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lence; and -without a murmur of complaint, he died. -Yet it is no secret now thnt for many years he had a fierce straggle with poverty; enjoying no luxuries and few comforts; his "means" derived from "daily toil for daily bread." A skeleton stood ever beside his bed, mocking his "infinite jest and a most excellent fancy;" converting into a succession of sobs those "flashes of merriment that •were wont to set the table in a roar." At the time when nearly every drawingroom, attic, and kitchen—when every class and order of society—was made merry and happy by the brilliant fancies and genuine humor of Thomas Hood, he was enduring pain of body and anguish of mind. Nearly all his quaint conceits, his playful sallies, and his sparks from words, were given to the printer from the bed on which he wrote —propped up by pillows; continually, continually, it was the same, up to the day that gave him freedom from the fle'sh.
Yet it was a genial and kindlv spirit that dwelt in so frail a tenement of clay. Although his existence was a long disease rather than a life, he was singularly free from all cumbrance of bitterness and harshness. Feeling strongly for the sufferings of others, he was entirely unselfish; ever gracious, considerate, and kind. Though perpetually dealing with the burlesque, he never indulged in personal satire. We find no passage that could have injured a single living person. Never did his wit verge upon indelicacy; never did his facetious muse treat a solemn or sacred theme with levity or indifference.
In old Brandenburg House there was once a bust of Com us; the pedestal, according to Lysons, bore this inscription: it comes in so aptly when writing of Hood, that I quote it:—
"Come, every muse, without restraint;
The world lias, however, done justice to Thomas Hood; and he is not "deaf to the voice of the charmer." Reason, no less than fancy, will tell us, we plant
that we may reap; that the knowledge of good or evil done is retained in a state after life; that death can not destroy consciousness. We learn from the Divine Word that our works do follow us! Humanity is—and will be as long as men and women can read or hear—the debtor of Thomas Hood!
He was born, "a cockney," on the 23rd of May, 1799, in the Poultry, close to Bow Bells. His father dwelt there as one of the partners in a firm of publishers—Verner, Hood and Sharpe.* He was articled to his uncle, Mr. Robert Sands, an engraver, and seems to have worked awhile with the burin; but the specimens he has given us, however redolent of humor and rich in fancy, do not supply evidence that he would have excelled as an artist.t It is obvious, indeed, that he did not " take" to the profession, for he deserted it early, and became a man of letters, finding his first employment in 1821, as a sort of subeditor of the London Magazine.
One who knew him in his childhood described him to me as a singular child —silent and retired—with much quiet humor, and apparently delicate health. I knew another friend of his youth, a Mr. Mason, a wood engraver,' who told me much of the "earlier ways" of the boy-poet: that, when a mere boy, he was continually making shrewd and pointed remarks upon topics on which he was presumed to know nothing; that while he seemed a heedless listener, out would come some observation which showed he had taken in all that had been said; and that, when a very child, he would often make some pertinent remark which excited either a smile or a laugh.
He married, on the 5th of May, 1824, the sister of his " friend" Reynolds. It was a happy marriage, although both were poor; and it was " Love" who was' "to light a fire in their kitchen." She was his companion, counsellor, and friend, during the remainder of his troubled life; the comforter in whom he trusted: in mutual love and mutual faith, [ realizing, through their weary pilgrimage, the picture drawn by another poet:—
* Mr. Sharpe lived to be an old man, through varied changes of life, and in 1832, was a publisher at the Egyptian Hall. He published, among other works, The Anniversary, an annual, edited by Allan Cunningham.
11 form this opinion merely, however, from his published engravings. It is probable that the wood engravers did not do him justice. His daughter possesses some drawings in water-colors, some pen-and-ink sketches, and some etchings, that show far higher powers, and seem to indicate that he could have been an artist if he had given his mind to Art.
"As unto the bow the cord is—
When first I knew them, they resided in chambers, No. 2, Robert Street, Adelphi. While writing for the London Magazine, his labors must have been remunerative, for he removed from his "lodgings" in the Adelphi (where a child was born to him, who died in infancy), first to a pleasant cottage (then called "Rose Cottage") at Winchmore Hill (where his daughter Fanny—Mrs. Broderip—was born), and not long afterwards to a really , large house at Wanstead—"Lake House" —with ample "grounds." He lost a considerable sum in some publishing speculation ; and this loss early in his career was the cause of his subsequent embarrassment At Lake House the younger "Tom" was born. It was originally the Banquet Hall of Wanstead House (Wellesley Pole's mansion), and there was a lake between the two (now dwindled to a ditch), so that parties went by water to a feast.
His connection with the London Magazine led to intimacy with many of the finer spirits of his time, who appreciated the genius and loved the genial nature of the man. Foremost of those who exchanged warm friendship with him was Charles Lamb.
Owing mainly to his ill-health, they went but little into society; so indeed, it was at all periods of their lives. Comparative solitude was, therefore, the lot of the poet, who was destined to live and triumph for ever. But the sacrifice implied little of self-denial. With wife, children, and friends, he could easily be made content; and, although no doubt fully appreciating praise, he never had mucli appetite for applause. His long residence abroad—at Coblentz and O.sUnd—was, in a degree, compulsory. His publisher was a craving creditor—if,
indeed, lie ever was really a "creditor" at all, which I have reason to doubt It was not without difficulty his • return to England was effected, in the year 1839.* My intercourse with him was renewed in the small dwelling he occupied at Camberwell. He was there to be near his kind friend, Dr. Elliot, (brother of another Dr. Elliot, both of whom dearly loved the poet), "a friend in need and a friend indeed." t
It is in no degree necessary to my purpose to pass under review the works of Thomas Hood. They were very varied; novels, poems (serious as well as comic); filling several volumes (exclusive of the two volumes of "Hood's Own"), collected by his daughter and his son. Nearly the whole of these were written, not only while haunted by pecuniary troubles, but while under the depressing influence of great bodily suffering. So it was with the merriest of his poems, "Miss Kilmansegg," composed during brief intermissions of bodily pain which would have been accepted by almost any other person as sufficient excuse for entire cessation from work; and, perhaps, might have been by him, but that it was absolutely neeessary the day's toil should bring the day's food. Yet at this very time, a sum of £oO was transmitted to
* There is no doubt that n law-suit, in which he was involved with his publisher, and the worry and anxiety thut ensued, induced n state ot'health that led to his death much earlier than, in the course of nature, it might have been looked for. I know that was the opinion of his physician.
t It is pleasant to record the fuel that nearly every literary man or woman with whom I have been acquainted, or whose lives I have looked into, has found a generous and disinterested friend in a Doctor. I could, of my own knowledge, tell many anecdotes of the sacrifices made to m?rcy by members of the profession; of continuous labors without a thought of recompense; ofanxiooa days and nights, by sick or dying beds, without the remotest iden of "fees." I may toll one—of a doctor, now himself gone home; it was related to me by Sir James Eyre, M. I). Unfbrlun itely, I have forgotten the inline of the good physician; but there are, no doubt, many to whom the story will apply. Sir Jamas called upon him—one morning when his career was but commencing— and saw his waiting-room thronged with patients. "Why,"said he, "you must be getting on famously." "Well, I suppose I am." was Uk- answer; "but let me tell this fact to you. This morning I have seen eight patients; six of them gave me nothing—the seventh gave ma a guinea, which I have just given to the eighth." (Such a physician 1'rovidence s,:nt to Thomas Hood.
him, without application, by the Literary ' effort exceeded his strength, and was Fund. Hood returned it, "hoping to followed by the wandering delirium of get through his troubles as he had done utter nervous exhaustion." Two of the heretofore." There was then a gleam ;" sick-room fancies" were published with of brightness in the long-darkened sky. the June number: the one is "Hood's In 1841, Theodore Hook died, and Hood Mag."—a magpie, with a hawk's hood
on; the other, "The Editor's Apologies," is a drawing of a plate of leeches, a blister, a cup of water-gruel, and three labelled vials: suggesting, according to
became editor of the New Monthly Magatinc. "Just, then," as Mrs. Hood writes, "poverty had come very near." He removed frcm Camberwell to 17, Elm Tree Road, St. John's Wood. He did not long keep his editorship, however; differences having arisen between him and Mr. Colburn, he was induced to start a magazine of his own.
Meanwhile, an accident, totally tman- ranee of the Okk.
some writing underneath, the sad thought by what harassing efforts the food of mirth is furnished, and how often the pleasures of the many are obtained by the bitter suffering and mournfnl endu
ticipated, did that which years of labor had not done—made him famous. In the Christmas number of Punch, in 1843, appeared the "Song of a Shirt." It ran through the land like wildfire; was reprinted in every newspaper in the king
Yet three of the pleasantest letters ho ever penned were written soon afterwards to the three children of his dear and constant friend, Dr. Elliott
He rallied, however, sufficiently to resume work for his magazine, and many
dom, although anonymous; and there valued friends were willing and ready to was intense desire to know who was the help him: authors who were amply reauthor. He had been so long absent; compensed by the knowledge that they
from the active exercise of his "calling," that when the poem burst upon the world, there were many to whom the writer's name was "new."
In January, 1844, Hood's Magazine was issued. He labored like a slave to give success to that speculation. It was in a melancholy sense "Hood's own;" there was a "proprietor," but he was without "means;" there was an effort
could thus serve the author of a "Song of a Shirt." "I must die in Harness, like a Hero or a Horse," he writes to Bulwer Lytton on October 30, 1844. Death was drawing nearer and nearer, but before its close approach there came a ray of sunshine to his death-bed—Sir Robert Peel granted to him a pension of £100 a year, or rather to his widow, for she was almost so. It was a small
to do without a publisher; printer after ! sum—a • poor gift from his country in printer was changed; the magazine was compensation for the work he had done; rarely "up to time;" vexation brought but it was very welcome, for it was the on illness; he "fretted dreadfully;" there only boon he had ever received that was alarm as to the solvency of his coproprietor, a man who had "lived too long in the world to be the slave of his conscience." Unhappy authors, who are their own publishers—lords of land in Utopia—will take warning by the fate of Thomas Hood and his "speculation" for his own behoof. It was a failure, and therefore his; had it been a success,
was not payment for immediate toil— "toil hard and incessant"—to the last. He was dying when the "glad tidings" came; yet in the middle of November, 1844, he "pumped out a sheet of Christmas fun," and "drew some cuts" for his magazine. He was, as he said, "so near death's door, that he could almost fancy he heard the creaking of the
no doubt it would have become the prop-i hinges!" His friends were about him
erty of a publisher.
The number for June—the sixth number of Hoods Magazine—contained an announcement, that on the 23rd of May he had been striving to continue a novel he had commenced; that on the 2oth, "sitting up in bed, he tried to invent binga ceased, and sketch a few comic designs, but the On the 3rd of May, 1845, he died, and
with small gifts of love: they came to give him "farewells;" and for all of them he had kind words and thoughts. We have the comfort of knowing" that his head was laid on a down pillow we had lent him: on that pillow its throb
on the 10th he was buried in the graveyard at Kensal Green-.
Some seven years afterwards, subscriptions were raised, chiefly owing to the exertions of a kindred spirit, Eliza Cook (with whom the thought originated,) and a monument was erected to his memory, designed and executed by the sculptor, Matthew Noble. On the 18th July, 1854, it was unveiled in the presence of many of the poet's friends, Monckton Milnes (now Lord Houghton) "delivering an oration" over the grave that covered his remains. To raise that monument, peers and many men of mark contributed : but surely even higher honor was rendered to him—a yet purer and better homage to his memory—by the "poor needlewomen," whose offerings were a few pence, laid in reverence and affection upon the grave of their great advocate—a fellow-woiker, whose toil had been as hard, as continuous, and as ill-rewarded, as their own.
In person, Hood was of middle height, slender and sickly-looking, of sallow complexion and plain features, quiet in expret-sion, and very rarely excited, so as to give indication of either pathos or the humor that must ever have been working in his soul. His was, indeed, a countenance rather of melancholy than of mirth; there was something calm, even to solemnity, in the upper portion of the face, seldom relieved, in society, by the eloquent play of the mouth, or the sparkle of an observant eye. In conversation he was by no means brilliant. When inclined to pun, which was not often, it seemed as if his wit was the issue of thought, and not an instinctive produce, such as i. have noticed in other men who have thus become famous; who are admirable in crowds; whose animation is like that of the sounding board, which makes a great noise at a small touch, .when listeners are many and applause is Bare.
We have been Bo much in the habit of treating Tom Hood as a "joker," that we lose sight of the deep and touching pathos of his more serious poems. All are indeed acquainted with the " Song of a Shirt," and "Take her up tenderly," but throughout his many volumes theie are poems of surpassing worth, full of the higest refinement—of sentiment the purest and the most chaste.
In writing a memoir of him in the "Book of Gems," for which, in consequence of his absence from England, I received no suggestions from himself, I took that view, and some time afterwards I received from him a letter strongly expressive of the gratification I had thus afforded him. His nature was, I believe, not to beapunster,perhaps not to beawit, The best things I have ever heard Hood say are those which he said when I was with him alone. I have never known him laugh heartily, either in society or in rhyme. The themes he selected for"talk" were usually of a grave and sombre cast; yet his payful faucy dealt with frivolities sometimes, and sometimes his imagination frolicked with nature in a way peculiarly his own. He was, however, generally cheerful, and often merry when in "the bosom of his family," and could, I am told, laugh heartily then ; that when in reasonably good health, he was "as full of I'un as a schoo'.-boy." He loved children with all his heart, loved to gambol with them as if he were a child himself, to chat with them in a way they understood; and to tell them stories, drawn either from old sources, or invented for the occasion—such as they could comprehend and remember.* There was more than mere poetry in his verse—
"A blessing on their merry hearts,
Literature was, as he expresses it. his "solace and comfort through the extremes of worldly trouble and sickness," "maintaining him in a cheerfulness, a perfect sunshine of the mind." Well may he add, "My humble works have flowed from my heart as well as my head, and, whatever their errors, are such as I have been able to contemplate with composure, when more than once the Destroyer assumed almost a visible presence.."
Poor fellow! He was longing to be away from earth when I saw him last; struggling to set free the
"Vital spark of heavenly flame!"
lying on his death-bed, watched aud tended by his good and loving wile, who survived him only a few brief months:
*The von and daughter hare preserved and printed «o:no of these "impromptu''gloria.
"She for a little tried To live without hiin—liked it not—and died I"
But he lived long enough to know that a pension had been settled upon her by Sir Robert Peel—a pension subsequently continued to his children, and which they etill enjoy.* That comfort, that consolation, that blessing, came from his country to his bed of death!
Honored be the name of Sir Robert Peel! great statesman and good man! It is not often that men such as he sit in highest places. Let Science, Art, and Letters consecrate his memory! R was he who whispered "peace" to Felicia Hemans, dying; biddiug her have no care for those she loved and left on earth. R was he who euabled great Wordsworth to woo Nature undisturbed; he who lightened the drudgery of the desk to the Quaker-poet, Bernard Barton; he who upheld the tottering steps, and made tranquility take the place of terror in the over-taxed brain, of Bobert Southey. From him came the sunshine in the shady place that was the home of James Montgomery. It was his hand that opened the sick-room shutters, and let in the light of hope and heaven to the deathbed of Thomas Hood-t
Whether it be or be not true that Addison sent for his step-son, Lord Warwick, to his death-bed, "that he might 6ee how a Christain could die," certain it is that the anecdote is often quoted as an encouragement and an example. We have, in the instance of Thomas Hood, such a case, occuring under our immediate view, closing a life, not of glory and triumph, not of prosperity and reward, but of long suffering in body and mind,
of patient endurance, of humble confidence, of sure and certain hope—in the perfectness of holy faith. Ay, he was tried in the furnace of tribulation; and his battle of life ended in according, while receiving, "Peace."
These are the last lines he wrote:
"Farewell, Life! my senses swim;
In one of the letters I received about this time from his true and faithful and constant friend, Ward,* he writes me: "He saw the on-coming of death with great cheerfulness, though without anything approaching to levity j and last night, when his friends Harvey and Reseigh came in, he bade them come up, had wine brought, and made us ail drink a glass with him, 'that he might know us for friends, as of old, and not undertakers.' He conversed for about an hour in his old playful way, with now and then a word or two full of deep and tender feeling. When I left, he bade tne goodbye, and kissed me, shedding tears, and saying perhaps we never should meet again."
I have his own copy of the last letter he ever wrote: is to Sir Robert Peel :f
"dear Sir,—We are not to meet in the flesh. Given over by physicians and by myself, in this extremity I feel a comfort tor which 1 can not refrain from again thanking you, with all the sincerity of a dying man, at the same time bidding you a respectful farewell.
• It was by the act of Earl Russell the pension was so continued. When that nobU man is removed from earth, the many good and generous acts he did will be tetter known and appreciated than they can be in his lifciime.
f I refer in this passage only to those who are the subjects of my memories; but to this list m.ty be added the names of Tytler, Forbes, Owen, t-ir William Hamilton, Maculloch, the widow and daughters of the artist Shee, the widow of the painter 1 Iuydon, the poet-laureate Tennyson, the widow of Sir Chales Bell, the "destitute" daughters of Principal Robertson, the botanist Curtis, the widow of Loudon, and probably otheis, of whom I have no knowledge. These were, or are, all participants of that state bounty which the country enables a minister to dole out to its worthies.
* F. O. Ward, who, at the age of sixteen, distinguished himself by a work on Osteology; who has invented many useful processes (especially in connection with paper-making ;) and woo, in the Timet, drew great and active atten.ion to the state of the London sewers, and the state of intramural churchyards. He edited Hood's magazine "for love," during 11 nod's illness.
t This letter has been printed since Mrs. Broderip gave me the copy. It is so pregnant a sermon iii.it it can not be too often in print.