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monkeys are imitators, and all young authors are monkeys) --now writing a Bandit to match the Corsair, and anon hatching a Lalla Crow by way of companion to Lalla Rookh."
Like all budding literati, he appears to have joined one of those societies commonly called societies for “mutual improvement,” but where people learn to talk glibly, and strive to obtain the “gift of the gab.” Hood has left some amusing reminiscences of these days.
At the age of 21, Hood entirely threw himself among that invariably poverty-stricken class whom, collectively, the world called the republic of letters, to insinuate that taking the whole lot of authors together, they have not got a sovereign among them !". He at first filled a subordinate post on the “ London Magazine;" but the editor being killed (in a duel), the magazine passed into the hands of two of Hood's friends, by whom he was employed as sub-editor. It was one of his duties to examine the articles sent in, and to acknowledge the receipt of the same in “Notices to Correspondents.” He often wrote his replies humoronsly, as for instance :
“Napoleon Bonaparte's Death' will be the death of us. Will our readers believe that we are up to our middle in mourning verses?"
“Wi's 'Night' is too long, for the moon rises twice in it." “The ‘Essay on Agricultural Distress' would only increase it." “The 'Echo,' we fear, will not answer.” “W.'s "Tears of Sensibility' had better be dropt."
“We suspect H. B.'s 'Sonnet to the Rising Sun' was written for a lark.” This is supposed to have been Hood's first attempt at humorous writing,--the beginning of that style which afterwards became his particular forte, and in which he cleverly excelled. Playing on words, however, is easy : Hood often played on ideas, which is the perfection of joking. Few writers have shown such an extraordinary skill in successfully combining incongruous ideas, with sufficient intimacy to make them appear alike. We are told by his son that Hood derived his love of humorous writing from reading, while young, “Tristram Shandy," "Humphrey Clinker," and "Tom Jones;" "and caught their style without catching that something, far more infectious, which occasionally breaks out in their admirers.”
In July, 1821, appeared his first verses. They were inscribed To Hope," an appropriate theme for a young poet's first attempt. It has often happened that the first Creations of the genius of poets, painters, and sculptors, have been their best efforts, and the means of bringing them their greatest fame: bence there is a peculiar interest attaching to such productions. Though these cheerful and hopeful lines were afterwards surpassed, they show a true poetic feeling, and are a fit prelude to the course of a rising poet.
“Oh! take, young seraph, take thy harp,
And play to me so cheerily ;
Oh! take thy harp!
When all youth's sunny season long
I sat and listened to thy song,
The future bliss, the constant theme.
As if each sound
That fluttered round,
His sparkling pen finds no topic so worthy of descanting upon as “ the peace and bliss beyond the grave,” where
“Another life-spring there adorns
Another youth, without the dread
Is here for manhood's aching head.
Take, then, oh! take the skylark's wing,
On skylark's wing!:
A memorandum found among his writings, penned about this time, containing the following noble resolves, shows us in what service the poet's energies were to be consecrated:
“To write a series of papers to be called the 'Charities of Nature,' of which the spirit shall be philosophic and philanthropie. The enthusiasm founded upon generous benevolence and love of one's kind. The life of one turned Timon, a very child in heart, but a man in head. The court of death-streetwalkers—poets."
Over this holy and charitable mission there beamed Hope, the bright morning star of his life,-a life which, at the commencement, looked as cloudless as the sky in sum
As we proceed to study his life, we shall find him carrying out these intentions-shall ever find him with the cheerful harp--and shall notice how the morning star of Hope blended calmly and peaceably into the evening star of Memory, which still shines with an undiminished lustre. Hood's busy pen went to work. “Ruth," “Fair Inez," and several other fugitive pieces written by him about this time, show considerable merit, and he was soon welcomed into the brotherhood of the poetic bards. Barry Cornwall had recognised him as a true poet, and said, in a dedication to him in 1823—“Believing your poetic faculty to be equal to very high accomplishment, I shall venture, in case you enrol your name among the living poets, to look forward with confidence to your complete success."
Hood's connection with the “ London Magazine” launched him thoroughly into the literary profession, and brought him in contact with several of the notables of the day. Among these may be mentioned his friend Charles Lamb, —the delightful Élia, whose genius much resembled Hood's
- Hazlitt, Judge Talfourd, and Barry Cornwall : but of his intercourse with these men few particulars are left. He formed many pleasant friendships, which long lived in his affection. At length, in 1825, Hood published his first book-a series of humorous poems, entitled “Odes and Addresses to Great People.”. It was published anony. mously ; and in its compilation he was assisted by his brother-in-law, J. H. Reynolds. Some speculation was caused as to its author, Coleridge attributing it to Charles Lamb. Twenty-six was rather late in life for the appearance of Hood's first book ; but the reason for this is well explained by himself :
“My vanity did not presume to think, with certain juvenile Tractitians, that I had a call' to hold forth in print for the edification of mankind. Perchance the very deep reverence my reading had led me to entertain for our bards and sages, deterred me from thrusting myself into the fellowship of beings that seemed only a little lower than the angels.”
About this time Hood appears to have been acting up to his belief that
“There's nothing on earth like making love,
Save making hay in fine weather !" for in 1824 he was married to a lady for whom he had a strong affection. This union, though disapproved of by their friends, was a most happy one. His wife was a lady possessed of a cultivated mind, and of literary tastes. She was of great assistance to her husband in his severe literary labours-in later years especially so. With Hood's feeble health, it would have been impossible, without his wife's assistance in the mechanical act of writing, to have left so many works behind him. She always re-read and revised all his writings. Hood used to call her his womanuensis, and sometimes threatened to exchange her for amanuensis. Almost all his works were written by her from his dictation, and, afterwards copied out in Hood's neat and clear handwriting. Hood's first contributions were neatly printed with his pen ; for he wisely thought that often the acceptance or refusal of manuscripts by editors, rested with the legibility of the writing. In this respect Hood forms a striking contrast to other great poets and writers. He has left in his reminiscences some sensible observations on writing. The first years of their married life, his son states, “were the most unclouded my father ever knew.” They lived in Robert-street, Adelphi, and here their first child was born, and died, becoming at once a little singing angel. It was this event that caused Charles Lamb to address to the bereaved parents the lines “On an infant dying as soon as born.” That Hood felt the infliction keenly, is shown by some lines he wrote on a paper containing a silken lock of
“Little eyes that scarce did see,
Little lips that never smiled;
Alas! my little dear dead child,
In 1826 appeared his “Whims and Oddities," a series of comic sketches, consisting of his contributions to the “London Magazine,” with additions. It was illustrated by himself, and met with a welcome reception from the wit-loving British public. The various editions of this book which were speedily called for, established his reputation as a comic writer. These and other works of a like nature, exposed him to the annoyance of the Pharisees of the age, who frequently denounced his writings, and regarded the author as one of the devil's right-hand men. He was often grossly insulted by them, and his deep religious sentiments
faith and prayers,
The privatest of men's affairs,". were called in question. Hood had to write some strong things about his opponents, and they appear to have deserved it. The brilliant Sydney Smith once declared that it would take a surgical operation to get a joke into a Scotchman; and this species of obtuseness was prevalent among some of Hood's antagonists. All his levities, witticisms, and puns, let it be said to his honour, were kind and genial, and sprang from his warm heart: they were never profane, ill-timed, or caustic. The laughter that he raised was a healthy laughter, having in it no taint of scom. His articles generally had each a moral, and were written to ridicule some foible or stupid custom. Often when he got his readers to laugh at folly, they were brought to sympathise with suffering. Humorous writing has often been denounced, but it cannot wholly be eradicated; for gladness is a characteristic of Christian civilisation. Our English literature contains more genuine hearty humour than that of any other nation. In the whole list of our great poets, from Chaucer to Hood, this characteristic is frequently seen: the humorous side of life is not neglected. And properly so: the wise man said, “there is a time to laugh;" and it was never intended that we should always be serious, and never have any earthly joy. Ours is a glad and joyous religion; it was ushered in with song. Its Founder had no sympathy with those who would frown down harmless mirth. His first manifestation of power took place at a marriage feast. There are many things in Nature which we cannot explain in any other way than by supposing