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LIFE OF THOMAS HOOD.
Thomas Hood was born in London in 1798. His father was a native of Scotland, and was for many years a partner in the firm of Vernor, Hood and Sharp, booksellers and publishers. Of his early life he has given the public an outline in bis Literary Reminiscences, in which he tells us that when but twelve years of age he lost his father and elder brother, and became thenceforth the chief care of an affectionate and bereaved mother. From a brief memoir by Mrs. S. C. Hall we learn that he was remarkable for great vivacity of spirits, and prone to astonish good citizens, guests at his father's, no less than his fellow-pupils when at school, by the shrewdness and brilliancy of his observations upon topics of which it was thought he knew nothing. At a high school to which he was sent he picked up some Latin, became a tolerable English grammarian, and so good a French scholar that he earned a few guineas — his first literary tee — by revising for the press a new edition of “ Paul et Virginie." A friend of the family, however, proposed to initiate him into the profitable mysteries of commerce, and young Hood found himself planted on a counting-house stool, where he remained long enough, 9t least, to collect materials for a sonnet, in which he records his mercantile experiences.
« Time was, I sat upon a lofty stool,
At lofty desk, and with a clerkly pen
LIFE OF HOOD.
The favorite retreat of merchant men ;
His health failing, he was “ shipped as per advice, in a Scotcb smack," to his father's relations in Dundee. There he made his first acquaintance with the press, an event of so much interest in the career of an author that no one can describe it but himself. Among the temporary sojourners in his boarding-house at Dundee was a legal antiquary, who had been sent for from Edinburgh to make some researches among the civic records. “It was my humor to think," says Hood,“ that, in Political as well as Domestic Economy, it must be better to sweep the Present than to dust the Past; and certain new brooms were recommended to the Town Council in a quizzing letter, which the then editor of the Dundee Advertiser or Chronicle thought fit to favor with a prominent place in his columns. • 'Tis pleasant sure,' sings Lord Byron,' to see one's self in print;' and according to the popular notion I ought to have been quite up in my stirrups, if not standing on the saddle, at thus seeing myself, for the first strange time, set up in type. Memory recalls, however, but a very moderate share of exaltation, which was totally eclipsed, moreover, by the exuberant transports of an accessory before the fact, whom, methinks, I still see in my mind's eye, rushing out of the printing-office with the wet sheet steaming in his hand, and Auto tering all along the High Street, to announce breathlessly that we were in.' But G. was an indifferent scholar, even in English, and therefore thought the more highly of this literary feat.
“ The reception of my letter in the Dundee newspaper encouraged me to forward a contribution to the Dundee Magazine, the editor of which was kind enough, as Winifred Jenkins says, to wrap my bit of nonsense under his Honor's Kiver,' without charging anything for its insertion. Here was success sufficient to turn a young author at once into a scribbling miller,' and make him sell himself, body
and soul, after the German fashion, to that minor Mephistophiles, the printer's devil! Nevertheless, it was not till years afterwards, and the lapse of a term equal to an ordinary apprenticeship, that the Imp in question became really my Familiar. In the mean time, I continued to compose occasionally, and, like the literary perform. ances of Mr. Weller senior, my lucubrations were generally committed to paper, not in what is commonly called written hand, but an imitation of print. Such a course hints suspiciously of type and antitype, and a longing eye to the Row; whereas it was adopted simply to make the reading more easy, and thus enable me the more readily to form a judgment of the effect of my little efforts. It is more difficult than may be supposed to decide on the value of a work in MS., and especially when the hand-writing presents only a swell mob of bad characters, that must be severally examined and reexamined to arrive at the merits or demerits of the case. Print settles it, as Coleridge used to say: and, to be candid, I have more than once reversed, or greatly modified, a previous verdict, on seeing a rough proof from the press.
“My mental constitution, however weak my physical one, was proof against that type-us fever which parches most scribblers till they are set up, done up, and maybe cut up, in print and boards. Perhaps I had read and trembled at the melancholy annals of those unfortunates, who, rashly undertaking to write for bread, had poisoned themselves, like Chatterton, for want of it, or choked them. selves, like Otway, on obtaining it. Possibly, having learned to think humbly of myself, — there is nothing like early sickness and sorrow for ' taking the conceit' out of one, — my vanity did not presume to think, with certain juvenile Tracticians, 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. However, in spite of that very common excuse for publication, the advice of a friend,' who seriously recommended the submitting of my MSS. to a literary authority, with a view to his imprimatur, my slight acquaintance with the press was pushed no further.”
Hood resided two years at Dundee, when he returned to London, and, manifesting a great talent for drawing, was apprenticed to his uncle, Mr. Robert Sands, an engraver. He was afterwards with one of the Le Keux in the same pursuit ; but, though working in acua
fortis, as he tells us, he still played with Castaly, now writing - all monkeys are imitators, and all young authors are monkeys — now writing a Bandit to match the Corsair, and now hatching a Lalla Crow by way of companion to Lalla Rookh. We recur to his own Reminiscences :
“ In the mean time, while thus playing with literature, an event was ripening which was to introduce me to authorship in earnest, and make the muse, with whom I had only flirted, my companion for life. .... In the beginning of the year 1821 a memorable duel, originating in a pen-and-ink quarrel, took place at Chalk Farm, and terminated in the death of Mr. John Scott, the able editor of the London Magazine. The melancholy result excited great interest, in which I fully participated, little dreaming that his catastrophe involved any consequences of importance to myself. But, on the loss of its conductor, the periodical passed into other hands. The new proprietorg were my friends ; they sent for me, and, after some preliminaries, I was duly installed as a sort of sub-editor of the London Magazine.
“ It would be affectation to say that engraving was resigned with regret. There is always something mechanical about the art; moreover, it is as unwholesome as wearisome to sit copper-fastened to a board, with a cantle scooped out to accommodate your stomach, if you have one, painfully ruling, ruling, and still ruling lines straight or crooked by the long hundred to the square inch, at the doublyhazardous risk, which Wordsworth so deprecates, of growing double.' So, farewell Woollett! Strange! Bartolozzi! I have said my vanity did not rashly plunge me into authorship; but no sooner was there a legitimate opening than I jumped at it, à la Grimaldi, head foremost, and was speedily behind the scenes.
" To judge by my zeal and delight in my new pursuit, the bowl had at last found its natural bias. Not content with taking articles, like candidates for holy orders, — with rejecting articles, like the Belgians, – I dreamt articles, thought articles, wrote articles, which were all inserted by the editor, of course with the concurrence of his deputy. The more irksome parts of authorship, such as the correction of the press, were to me labors of love. I received a revise from Mr. Baldwin's Mr. Parker, as if it had been a proof of his regard;