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 and were from a village Errol located near Dundee. Thomas Hood Sr. was a successful bookseller, as claimed by the son of Thomas Hood, adding that his grandfather was the first person to have started a book business in the United States, where he gained popularity for introducing editions of classics.
Following the death of his father in 1811, Thomas Hood and his mother Elizabeth moved to Islington. There, Thomas met a schoolteacher who appreciated his writing talent and urged him to write. This motivation led him to start revising the 1788 novel “Paul and Virginia” for which he got a small fee.
The precocious child soon realized his own talent and left his schoolteacher to join Counting House, which belonged to his friend’s parents. However, it did not suit him. Then he turned to engraving, but left it and returned to Dundee to his paternal relations. Although he stayed with his relations for a few months, he did not adjust well to living with them. Finally, he joined the boarding house of Mrs. Butterworth, a family friend, and spent the rest of his time in Scotland with her. It is during his stay in this boarding house that he seriously considered writing poetry. He started composing short pieces and sent them to local papers and magazines. However, this did not earn him any income.
Then a chance came and he was made sub-editor of “London Magazine” in 1821, when its former editor got killed, and Thomas’s friend became its editor. This proved to be a launching pad for him, where he met famous men like Charles Lamb, Thomas de Quincy, and Brian Proctor. When Thomas gained stability in his career, he married Jane Hood in 1824, and had two children, Tom and Frances. Later, his son Tom also became a famous editor and playwright.
During this period, Thomas mostly wrote a comic series. In 1843, his humanitarian verses “The Song of the Shirt” crossed borders, and he became famous in the United States, Russia, and Germany, besides the United Kingdom. He died in 1845 due to poor health.
Thomas Hood’s Works
Thomas Hood began his literary career by revising “Paul and Virginia.” Later, he contributed his poems and humorous works to the local magazines of Dundee. Strangely, he used to write his poetic works in printed characters to understand his own faults and peculiarities. Samuel Taylor Coleridge criticized him for his style, saying, “Print settles it.”
As during his heyday as the sub-editor of “London Magazine,” Hood befriended the greatest literary figures of his time, which refined his style. Besides writing poetry, he also edited “The Comic Annual,” “The Gem,” and “Hood’s Magazine.”
Hood published his first collection of poems under the title of “The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies” in 1827. He continued writing until his death, the proof of which is his popular poem “Song of the Shirt,” which he composed just before his death. It was published anonymously in Punch. Later The Times published it again in its 1843 issue.
Thomas Hood’s Style and Popular Poems
Many of the Hood’s poems in “The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies” suggest that he might have become a first rank poet due to his touching lyrical style. His diction is figurative, connotative, and full of lovely images and enticing similes. Though he imitated Keats in the start, he later developed his own distinct style, different from other Romantics of his age. 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 appreciated as “a lively poet” and “the finest English poet” during the times of Tennyson and Shelley, which was in itself a feat. Thomas Hood’s friend Thackeray, who himself was a great writer, described him as a marvelous figure of courage, patience, honesty, endurance, and duty who struggled heroically against the pains of life.