain a Third Mate's certificate, which would have opened up a career as an officer and possibly as captain. However, Hodgson experienced a great deal of bullying and abuse, as well as the typical hardships common to all sailors in the British service at the time. He kept journals and took photographs of his life at sea, ranging from pictures of exotic locales and extreme weather, to photographs of the maggot infested food that was fed to British sailors. Disgusted by his life at sea, William Hope Hodgson left the service and never returned to sea.

His experiences on the oceans of the world would have a profound experience on his writings and many of his stories are set on ships or on islands, such as the Boats of the Glen Carrig and the The Ghost Pirates. His most noted works are The House on the Borderland, the NightLand and a series of supernatural detective stories featuring Carnacki the Ghost Finder.

Hodgson also gained a reputation as an athletic trainer and he was noted for his great physical strength. A small short boy when he entered the service, Hodgson was routinely picked on and abused by officers and fellow sailors. In reaction, he had developed his body to a high degree of strength and stamina through a rigorous regimen of physical training while serving at sea, in order to defend himself against the bullies that harassed him and other young sailors.

William Hope Hodgson in His Uniform During World War 1
William Hope Hodgson in His Uniform During World War 1

His years after leaving the navy were hard. Although he met with considerable critical success, William Hope Hodgson struggled to earn a living and both his efforts as a writer and as a physical trainer failed to generate a steady income. In 1912, Hodgson married Betty Farnworth, who had been one of the writers for a "Dear Abby" style column in a local newspaper. After their marriage, Betty gave up her job - in accordance with social convention at the time. Now faced with needing to support both himself and his bride, Hodgson and his wife relocated to the South of France where the cost of living was, at the time, much lower than in England. Their stay in France was short lived because World War 1 broke out just a year after the couple had moved to France.

Hodgson immediately returned to England where he enlisted in the armed forces. Despite his experience at sea, Hodgson refused to serve in the navy and was instead assigned to an officer training program for the army. Upon his graduation, Hodgson was posted to the Western Front in France. He was wounded and offered a discharge, but he refused and instead insisted on returning to the front lines. He was killed on or about August 17, 1918 at the Battle of Ypres. Newspaper accounts said that he had died bravely, while trying to lead fellow soldiers to safety during an artillery barrage.

Books and Short Stories by William Hope Hodgson

Hodgson was only 40 years old when he died, but he left behind a considerable body of work which was characterized by a unique use of pseudo archaic language, and vivid imagery. His writings influenced many writers in the horror and science fiction genre, including H.P. Lovecraft.

Online Books

Some of William Hope Hodgson's most noted works include:

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The Fascinating Story of Medieval Libraries

The Lost Art of Embroidered Books

Holbein's Dance of Death: A Cheerily Macabre World View

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