Arguably, this story, the subject of this week’s discussion by the Deep Ones group over at LibraryThing, is an early occult detective story. I don’t recall ever seeing it talked about in that context, but I may have missed it, and I don’t read a lot of history about that sub-genre.
You know Bulwer-Lytton, or, at least, some of the phrases he coined: “pursuit of the almighty dollar”, “the great unwashed”, and “the Watcher at the Threshold”. He’s also mocked for the line “It was a dark and stormy night”.
Anyway, this is a ghost busting story before that term was invented. It goes on too long. It has too many coincidences, but it has its good points.
This is an interesting and well-done boxing story from Hodgson.
The Darrells are impoverished down to the point where they are thinking of cutting back on food. Mary Darrell is glad she married Billy. She was a “mill-girl”, and Billy sort of comes from the upper class. His Uncle John promised him a thousand pounds the day he married, but the check hasn’t come. Billy won’t hear of Mary going back to work. The couple is being hounded by creditors repossessing goods they bought on credit.
Billy’s former rival for Mary – they actually came to blows – is now his friend, and suggests Billy enter a local boxing match. A group of local bettors are looking for a fighter to back. After being in a scuffle with a local grocer come to repo some household goods, Billy came to their attention. He does get their backing to fight local champion Blacksmith Dankley.
Billy goes to size Dankley up, and there’s a nice scene where the two talk. They compete in lifting weights, and the two regard themselves as worthy and honorable though Billy knows that, even though his technique is better than Dankley’s, the latter’s sheer size and strength will make him the winner. Bodybuilder Hodgson’s appreciation for male physique and strength comes through clearly. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “How the Honourable Billy Darrell Raised the Wind””→
This story was originally called “The Apprentices’ Mutiny” which is not to be confused with “The ‘Prentices’ Mutiny” which also features a protagonist named Tommy Dodd. Both were published in 1912, so this seems another case of a prolific writer churning out stories that sometimes share a common starting point.
As you would expect from the title, this is another Hodgson story of a sailor getting revenge on an abusive officer. This one, though, has a humorous tone and tells how young apprentice seaman Tommy Dodd, fourteen years old, gets revenge on his captain, bo’sun, third mate, and steward for their abuse and bad food.
When the ship the Lady Hannibal arrives in port at Melbourne, Australia, Tommy and his apprentice conspirators buy a bunch of women’s clothes for him.
Onboard, he puts them on in secret. Tommy then passes himself as his cousin, Jenny Dayrin. (Editor Douglas Anderson says the line “By George, youngster, you make a pretty girl!” makes one wonder exactly what sort of abuse the young Hodgson suffered in his days in the Merchant Marine.) Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “The Getting Even of Tommy Dodd””→
This is another of Hodgson’s stories set in America though the location, apart from being some gold rush setting out west, is unknown.
One gets the feeling – though, again, the paucity of biographical material makes this mere speculation – that Hodgson did not have a high opinion of most institutions in Britain. He seems to have broken early with his Anglican faith, disliked the Mercantile Navy, and, in his Captain Gault stories, has a smuggler as a hero. The idea of criminal justice (and he doesn’t seem to particularize this to American justice) and the “Machinery of Correction” comes in for criticism here.
“Justice, the Fetish of all perfect man” is symbolized here by the title character who frequently tries to henpeck her husband into being less lenient with those he sentences. It’s strongly suggested that her lack of compassion springs from having no children.
The story centers around one Jem Turrill, a man sentenced to death for murder (it was actually self-defense) and theft. Turrill is sullen and not very eloquent and known for bouts of drunkenness. The Judge can’t get him to make the defense he suspects might be available. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “Judge Barclay’s Wife””→
This is a speculative essay, a form that Brian Stableford says in Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950 thrived between the world wars in Britain. However, it existed before World War One going back to at least H. G. Wells’ “The Extinction of Man” from 1894. (Hodgson was an acquaintance of Wells.)
This is a strange piece from 1908. I’ve seen it called Swiftian, presumably because it involves cannibalism like Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.
It’s interesting for its commentary on modern war given Hodgson’s obvious patriotism in volunteering for the British Army in 1914, rejoining it after he was discharged for medical reasons, and his death in the war.
The story is framed as a Member of Parliament, John Russell, delivering a speech on the “new war machine”. The story is prescient about “gigantic butcheries which follow in the wake of certain ‘talkee-talkees’”. War, the fictitious Russell says, is no longer a glorious and patriotic pursuit but a “profession of human butcher”.
This is seen as a good development because it is “the best means of developing all that is highest and most heroic in man”. This seems to be evidence that the notion war was needed to prevent social degeneration was prevalent before the war. Modern man is becoming “soft of fibre and heart”. It will get used to horrible war just as it got used to the speed of modern transportation. War, Russell says, should be a matter of intellectual sanity and not “unreasoning, foolish slaughter”. Continue reading ““Date 1965: Modern Warfare””→
We’re moving on to the stories included in the fifth and final volume of Night Shade Book’s collected fiction of William Hope Hodgson. In the words of the book’s editor, Douglas A. Anderson, it is a “sweet sampling of Hodgson’s best – and strangest – work”. Many of these stories were published posthumously or in American editions solely designed to protect Hodgson’s copyright in that country
This is a sad and sentimental story about a couple who married late after saving their money and managed to have a single child, a son, who dies, seemingly from tetanus from a thorn prick.
As the parents are burying him, an old man shows up and asks to say a blessing over the grave. He says the dead boy will meet his dead daughter in the valley of lost children. He goes on at length about the metaphor of Christians coming to God like little children, and the old man talks about the valley as a place he hopes to go to.
The second part of the story is 20 years later. Life on the couple’s hardscrabble farm of the has gotten worse. Despite their efforts, they have been foreclosed on, and they have to depart, the woman crying at the grave of their dead son which she must now leave.
Hodgson does an unusual variation on a plot that, I’ve heard, still shows up in magazine slush piles: the young writer taking shortcuts to fame by stealing someone else’s work.
Here Dicky Temple is a young writer, but he is the victim not the perpetrator.
There is a theft of literary work, but it isn’t via a time machine or dictation by spirits or common theft. Temple is a writer but, with the callowness of youth, believes his friend George Vivian’s subtle denigration of his work.
It is, in fact, better and more honest than Vivian’s threadbare and commonplace prose glossed over with what Temple thinks is “grace and beauty of style”.
There is a sort of realistic triangle here though of a non-sexual sort.
Our “couple” is a Private Murphy of the British Army in India and a Lady Mary Worthington.
Of course, Hodgson depicts Murphy as an exceptionally muscular man whose physique and singing ability attract Worthington as they rehearse for a show at a hill fort. There’s even a scene where Murphy impulsively kisses Worthington, and she likes it, but she also remembers she’s engaged to an officer in the hill fort, and, of course, the two are from different social classes.
An unexpected uprising of the natives lures most of the troops away with Murphy in hospital. He is distraught over his love being rebuffed. He also won’t have anything to do with a maid who is in love with him.