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our literature. As a comic poet he stands alone. Never was there such brilliancy of wit and humor, and as for his puns, they are unrivaled. Thomas Hood was born in London in 1799, and when still young lost both his father and mother. He received some education at private schools, and was for a time in a merchant's counting-house. He subsequently was an apprentice to the engraving trade, his mother's brother being an eminent engraver of that period. When he was twenty-two he became assistant editor to the once famous London Magazine, to which Charles Lamb was a contributor, and in which the essays of “Elia” first appeared. Another famous, or rather infamous, contributor to this same periodical was Wainwright, the poisoner, who wrote under the name of James Weathercock. De Quincey’s “Confessions of an Opium Eater” were first written for the London. Hood was connected with this magazine for about three years, and his contributions comprise examples of nearly every kind of writing in which he afterward excelled. Leaving the magazine, he published “Whims and Oddities,” and he became also a contributor to the “Annuals,” so popular in those days,
copies of which are still heirlooms in old families. “Eugene Aram ” was written for one of these. He spent some five years abroad with his family, and “Up the Rhine,” one of the most amusing of the books, was produced during that period. On his return to England he was editor for a time of the New Monthly Magazine, and next a periodical of his own, called Hood's Own His gains by literature were always small, and his life was a struggle with poverty and disease. And yet he appears to have accepted his lot with serenity, and his domestic life was certainly a very happy one. Broken in health, his last days were soothed by the kindness of Sir Robert Peel, who bestowed upon him and his wife a pension of one hundred pounds. He died in 1845.
We are all familiar whith his humorous poems, with “Ben Battle” and “Faithless Sally Brown,” with “Miss Kilmansegg” and “The Tale of a Trumpet” and innumerable others, but save two or three, such as “The Bridge of Sighs" and “The Song of the Shirt,” his serious poems are seldom quoted. And yet “The Haunted House,” “The Elm Tree,” “The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies,” and “Eugene Aram” are worthy to be ranked with much that is in Keats or Tennyson. The following from his “Ode to the Moon” is classic in its grace and beauty :
Oh, thou art beautiful, howe'er it be
Yet, call thee nothing but the mere mild moon,
“The Haunted House” was Poe's favorite, and it is superb in its imaginative quality and gloomy fantasy. I can quote but two stanzas:
The moping heron, motionless and stiff,
Stood, an apparent sentinel, as if
+ * * + + +
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
Few poets have equaled the weird beauty of
this poem. “Up the Rhine” is the best of his
humorous prose, and, while it is manifestly an imitation of “ Humphry Clinker,” it is an imitation that is equal to the original. It teems with inexhaustible fun. The volume consists of a collection of letters from a family party of tourists. There is Uncle Orchard, Mrs. Wilmot, his widowed sister; the lady's maid, Martha Penny, and Frank Summerville, the nephew, an accomplished man of the world. Martha's description of the storm on the passage across to Holland and her account of the disaster to the bath-house boat on the Rhine are inimitable and would throw an anchorite into convulsions of laughter.
One of the most charming of books for every reader, young and old, is “The Memorials of Thomas Hood,” by his son and daughter. It shows this great man in his domestic and professional life, and is an exhibition of courage, love, hope, industry, and self-sacrifice rarely paralleled in our literary history. It is a book to be cordially commended, and whoever reads it will rise from its perusal with a greater appreciation of Thomas Hood, wit, humorist, and poet, than he has ever before known.
WINTHROP M. PRAED. (1802–1839.)
YEARS, years ago, ere yet my dreams
I saw her at the County Ball—