Sonnet for the 14th of February
by Thomas Hood
No popular respect will I omit
To do thee honor on this happy day,
When every loyal lover tasks his wit
His simple truth in studious rhymes to pay,
And to his mistress dear his hopes convey.
Rather thou knowest I would still outrun
All calendars with Love’s,—whose date alway
Thy bright eyes govern better than the Sun,—
For with thy favor was my life begun;
And still I reckon on from smiles to smiles,
And not by summers, for I thrive on none
But those thy cheerful countenance complies:
Oh! if it be to choose and call thee mine,
Love, thou art every day my Valentine.
Thomas Hood (1799-1845) was an English poet, author and humorist, best known for poems such as “The Bridge of Sighs” and “The Song of the Shirt.” Hood wrote regularly for The London Magazine, the Athenaeum, and Punch.
He was born in London to Thomas Hood and Elizabeth Sands in the Poultry (Cheapside) above his father’s bookshop.
“Next to being a citizen of the world,” writes Thomas Hood in his Literary Reminiscences, “it must be the best thing to be born a citizen of the world’s greatest city.” On the death of her husband in 1811, his mother moved to Islington, where Hood had a schoolmaster who appreciating his talents, “made him feel it impossible not to take an interest in learning while he seemed so interested in teaching.”
Hood left his private schoolmaster at 14 years of age and was admitted soon after into the counting house of a friend of his family, where he “turned his stool into a Pegasus on three legs, every foot, of course, being a dactyl or a spondee.” However, the uncongenial profession affected his health, which was never strong, and he began to study engraving.
The labour of engraving was no better for his health than the counting house had been, and Hood was sent to his father’s relations at Dundee, Scotland. There he stayed in the house of his maternal aunt, Jean Keay, for some months and then, on falling out with her, moved on to the boarding house of one of her friends, Mrs Butterworth, where he lived for the rest of his time in Scotland. In Dundee, Hood made a number of close friends with whom he corresponded for many years. He led a healthy outdoor life but also became a wide and indiscriminate reader. During his time there, Hood began seriously to write poetry and appeared in print for the first time, with a letter to the editor of the Dundee Advertiser.
Before long Hood was contributing humorous and poetical pieces to provincial newspapers and magazines. As a proof of his literary vocation, he would write out his poems in printed characters, believing that this process best enabled him to understand his own peculiarities and faults, and probably unaware that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had recommended some such method of criticism when he said he thought, “Print settles it.” On his return to London in 1818 he applied himself to engraving, which enabled him later to illustrate his various humours and fancies.
In 1821, John Scott, editor of The London Magazine, was killed in a duel, and the periodical passed into the hands of some friends of Hood, who proposed to make him sub-editor. This post at once introduced him to the literary society of the time, and opened up many doors for him.
But by 1828, prolonged illness brought on straitened circumstances. Application was made by a number of Hood’s friends to Sir Robert Peel to place Hood’s name on the civil pension list with which the British state rewarded literary men. Peel was known to be an admirer of Hood’s work and in the last few months of Hood’s life he gave Jane Hood the sum of £100 without her husband’s knowledge to alleviate the family’s debts. The pension that Peel’s government bestowed on Hood was continued to his wife and family after his death.