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As yet, thou wear'st the hues of Heaven,
Whence thy young spirit came, to share the chances of our lot,
And bear our lowly name;
Aloof from painful strife,
The Paradise of life :
Life's Paradise, for angel eyes
Look on the from afar,
To dim thy natal star;
To startle and expel,
Where thou should'st ever dwell.
And thou hast brought unto our eyes,
From a celestial shore,
Where seraphim adore :
Are now thy precious dower;
Should stain so sweet a flower!
Gaily thou goest to and fro,
Unconscious of all wrong,
And music on thy tongue;
What makes our thoughts more bright, A portion of thy purity,
A: share of thy delight.
Evince mind's growing powers;
Of wiser minds than ours :
Thy bursts of happy glee,
Strengthen our love for thee.
We watch thy merry, winsome ways,
And inwardly rejoice ;
By thy seductive voice.
Our feelings brimming o'er,
One priceless blessing more.
London : FRED. PITMAN, 20, Paternoster Row, E.O.
Printed by J. WARD, Dewsbury,
[Delivered to the Members of the Manchester and Salford Phonographic
Union, 25th February, 1863.]
HE author of the “Song of the Shift,” whom the world
holds in so tender and close a remembrance, is best known as a comic writer. This evening I wish to lay aside his comic writings, from which his life cannot properly be told, and to speak of Thomas Hood—the man. People who look no further than the outside, who put their faith in the seen and ignore the unseen, form their estimate of Hood from his merry laughable conceits,
“Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,
Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles." They argue that because Hood wrote humorously, therefore his life and character must be shallow and contemptible, a writer to be held in detestation. Such arguers are, however, in the wrong; and the author is misjudged and misunderstood. I shall show you that Hood was one of God's most earnest children, that he was a sincere, benevolent Christian gentleman. The publication of some "Memorials” of the poet, a few years ago, edited by his children, have revealed some facts in connection with his life which have in some measure explained his sad, strange genius, and which have caused his writings to be more widely known in England and America. His works are becoming daily more appreciated, and ere long he will fill up a vacant niche among England's great masters of the pen.
His life may be likened to an unfinished poem ; but the insight afforded into it by the “Memorials,” proves it to be worthy of the most earnest study and meditation. I shall strive to lay it before you in the most interesting way, namely, in his own words ; and if, therefore, any credit is due for the compilation, it must be that, like Montaigne, I have strung the fragments together.
THOMAS Hood was born in the closing year of the last century. The family name is a plain one, but, in the hands of him who brought it into notice, it was a prolific syllable for many a pun. Thus he is said to have remarked during his last illness, that he was dying out of charity to his undertaker, who wished to urn a lively Hood! Of his birth and family there is little known. He had no notable pedigree, but was one of those self-raised men who, having made their way by their own exertions to Fame's giddy temple, could say with Napoleon, “I am my own ancestry!" And with a prouder boast; for whereas Napoleon waded thither through fields of gore, Hood attained the position by shedding no blood but his own. Hood's account of his ancestors was, that as his grandmother was a Miss Armstrong, he was descended from two notorious thieves, i. e., Robin Hood and Johnny Armstrong. Hood thus sprang from the people ; but it did not follow that he must therefore attack those above him, and array class against class his life was spent in the people's service, and in his writings he ever tried to cement the bonds between all sections of society, aiming “to draw them nearer by kindly attraction, not to aggravate the existing repulsion, and piace a wider gulf between rich and poor, with Hate on one side and Fear on the other."
His father was a Scotchman, and, Scotchman-like, left his country to seek his fortune. It would appear he was in a way to succeed, for at the time of his son's birth he was a partner in the publishing firm of Ventnor, Hood, and Sharp. He is noted for favouring a scheme which does him credit, --that of republishing old standard works. Then, as now, the old authors were neglected ; and the public, like the Athenians of old, sought after what was new. This demand for “sensation” books leads to the acquisition of a morbid literary taste. Hood, senior, wrote two novels which attracted some notice in his day; and was in other respects a