Thomas Hood

1799 –

Thomas Hood, a poet, journalist, and humorist, was born in London’s Poultry section, now the city’s financial center, on May 23, 1799, to Elizabeth (née Sands) and Thomas Hood Sr., a London-based bookseller. According to Hood’s biographer Walter Jerrold, Hood’s birth year was often incorrectly listed as 1798. Additionally, Hood expressed some doubt about his birth place, alternately identifying as both a native of Poultry and of Birchin Lane. During Hood’s childhood, the family relocated to Islington. Jerrold notes that, apart from some time spent at a boarding school, Hood’s childhood was largely spent within London. The elder Hood worked in publishing and, with a partner, established the publishing house Vernor & Hood in Poultry, which later expanded into Vernor, Hood & Sharpe. The business, which published maps, illustrated classics, an edition of Shakespeare, and the magazine The Lady’s Monthly Museum, was a prosperous one. The younger Hood was one of six children and the second of five sons. In August 1811, Thomas Hood Sr. died. 

After leaving school, Hood became a clerk in a counting house. However, the poor health that he had suffered since childhood led to another illness, causing him to leave his employment. Hood traveled to Scotland, where he remained between 1815 and 1817, spending time in Dundee and in his father’s native village of Errol, where he lived with his paternal grandmother. He then went to London to learn engraving under his maternal uncle, Robert Sands. Between 1821 and 1824, Hood served as sub-editor of London Magazine, run by John Taylor, who had apprenticed under the elder Hood at Vernor & Hood. While at the magazine, the young editor befriended the poet and essayist Charles Lamb. Hood went on to edit The Gem, the Comic Annual, and Hood’s Monthly Magazine and Comic Miscellany, a venture that Hood started at the beginning of 1844. Hood also worked briefly as a theater reviewer at the Atlas, a London newspaper and literary journal. He spent five years in Koblenz, Germany (then, Rhenish Prussia), and then in Ostend, Belgium, before returning to London in 1840.

In 1825, Hood published the slim volume “Odes and Addresses to Great People,” a collection of fifteen comic odes, five of which were written by his friend and collaborator, the poet John Hamilton Reynolds. The collection established Hood’s reputation for punning. His first full-length collection, The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies, and Other Poems was published in 1827 with dedications to Lamb, Reynolds, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Hood’s later poems are “The Bridge of Sighs” (1844); “The Lay of the Labourer” (1844); and “Song of the Shirt” (1843). His later work comprised protest poems that addressed labor rights and the plight of women, particularly impoverished women. 

Early in 1845, Hood penned a letter to the writer and physician David Macbeth Moir in which he described that he was suffering from dropsy, now known as edema, one of numerous ailments that he endured in his later years. Thomas Hood died in London on May 3, 1845, and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.