Victorian Literature and Culture

Research Article

THOMAS HOOD, EARLY VICTORIAN CHRISTIAN SOCIAL CRITICISM, AND THE HOODIAN HERO

Robert D. Butterwortha1

a1 Bolton, Lancashire

The criticisms of society made by Thomas Hood in the poems he wrote in the years immediately prior to his death in 1845 are from a very particular stance. The poems specifically measure society against Christian values. Thus, Hood bewails how “Christian charity” should “hang your head” (“The Workhouse Clock” 63), or on its “rarity” (“The Bridge of Sighs” 43).The seamstress in “The Song of the Shirt” expresses disbelief that “this is Christian work” (16). The pauper in “A Pauper's Christmas Carol” muses over his treatment on “our Saviour's natal day” (2). The gin to which the beleaguered are driven is the “dram of Satan” and is drunk, “While Angels sorrow, and Demons grin” (“A Drop of Gin” 11, 72). In “The Lady's Dream” the neglectful attitude shown by society to its suffering members is damningly put alongside the Biblical reassurance that, “even the sparrow falls / Not unmarked of God” (“The Lady's Dream” 77–78). “The Lay of the Labourer,” as we shall see, also makes play with Scriptural references. In this Christian analysis of society's ills, the suffering and going wrong of society are the product of setting aside God's wisdom in the decrees He gives about how to organise human dealings.

(Online publication May 18 2011)

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