This is a very good critical article on how Hodgson used and often inverted a perspective of the early 20th century that was as infused with the ideas of spiritualism and the belief that the “supernatural” could be explained in terms of yet unknown laws of physics. There were also traditional myths and legends of the sea extant then.
The essay’s only flaw is that, while Adler mentions several books and studies of sea legends, it doesn’t prove Hodgson knew those legends and was consciously or subconsciously using them. I think Adler is on pretty safe ground in assuming Hodgson read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and knew the Flying Dutchman legend, and, of course, it’s entirely possible the sailors he sailed with told him those legends.
Adler says the advantage of the sea as a setting is that a ship is a microcosm of society, fantastic beasts can show up, and there is an uneasy division between chaos and order. (Adler takes all this from Patricia Ann Carlson’s Literature and Folklore of the Sea.) Continue reading →
“Shadow Out of Hodgson” by John D. Haefele lays out a case, even though S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz do not mention in Hodgson in their annotated version of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time, for the influence of Hodgson’s The Night Land on that work. First, Lovecraft mentioned Hodgson’s novel in several letters when the story was being written between November 10, 1934 and February 22, 1935. Second, there are several similarities in the narratives. First, like humanity in the Last Redoubt, the Great Race is under siege. Second, the consciousness of both narrators is projected into the future. Both stories feature libraries of metal bound books that the narrators access. Less convincing is Haefele seeing similarities between X descending the gorge on his way to the Lesser Redoubt and the narrator of The Shadow Out of Time, in contemporary times, descending into the uncovered structures of the Great Race.
Phillip A. Ellis’ “A Reassessment of William Hope Hodgson’s Poetry”, Phillip A. Ellis looks at almost all of Hodgson’s poetry and finds Hodgson’s poetry full of vivid physical tales as well as a preoccupation with, as Hodgson scholar Jane Frank noted, “strange visions, supernatural phenomena, hallucinatory events”. Poetry seems to have been a lifelong literary outlet for Hodgson. He took it up earlier than fiction writing and wrote most of his poems between 1899 and 1906. He even wrote poetry when he was in the army and Ellis thinks that, if would have had the chance to develop his facility more, he might have been a noted war poet. Ellis thinks most of the weaknesses in Hodgson’s poetry came from him being a self-educated poet lacking the necessary technical training. I’ve read a lot, but by no means all, of Hodgson’s poetry. Frankly, little stuck in my brain (but, then, most poetry doesn’t) apart from the prose poem “Grey Seas Are Dreaming of My Death”. I do agree with Ellis that Hodgson is best when he takes inspiration and metaphors from the sea. Continue reading →