“William Hope Hodgson: In His Own Day”

This is the start of a series, one essay per post, on some of the pieces in William Hope Hodgson: Voices from the Borderland edited by Massimo Berruti, S. T. Joshi, and Sam Gafford.

One post on all of them would be too long, and I’ve already covered some of the essays in other posts.

For Hodgson fans also interested in literary criticism, I definitely recommend the book. Besides the essay, it has a very complete bibliography for all of Hodgson’s works in all languages as well as Hodgson criticism up to 2014. It also two indexes: one for names, Hodgson titles, and periodicals and a general index.

Review: “William Hope Hodgson: In His Own Day”, A. Langley Searles, 1944.

Voices from the Borderland
Cover by Daniele Serra

Searles looks at the reviews, in the English literary journal Bookman, of Hodgson’s last two novels: The Ghost Pirates and The Night Land (though it’s clear the reviewer of The Ghost Pirates had read The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” and The House on the Borderland).

The negative criticism of The Ghost Pirates was that Hodgson’s punctuation was annoying and the Cockney dialect of one character unsatisfactory. On the plus side, the reviewer said “There is no one at present writing who can thrill and horrify to quite the same effect.” That, as Searles says, was high praise given that Arthur Machen and M. P. Shiel were Hodgson’s contemporaries.

While the Bookman review of The Night Land notes that the language is sometimes obscure and hard to follow, it also says Hodgson produced a novel “very original and sufficiently imaginative”.

Three other newspapers also gave high praise to that novel.

When Carnacki the Ghost-Finder come out its reviews were perhaps even better than The Night Land’s. One reviewer even went so far as to say that Hodgson’s was England’s best writer of ghost stories – and this was at a time when M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Oliver Onions, E. F. Benson, and F. Marion Crawford were all publishing ghost stories.

Three newspapers and Bookman gave Hodgson’s collection Men of the Deep Waters very good reviews. The Bookman said the collection gripped like “Poe’s grim stories”.

The Daily Telegraph likened Hodgson’s collection The Luck of the Strong to Edgar Allan Poe’s work. Bookman said of the collection that Hodgson had a “crisp, racy style” and “a flair for macabre and horrific that will always appeal to a wide public”.

Clearly then, whatever his sales figures, Hodgson was getting good reviews.