A Different Side of Thomas Hood
|Illustration to the Vauxhall Sonnet, engraving by Thos. Rowlandson
Sonnet to Vauxhall
“The English Garden” - Mason
The cold transparent ham is on my fork—
It hardly rains—and hark the bell!—ding-dingle—
Away! Three thousand feet at gravel work,
Mocking a Vauxhall shower!—Married and Single
Crush—rush;—Soak’d Silks with wet white Satin mingle.
Hengler! Madame! round whom all bright sparks lurk
Calls audibly on Mr. and Mrs. Pringle
To study the Sublime, &c.—(vide Burke)
All Noses are upturn’d!—Whish-ish!—On high
The rocket rushes—trails—just steals in sight—
Then droops and melts in bubbles of blue light—
And Darkness reigns—Then balls flare up and die—
Wheels whiz—smack crackers—serpents twist—and then
Back to the cold transparent ham again!
Hood’s output was created at great cost to his health. In his early days he was a talented engraver working alongside artists such as Thomas Rowlandson (a man with whom he later often collaborated), but was compelled to abandon this profession and seek an outdoor life to recover his strength. It was a tough existence, for Hood became an invalid in 1841 and was saved from financial ruin thanks only to the intervention of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, who was a great fan of his works.
When Hood eventually died, his family were granted a state pension –– and the public continued to adore him. A memorial was later built by public subscription in Kensal Green cemetery.
As the century progressed Hood’s poetry and witticisms remained so familiar as to be often quoted in ordinary conversation. As late as 1903 William Rossetti (of Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood fame), perhaps somewhat extravagantly, described Hood as ‘the finest English poet between the generations of Shelley and Tennyson.’ However, fashions change, and so from these heady heights of appreciation Hood has quietly slipped into obscurity, and has long-since vanished from the standard English literature curriculum.