Thomas Hood’s Life
A British Romantic poet, journalist, and humorist, Thomas Hood was born on May 23, 1799, in London, the United Kingdom. He was the son of Elizabeth Sands and Thomas Hood Sr., whose family members were Scottish farmers from the village of Errol, near Dundee. Thomas Hood Sr. was a successful bookseller, credited with introducing editions of classics in the United States, making him a prominent figure in the book business.
After the death of his father in 1811, Thomas Hood and his mother Elizabeth moved to Islington. There, a schoolteacher recognized his writing talent and encouraged him to write. This encouragement prompted him to start revising the 1788 novel "Paul and Virginia" for which he received a small fee.
The precocious child soon realized his own talent and left his schoolteacher to join a Counting House, which belonged to his friend's parents. However, this occupation did not suit him, and he turned to engraving, which he also abandoned. He then returned to Dundee to live with his paternal relatives for a few months, but he did not adapt well to their lifestyle. Ultimately, he found his place in the boarding house of Mrs. Butterworth, a family friend, and spent the rest of his time in Scotland with her. It was during his stay at this boarding house that he seriously considered a career in poetry. He began composing short pieces and submitted them to local newspapers and magazines, although they did not bring in much income.
His breakthrough came when he became the sub-editor of the "London Magazine" in 1821, following the previous editor's death. This role proved to be a significant turning point in his career, and he had the opportunity to interact with renowned figures such as Charles Lamb, Thomas de Quincey, and Bryan Procter. With newfound stability, he married Jane Hood in 1824, and they had two children, Tom and Frances. His son Tom later became a famous editor and playwright.
During this period, Thomas Hood primarily wrote comic pieces. In 1843, his humanitarian poem "The Song of the Shirt" gained international recognition, making him famous in the United States, Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Thomas Hood passed away in 1845 due to poor health.
Thomas Hood’s Works
Thomas Hood began his literary career by revising "Paul and Virginia." Later, he contributed poems and humorous works to local magazines in Dundee. Interestingly, he wrote his poetic works in printed characters to better understand his own faults and peculiarities. Samuel Taylor Coleridge criticized him for his style, stating, "Print settles it."
During his tenure as the sub-editor of the "London Magazine," Hood formed friendships with some of the greatest literary figures of his time, which contributed to the refinement of his writing style. In addition to poetry, he edited publications such as "The Comic Annual," "The Gem," and "Hood's Magazine."
Hood's first collection of poems, titled "The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies," was published in 1827. He continued writing until his death, with his famous poem "The Song of the Shirt" composed shortly before his passing. This poem was initially published anonymously in "Punch" and later reprinted in "The Times" in 1843.
Thomas Hood’s Style and Popular Poems
Many of Hood's poems in "The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies" suggest that he possessed the potential to become a first-rate poet due to his touching lyrical style. His diction is figurative, connotative, and filled with vivid imagery and captivating similes. Although he initially imitated Keats, he later developed his own distinct style, setting him apart from other Romantic poets of his era. Some of his popular poems include "O Lady, Leave Thy Silken Thread," "November," "A Lake and A Fairy Boat," "Death," "A Retrospective Review," "Ruth," "Hymn to the Sun," "Midnight," "The Departure of Summer," and "Song."
More about His Life
Hood was esteemed as "a lively poet" and "the finest English poet" during the times of Tennyson and Shelley, a remarkable achievement in itself. His friend Thackeray, also a renowned writer, described him as a marvelous figure of courage, patience, honesty, endurance, and duty who heroically confronted the challenges of life.