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Home / Authors, Composers and Clinicians / HOOD, Thomas(1799-1845)
HOOD, Thomas(1799-1845)
Picture About HOOD, Thomas(1799-1845)

Thomas Hood (23 May 1799 – 3 May 1845) was a British humorist and poet. His son, Tom Hood, became a well known playwright.

He was born in London to Thomas Hood and Elizabeth Sands in the Poultry (Cheapside) above his father's bookshop. Hood's paternal family had been Scottish farmers from the village of Errol near Dundee. The Elder Hood was a partner in the business of Verner, Hood, and Sharp, and was a member of the Associated booksellers. Hood's son, Tom Hood, claimed that his grandfather had been the first to open up the book trade with America and he had great success in new editions of old books.

"Next to being a citizen of the world," writes Thomas Hood in his Literary Reminiscences, "it must be the best thing to be born a citizen of the world's greatest city." On the death of her husband in 1811, Mrs Hood moved to Islington, where Thomas Hood had a schoolmaster who, appreciating his talents, "made him feel it impossible not to take an interest in learning while he seemed so interested in teaching." Under the care of this "decayed dominie", he earned a few guineas—his first literary fee—by revising for the press a new edition of Paul and Virginia.

Hood left his private school master at 14 years of age and was admitted soon after into the counting house of a friend of his family, where he "turned his stool into a Pegasus on three legs, every foot, of course, being a dactyl or a spondee."; However, the uncongenial profession affected his health, which was never strong,and he began to study engraving. The exact nature and course of his study is unclear and various sources tell different stories. Reid emphasizes his work under his maternal uncle Robert Sands. But no papers of apprenticeship exist and we also know from his letters that he studied with a Mr. Harris. Furthermore, Hood's daughter in her Memorials mentions her father's association with the Le Keux brothers who were successful engravers in the City. The labour of engraving was no better for his health than the counting house had been, and Hood was sent to his father's relations at Dundee, Scotland. Here he stayed in the house of his maternal aunt, Jean Keay, for some months and then, after a falling out with her he moved on to the boarding house of one of her friends, Mrs Butterworth, where he lived for the rest of his time in Scotland. In Dundee, Hood made a number of close friends with whom he continue to correspond for many years, led a healthy outdoor life, and also became a large and indiscriminate reader. It was also during his time here that Hood began to seriously write poetry and had his first published work, a letter to the editor of the Dundee Advertiser.

Before long Hood contributed humorous and poetical articles to the provincial newspapers and magazines. As a proof of his literary vocation, he used to write out his poems in printed characters, believing that this process best enabled him to understand his own peculiarities and faults, and probably unaware that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had recommended some such method of criticism when he said he thought "print settles it." On his return to London in 1818 he applied himself to engraving, enabling him later to illustrate his various humours and fancies by quaint devices.

In 1821, John Scott, the editor of the London Magazine, was killed in a duel, and the periodical passed into the hands of some friends of Hood, who proposed to make him sub-editor. His installation into this post at once introduced him to the literary society of the time; and in becoming the associate of John Hamilton Reynolds, Charles Lamb, Henry Cary, Thomas de Quincey, Allan Cunningham, Bryan Procter, Serjeant Talfourd, Hartley Coleridge, the peasant-poet John Clare and other contributors to the magazine, he gradually developed his own powers.

In another annual called the Gem appeared the poem on the story of Eugene Aram. He started a magazine in his own name, for which he secured the assistance of many literary men, but which was mainly sustained by his own activity. From a sick-bed, from which he never rose, he conducted this work, and there composed well known poems, such as the "Song of the Shirt" (which appeared anonymously in the Christmas number of Punch, 1843 and was immediately reprinted in The Times and other newspapers across Europe. It was dramatised by Mark Lemon as The Sempstress, was printed on broadsheets, cotton handkerchiefs and was highly praised by many of the literary establishment, including Charles Dickens.) Likewise "The Bridge of Sighs" and "The Song of the Labourer" which are translated into German by Ferdinand Freiligrath. They are plain, solemn pictures of conditions of life which appeared shortly before Hood's own death in May 1845.

Hood was associated with the Athenaeum, started in 1828 by James Silk Buckingham, and he was a regular contributor for the rest of his life. Prolonged illness brought on straitened circumstances; and application was made by a number of Hood's friends to Sir Robert Peel to place Hood's name on the pension list with which the British state rewarded literary men. Peel was known to be an admirer of Hood's work and in the last few months of Hood's life he gave Jane Hood the sum of 100 Pounds without her husband's knowledge, to alleviate the family's debts. The pension that Peel's government had bestowed upon Hood was continued to his wife and family after his death. Jane Hood, who also suffered from poor health and had expended tremendous energy tending to her husband in his last year, died only 18 months after Hood. The pension then ceased but Lord John Russell, grandfather of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, made arrangements for a fifty pound pension for the maintenance of Hood's two children, Francis and Tom.

Nine years later a monument, raised by public subscription, in the cemetery of Kensal Green, was inaugurated by Richard Monckton Milnes.

Writer and friend of Hood, William Makepeace Thackeray, gave this assessment of Thomas Hood:"Oh sad, marvelous picture of courage, of honesty, of patient endurance, of duty struggling against pain! ... Here is one at least without guile, without pretension, without scheming, of a pure life, to his family and little modest circle of friends tenderly devoted." Hood was described as 'a lively poet'  and as 'the finest English poet' between the generation of Shelley and Tennyson'.