William Hope Hodgson

William Hope Hodgson books and biography

William Hope Hodgson

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William Hope Hodgson (1877–1918) was an English author. He produced a large body of work, consisting mostly of short stories and novels, spanning several overlapping genres including horror, fantastic fiction and science fiction. Early in his writing career he dedicated effort to poetry, although few of his poems were published during his lifetime. He also attracted some notice as a photographer.

Born November 15, 1877 in Blackmore End, Essex, Hodgson ran away to sea at the age of thirteen and eventually served in the Merchant Marine. After a bodybuilding business venture failed he decided to support himself by writing. Two of his most noted works, "The Voice in the Night" and The Boats of the "Glen Carrig", were based on his experiences at sea, and much of his work is set aboard ships or features seafaring characters.

When World War I began, Hodgson enlisted in the Royal Artillery. He was discharged after a head injury, but afterward re-enlisted. He was killed by an artillery shell at Ypres on April 17, 1918.


Hodgson's Most Famous Works

Hodgson is most widely known for two works. The House on the Borderland is a short novel of which H. P. Lovecraft wrote "but for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality [it] would be a classic of the first water",[1]. The Night Land is a much longer novel, written in an archaic style, and expressing a sombre vision of a sunless far-future world. These works both contain elements of science fiction, although they also partake of horror and the occult. According to critical consensus, in these works, despite his often laboured and clumsy language Hodgson achieves a deep power of expression, which focuses on a sense not only of terror but of the ubiquity of potential terror, of the thinness of the invisible bound between the world of normalcy and an underlying reality for which humans are not suited.

The Ghost Pirates has less of a reputation than The House on the Borderland, but is an effective seafaring horror story of a ship attacked and ultimately dragged down to its doom by supernatural creatures. The book purports to be the spoken testimony of the sole survivor, and the style lacks the pseudo-archaism which makes The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" and The Night Land tedious reading for many.

Hodgson is also known for his short stories featuring recurring characters: the "detective of the occult" Thomas Carnacki, and the smuggler Captain Gault. The Carnacki story "The Whistling Room" has been reprinted in numerous anthologies including collections introduced by Alfred Hitchcock. Hodgson's single most famous short story is probably "The Voice in the Night", which has been adapted for film twice. Other stories regarded highly by critics include

Genre in Hodgson's Works

Hodgson's large body of work spans multiple genres. In addition to horror and fantasy, Hodgson wrote stories of the occult and the supernatural (sometimes with a Christian theme), early science fiction, swashbuckling adventure stories, stories about criminal activities such as smuggling, piracy, forgery, and counterfeiting, stories about law enforcement, detective stories, stories about World War I, conventional humorous and ironic stories, and even tales of romance.

Many of his best works defy precise categorization by genre. For example, The Night Land begins in the distant past as a fantasy but proceeds into a far-flung future and introduces exotic technologies such as powdered water, telepathy, and force fields, as well as monsters that can be viewed as supernatural or simply alien. His Carnacki stories are detective stories about a character investigating the supernatural using scientific tools that existed at the time, such as photography, and some that are augmented by theories of the supernatural, such as the electric pentacle, which uses vacuum tubes to repel supernatural forces. The Captain Gault stories are primarily stories about a clever smuggler, but some contain elements of horror and the occult, and some are explicitly about World War I. Hodgson's Sargasso Sea stories are primarily survival and adventure tales, although they also contain elements of horror bordering upon the supernatural, and on several occasions are overtly Christian.

Just as the characters in his stories frequently run up against questions of whether phenomena are explainable or supernatural, Hodgson himself seemed very interested in exploring the boundaries between adventure, horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

Themes in Hodgson's Works

The Sargasso Sea

Several of Hodgson's early stories and the novel The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" are set in the Sargasso Sea, a vast area of ocean clogged with seaweed. The location is real, but the reputation of the region as the "graveyard of the oceans" is somewhat exaggerated for dramatic effect. These stories generally center around ships that become tangled in the weed.


In Hodgson's writings the Sargasso Sea is inhabited by horrifying creatures such as giant crabs, octopuses, or humanoid "weed-men." Other works of Hodgson feature one sort or another of degraded human-animal hybrids. The short story "A Tropical Horror" features a giant eel-like sea monster capable of eating humans in one gulp.

Hodgson also made frequently use of distorted trees, plants, molds, and fungi as either contributing to the eerie seetings of his stories or as antagonists. They are featured prominently in his short stories "The Voice in the Night" and "The Derelict" and in the novel The Boats of the "Glen Carrig".


The novel The Ghost Pirates centers around a haunted ship, and several of the Carnacki stories feature spiritual apparitions more powerful and dangerous than the typical ghosts of dead humans.

Cops and Robbers

Hodgson's Captain Gault stories feature a main character who is a criminal smuggler, and often center around cat-and-mouse games played with customs officials. Several other stories, including appear at first to have supernatural events, but these are shown to be disguised counterfeiting or piracy activities. Hodgson's characters are also not above taking the law into their own hands, when there is profit to be made: in "The Adventure with the Claim Jumpers" D.C.O. Cargunka leads a daring raid to recover stolen gold.


Although Hodgson's characters are not typically overtly Christian, Christian themes emerge occasionally. In the story "The Call in the Dawn," a mysterious voice is heard to cry "Son of Man! Son of Man!" In the story "The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder" the strangely aged crew of a ship comes to believe that they are approaching the gates of Heaven. In the Carnacki stories, the main character uses as part of his defensive shield against malevolent supernatural influences "a certain water" and bread wrapped in linen, meant to signify holy water and communion wafer without naming them explicitly. In "Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani", one of Hodgson's most powerful stories, a scientist attempts, in a potentially blasphemous act, to scientifically validate the story of the crucifixion of Jesus by inflicting similar pain upon himself.

Writing Order Versus Publication Order

Sam Gafford, in his essay Writing Backwards: the Novels of William Hope Hodgson has suggested that Hodgson's four major novels may have been published in roughly the reverse order of their writing. If this is true, then The Night Land was Hodgson's first novel, in which he poured out his imagination at its most unbridled, and not his last. Gafford writes:

This concern over the order of composition of the novels may seem of little importance until we consider the implications toward Hodgson's work overall... in effect, Hodgson moved away from TNL's quasi-science fiction scenario (which contained an astounding number of original conceptions) and toward BoGC's more basic adventure slant.

If we accept Gafford's thesis, then Hodgson actually wrote The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" last, and it benefits from the modernization of style to the point where it is Hodgson's most accessible novel:

When he finishes the group with BoGC, Hodgson has managed to rid himself of these affectations of style and produces a book written in a flat but serviceable tone. With each book, Hodgson learns better control of language and more writing savvy and eventually begins to develop his own voice.

But despite the excessively archaic prose style, which does make them less approachable, it is actually Hodgson's earlier works that are considered masterpieces today. And as Gafford says:

...we can only wonder what wonderfully imaginative excesses like The Night Land may have been lost because of an unappreciative public.

Hodgson's literary estate

Hodgson's widow, Bessie, worked to keep his books in print, and to publish works he was not able to get published during his lifetime. This work included two books of poetry. After Bessie Hodgson died in 1943, Hodgson's sister Lissie took over his literary estate.

While the first six Carnacki stories were collected during Hodgson's lifetime, "The Haunted Jarvee" appeared posthumously in 1929, and two more Carnacki stories, "The Find" and "The Hog," were not published until 1947 by August Derleth. Some critics suspected that Derleth might actually be the author of these two stories, but that theory has been discounted.

One Captain Gault story, "The Plans of the Reefing Bi-Plane," was not published until 1996, when it was included in the short story collection Terrors of the Sea.

Some of Hodgson's poems were first published in 2005, when they appeared in The Lost Poetry of William Hope Hodgson. Some may be still under copyright protection.

A number of other Hodgson works are reprinted for the first time since their original publication in the five-volume Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson series published by Night Shade Books.

Copyright protection has now expired on most of Hodgson's work, with the exception of some of the works published posthumously, including many of his poems.

Selected Works


  • The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" (1907)
  • The House on the Borderland (1908)
  • The Ghost Pirates (1909)
  • The Night Land (1912)
  • The Dream of X (1912) (a highly abridged version of The Night Land)
  • Captain Dang (unfinished)

Short Stories

Miscellaneous Stories

Note: the following list of stories is based on the 5-volume Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson published by Night Shade Books to be completed in late 2006.

Sargasso Sea Stories

Carnacki Stories

Captain Jat Stories

Captain Gault Stories

D.C.O. Cargunka Stories

Selected Short Story Collections

  • Carnacki, the Ghost Finder (1913) (collection of short stories)
  • Men of the Deep Waters (1914) (collection)
  • The Luck of the Strong (1916) (collection)
  • Captain Gault, Being the Exceedingly Private Log of a Sea-Captain (1917) (collection)


  • "Amanda Panda"
  • "Beyond the Dawning"
  • "Billy Ben"
  • "Bring Out Your Dead"
  • "The Calling of the Sea"
  • "Down the Long Coasts"
  • "Eight Bells"
  • "Grey Seas are Dreaming of My Death"
  • "The Hell! Oo! Chaunty" (appears in The Ghost Pirates)
  • "I Come Again"
  • "I Have Borne My Lord a Son"
  • "Listening"
  • "Little Garments"
  • "Lost"
  • "Madre Mia" (appears as the dedication in The Boats of the "Glen Carrig")
  • "Mimosa"
  • "The Morning Lands"
  • "My Babe, My Babe"
  • "Nevermore"
  • "The Night Wind"
  • "O Parent Sea"
  • "The Pirates"
  • "The Place of Storms"
  • "Rest"
  • "The Ship"
  • "The Sobbing of the Freshwater" (first published in 1912 in London Magazine)
  • "The Song of the Great Bull Whale" (first published in 1912 in Grand Magazine)
  • "Song of the Ship"
  • "Speak Well of the Dead"
  • "Storm"
  • "Thou Living Sea"
  • "To My Father"
  • "The Voice of the Ocean"
  • "Shoon of the Dead" (appears in The House on the Borderland)
  • "Who Make Their Bed in Deep Waters"

Poetry Collections

  • The Calling of the Sea (published posthumously by Hodgson's widow in 1920)
  • The Voice of the Ocean (published posthumously by Hodgson's widow in 1921)
  • Poems of the Sea (published in 1977 and collecting the poems from the two previously published collections)
  • The Lost Poetry of William Hope Hodgson (published in 2005, edited by Jane Frank, including 43 previously unpublished poems)

Recent Publications

  • Out of the Storm: Uncollected Fantasies (1975) (Sam Moskowitz, ed.) Some, but not all, editions contain a 100-page essay containing biographical information about Hodgson.
  • The Haunted "Pampero" (1991) (Sam Moskowitz, ed.)
  • Terrors of the Sea (Unpublished and Uncollected Fantasies) (1996) (Sam Moskowitz, ed.)
  • The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" and Other Nautical Adventures: The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson Volume 1 (2004)
  • The House on the Borderland and Other Mysterious Places: The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson Volume 2 (2004)
  • The Ghost Pirates and Other Revenants of the Sea: TThe Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson Volume 3 (2005)
  • The Night Land and Other Romances: The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson Volume 4 (2005)
  • The Dream of X and Other Fantastic Visions: The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson Volume 5 (not yet released)
  • The Lost Poetry of William Hope Hodgson (published in 2005, edited by Jane Frank, including 43 previously unpublished poems)
  • The Wandering Soul: Glimpses of a Life: A Compendium of Rare and Unpublished Works (2005), edited by Jane Frank. This volume contains photographs, articles, and essays by and about Hodgson, including an essay on body-building, one of his sailing logs, and his obituary.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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By William Hope Hodgson

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The Boats Of The Glen Carrig

The Ghost Pirates

The House On The Borderland

The Night Land

By William Hope Hodgson

The Night Land
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Voice In The Night

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