“Some dreams we have are nothing else but dreams,
Unnatural and full of contradictions ;
Yet others of our most romantic schemes,
Are something more than fictions.”
by Unknown artist
oil on millboard, circa 1832-1834
© National Portrait Gallery, London
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Some authors are quite popular during their lifetime; and, upon their death, become merely a footnote in a literature anthology. Even those of us schooled in literature have educations that have overlooked some of the great writers.
As a literature professor, I am often pained by the heavy task of gathering “the great writers” and stuffing them in my syllabus, a syllabus that I should be working on right now since this weekend is the last one before classes begin on Tuesday. I am terribly behind, or terribly successful in the art of procrastination. My day was filled with a cemetarians group social event, and a few errands. I had all kinds of ideas about writing a quick poignant post for this blog but then but then I fell down a rabbit hole of poetry by Thomas Hood. Actually, Thomas Hood wouldn’t be a rabbit hole but a deep, dark well…or perhaps a trip into a grave. I digress. For those of you who are not familiar, Hood was an English poet who lived in the early 1800s, passing in 1845.
A few weeks ago, my fella sent me a link to “The Bridge of Sighs” because he had stumbled upon it and found the sing-songy-ness so contradictory to the subject matter that it delighted him. It delighted me too, and off I went to learn more about Thomas Hood, one of the great writers who somehow escaped me. Apparently he is in the current edition of the Norton Anthology of Poetry but while I have saved all of my Nortons from undergrad, they are in the back of a closet; I’ll need to verify that Hood is in my version. Nevertheless, I don’t recall any professor ever drawing my attention to him; and, as young students, we often only read what is required. It’s a shame because I am certain that little-Me would have delighted in “Mary’s Ghost. A Pathetic Ballad,” a poem that includes grave robbing. Young-Me would have loved “The Haunted House” more. Edgar Allan Poe, who was a contemporary of Hood, even wrote about him. While we typically discuss Poe as a poet and author, he was a literary critic: one who often wrote with a scathing pen. Yet, Poe even liked “The Haunted House” and considered it “a masterpiece of its kind.”
While searching, I discovered, among other poems, one about a deaf woman called “A Tale of a Trumpet.” What a very connected world indeed.
Hood wasn’t very healthy in life and died fairly young at the age of 45. Even though his health was poor, it appears that his spirits were quite high. He was known to play practical jokes on family and friends, and many of his published pieces are humorous in nature. He did include a bit of activism in his works highlighting the conditions of those who were less fortunate in his poems, “Song of the Shirt,” about a seamstress, and “Song of the Labourer.”
Tonight, I am so grateful for being a product of a liberal arts education where we're encouraged to become life-long learners; I will be reading Thomas Hood as I sip a glass of wine. I hope you might click on one of the links to his poems and read along with me. He is terribly gothy in a dark and playful way. I think Hood might even find his way into one of my syllabi this semester. Why make the millennials wait until they're in their forties to discover him!
 Edgar Allan Poe (ed. John H. Ingram), “Thomas Hood,” The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, vol. IV, 1875, pp. 147-152