THOMAS HOOD was born on May 23, 1789, and died May 3, 1845.
His father was a man of considerable ability, having written two successful novels. He was also a bookseller, of the firm of Vernor & Hood.
The teacher of Thomas Hood was a person who appreciated the boy's ability, and made him feel it impossible not to take an interest in his studies. This is considered one of the most fortunate incidents of his boyhood. Under the guidance of his teacher, Hood earned a few shillings by revising for the press a new edition of "Paul and Virginia." He was educated for the counting-house, and was given employment by a friend of the family, but he soon found that the work was not suited to his tastes. By close confinement in the room and at a distasteful occupation, his health, never vigorous, soon gave way, which led to his retirement from the merchant's desk. He was sent to reside with relatives at Dundee. "He has graphically described his unconditional rejection by this inhospitable personage, and the circumstances under which he found himself in a strange town without an acquaintance, with the most sympathetic nature, anxious for intellectual and moral culture, but without guidance, instruction or control. This self-dependence, however, suited the originality of his character; he became a large and indiscriminate reader, and before long contributed humorous and poetical articles to the provincial newspapers and magazines. As a proof of the seriousness with which he regarded the literary vocation, it may be mentioned that he used to write out his poems in printed characters, believing that that process best enabled him to understand his own peculiarities and faults, and probably unconscious that Coleridge had recommended some such method of criticism when he said he thought `print settles it.'"
While living at Dundee, Mr. Hood showed most clearly his taste for Literature. He contributed to the local newspapers, and also to the "Dundee Magazine," a periodical of considerable merit. On the re-establishment of his health, he returned to London, and was put apprentice to a relation, an engraver. At this employment he remained just long enough to acquire a taste for drawing, which was afterward of essential service to him in illustrating his poetical productions. In 1821, Mr. John Scott, the editor of the "London Magazine," was killed in a duel and that periodical passed into the hands of some friends of Hood, who proposed to him to take a part in its publication. His installation into this congenial post at once introduced him to the best literary society of the time; and in becoming the associate of such men as Charles Lamb, Cary, De Quincey, Allan Conningham, Proctor, Talfourd, Hartley Coleridge, the peasant poet Clare, and other contributors to that remarkable miscellany, he gradually developed his own intellectual powers, and enjoyed that happy intercourse with superior minds for which his cordial and genial character was so well adapted, and which he had described in his best manner in several chapters of "Hood's Own."
"Odes and Addresses" his first work-was written about this time, in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Mr. J. H. Reynolds, the friend of Keats; and it is agreeable to find Sir Walter Scott acknowledging the gift of the work with no formal expressions of gratification, but "wishing the unknown author good health, good fortune, and whatever other good things can best support and encourage his lively vein of inoffensive and humorous satire. "Whims and Oddities," "National Tales," "Tylney Hall," a novel, and "The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies" followed. In these works the humorous faculty not only predominated, but expressed itself with a freshness, originality and power which the poetical element could not claim. There was much true poetry in the verse, and much sound sense and keen observation in the prose of these works; but the poetical feeling and lyrical facility of the one, and the more solid qualities of the other, seemed best employed when they were subservient to his rapid wit, and to the ingenious coruseations of his fancy. This impression was confirmed by the series of the "Comic Annual," a kind of publication at that time popular, which Hood undertook and continued, almost unassisted, for several years. Under that somewhat frivolous title he treated all the leading events of the day in a fine spirit of caricature, entirely free from grossness and vulgarity, without a trait of personal malice, and with an undercurrent of true sympathy and honest purpose that will preserve these papers, like the sketches of Hogarth, long after the events and manners they illustrate have passed from the minds of men.
"Up the Rhine" is a satire upon the absurdities of English travelers. In 1843 he published "Whimsicalities, a Periodical Gathering," in two volumes. These volumes were made up chiefly from his articles formerly published in the "New Monthly Magazine."
In another annual called the "Gem," appeared the poem on the story of "Eugene Aram," which first mainfested the full extent of that poetical vigor which seemed to advance just in proportion as his physical health declined. He started a magazine in his own name, for which he secured the assistance of many literary men of reputation and authority, but which was mainly sustained by his own intellectual activity. From a sick-bed, from which he never rose, he conducted this work with surprising energy, and there composed those poems, too few in number, but immortal in the English language, such as the "Song of the Shirt," the "Bridge of Sigh," and the "Song of the Labourer," which seized the deep human interests of the time, and transported them from the ground of social philosophy into the loftier domain of the imagination. They are no clamorous expressions of anger at the discrepancies and contrasts of humanity, but plain, solemn pictures of conditions of life which neither the politician nor the moralist can deny to exist, and which they are imperatively called upon to remedy. Woman, in her wasted life, in her hurried death, here stands appealing to the society that
Cloudy fears and shapes forlorn
Fly like shadows at the morn-
O'er the earth there comes a bloom;
Sunny light for sullen gloom,
Warm perfume for vapour cold-
I smell the rose above the mould!
In his serious poems he develops a lofty and sustained style, and exhibits true poetic imagination, as may be seen by the rich and musical diction of his "Ode to the Moon:"
Mother of light! how fairly dost thou go
Over those hoary crests, divinely led!
Art thou that huntress of the silver bow
Fabled of old? Or rather dost thou tread
Those cloudy summits thence to gaze below,
Like the wild chamois on her Alpine snow,
Where hunter never climbed-secure from dread?
A thousand ancient fancies I have read
Of that fair presence, and a thousand wrought,
Wondrous and bright,
Upon the silver light,
Tracing fresh figures with the artist thought.
What art thou like? Sometimes I see thee ride
A far-bound galley on its perilous way;
Whilst silvery waves toss up their silvery spray;
Sometimes behold thee glide,
Clustered by all thy family of stars,
Like a lone widow through the welkin wide,
Whose pallid cheek the midnight sorrow mars;
Sometimes I watch thee on from steep to steep,
Timidly lighted by thy vestal torch.
Till in some Latinian cave I see thee creep,
To catch the young Endymion asleep,
Leaving thy splendor at the jagged porch,
Oh, thou art beautiful, howe'er it be!
Huntress, or Dian, or whatever named-
And he the veriest Pagan who first framed
A silver idol, and ne'er worshiped thee:
It is too late, or thou shouldst have my knee-
Too late now for the old Ephesian vows,
And not divine the crescent on thy brows,
Yet call thee nothing but the mere mild moon,
Behind those chestnut boughs;
Casting their dappled shadows at my feet;
I will be grateful for that simple boon,
In many's thoughtful verse and anthem sweet,
And bless thy dainty face whene'er we meet.
Hood's works have been collected into four volumes: "Poems of Wit and Humor;" "Hood's Own, or Laughter from Year to Year;" "Whims and Oddities in Prose and Verse."
Biography from: http://www.2020site.org/poetry/index.html