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Ralph Hodgson papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 245

Scope and Contents

The Ralph Hodgson Papers consist of correspondence, writings, artwork, photographs, and printed material which document the life of the English poet Ralph Hodgson. The collection spans the years 1695-1976, but most of the material dates from the period of Ralph Hodgson's adult life and the years just after his death, 1914-1970. The papers also provide insight into the lives and work of the many other writers of this period with whom he corresponded. Siegfried Sassoon is particularly well represented in the collection, by correspondence, writings, artwork, photographs, and printed material. Sassoon was known for his antiwar poetry while still serving in the Army during World War I, and became close friends with Hodgson before Hodgson moved to Japan. In the following decades he wrote novels and autobiographical works as well, and dedicated Siegfried's Journey to Hodgson in 1945.

The Papers are housed in 80 boxes and are organized into seven series: Personal Correspondence, Writings, Artwork, Printed Material, Photographs, Siegfried Sassoon Collection, and Other Papers. Boxes 64-69 contain Oversize material; boxes 70-72 contain Restricted Fragile Papers.

Series I, Correspondence , 1887-1976 (boxes 1-39), which consists of letters to and from Ralph Hodgson, has been organized into eight subseries: Personal Correspondence, Third Party Correspondence, Permissions, Publishers Inquiries, Orders, Other Requests and Invitations, Fan Mail, and Related Material. The subseries are all arranged alphabetically except for Orders and Fan Mail, which are arranged chronologically.

Personal Correspondence consists of letters to Ralph Hodgson, carbon copies of typewritten letters written by Hodgson, manuscript drafts of letters by Hodgson, and letters to Aurelia Hodgson from others. Ralph's principal correspondents include Enid Bagnold, Silvia Baker, Edmund Blunden, Bryher, T. S. Eliot, Norman Holmes Pearson, I. A. Richards, Siegfried Sassoon, Dorothy Hall Smith, and W. Bevan Whitney. Correspondence for those with more than ten folders of material is listed at a finer level for easier retrieval.

The correspondence reflects Hodgson's wide ranging interests and friendships. Topics addressed in the letters include poetry; prominent authors and their works; advice to aspiring writers; dogs, especially bull terriers, and information on their breeding; first hand accounts by friends serving as soldiers and nurses in the first World War; and plans for visits and writers' seminars. A number of people introduced themselves to Hodgson by mail because of a shared interest; quite often a friendship through the mail ensued. Very little family correspondence is present; what there is comes from nephews and nieces: Enid Hodgson, Robert Hodgson, Shirley Colquhoun, and "Wog" de la Force. In 1933 Ralph married Aurelia Bolliger (whose nickname was "Weg"), and starting in 1932 the correspondence contains letters to the both of them and also to her alone. There is only one piece of correspondence between Aurelia and Ralph, a telegram from 1955 in which Ralph instructed Aurelia to decline an invitation.

The early correspondence contains very few drafts of letters written by Hodgson, as it was only in the 1940s that he began to keep carbon copies of typewritten letters he had written to friends. When Hodgson moved to Japan, one result was that letters written to him there were often meant to keep him in touch with the literary life that he had left behind in England. These letters tend to be lengthier and contain enclosures of writings, photographs, and newspaper clippings. These enclosures have been kept with the letters they accompanied. Appropriate cross-references have been made in related series.

Though he rarely left his Ohio farm after the 1940s, Hodgson still carried on an active correspondence. Carbon copies of his typewritten letters appear consistently in the files from 1950. In the late 1950s, Aurelia took to writing Ralph's letters for him; these are usually typewritten, and there are often notes in Ralph's hand on the letters he received highlighting important points to include in an answer. Many of the letters written by the Hodgsons in the late 1950s and early 1960s provide information on the state of Ralph's health. After his death, Aurelia attempted to organize the correspondence. Her notes on the contents of some letters and a few 'see' references that she wrote on slips of paper are to be found in box 39.

The correspondence documents the extended network of friends and professional contacts Hodgson established as he moved from England to Japan to the United States. While Hodgson lived in England he corresponded with other English poets and authors of the time, including Claude Colleer Abbott, Enid Bagnold, Edmund Blunden, John Cournos, W. H. Davies, Walter de la Mare, John Drinkwater, John Galsworthy, Francis Meynell, Alida Monro, Siegfried Sassoon, Theodore Spicer-Simson, James Stephens, and Charles Walston. Letters received from those serving in the first World War include Enid Bagnold, Lovat Fraser, Lettice Low, and "Old Dor," an army chaplain whose last name was Dorling.

In Japan, Hodgson established friendships and professional ties with a number of professors and authors, including Kochi Doi, Atsuo Kobayashi, and Torao and Yoshi Taketomo, who wrote to him after he left. European correspondents in the collection whose letters first appear while Hodgson lived in Japan (1924-1938) include: Silvia Baker, T. S. Eliot, Vivienne Eliot, William Empson, Mark Gertler, Holbrook Jackson, Samuel Koteliansky, F. V. Morley, I. A. Richards, Henry Salt, and Laurence Whistler.

Similarly, when he moved to the United States, Hodgson made new contacts and established a particularly close relationship with nearby students, faculty, and staff at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio. During these years Hodgson corresponded regularly with such people as Seymour Adelman of the University of Pennsylvania, Gordon Chalmers of Kenyon College, Eric Eckler of Mount Union College, Norman Holmes Pearson of Yale University, and students Laura Rankin of Mount Union College, and Dorothy Hall Smith, who met Hodgson at a seminar in Boulder, Colorado.

Other correspondents from this time include Bryher, introduced by Norman Holmes Pearson; Witter Bynner, Valerie Eliot, who included photocopies of letters from Hodgson to T. S. Eliot in her later letters (folder 1132); Colin Fenton; Henry Leach, to whom Hodgson wrote about their common interests and his life in Ohio; John Masefield; Wesley D. Sweetser, and W. Bevan Whitney.

The correspondence with Siegfried Sassoon is the most extensive in the Correspondence series, dating from 1923 to 1963 (folders 467-491). In his letters, Sassoon writes about his personal life, other writers, and his own works. Following the personal correspondence in Series I, there are two folders of typed transcripts of the correspondence from 1923-1934, typed by Aurelia Hodgson. In his letters to Hodgson, Sassoon mentions sending under separate cover manuscripts of poems, galleys, page proofs, and photographs, many of which are to be found in Series VI, Siegfried Sassoon Collection. In the Third Party Correspondence section of the series there are three additional letters written to Sassoon.

Finally, there is a small group of letters written congratulating Ralph Hodgson on his 90th birthday in 1961, which have been kept together rather than separated according to correspondent (folders 619-622). Norman Holmes Pearson, Yale professor and a good friend of Hodgson, organized a birthday celebration, encouraged old friends and living poets to write to Hodgson on his birthday. He also solicited poetry from them, which he gathered, typed, and presented to Ralph (folder 878). Congratulatory letters from the following individuals are present: Conrad Aiken, W. H. Auden, Van Wyck Brooks, Bryher, Witter Bynner, Melville Cane, C. Day Lewis, Kochi Doi, Richard Eberhart, T. S. Eliot, Colin Fenton, Robert Graves, Donald Hall, Cecil Hemley, John Holmes, President John F. Kennedy, Atsuo Kobayashi, Denise Levertov, Robert Lowell, Daniel Macmillan, John Masefield, William Meredith, Marianne Moore, Royal Murdoch, Kyoko Ohara, Norman Holmes Pearson, Henry Rago, Takeshi Saito, Winfield Townley Scott, Stephen Spender, Shinji Takuwa, Allen Tate, Mark Van Doren, Robert Penn Warren, Glenway Wescott, John Hall Wheelock, W. Bevan Whitney, Richard Wilbur, William Carlos Williams, Yvor Winters, and Sir Douglas Young. Hodgson was particularly impressed by President Kennedy's letter of congratulations, and he had photocopies of the letter made and sent to several friends. Both the original letter and Hodgson's photocopies are present in the file.

The other correspondence subseries are less extensive. Mail in these categories from personal friends has been placed in Personal Correspondence. Permissions includes requests to quote his poetry or set his poems to music, and Publishers Inquiries consists of offers to publish his poems or solicitations for new poems. The Orders pertain to the Flying Scroll broadsides that Hodgson published between 1941-1951. Other Requests and Invitations contains a miscellany of requests for interviews, invitations to speak and to read his poetry, pose for photographs, etc. The Fan Mail is arranged chronologically; as with the other correspondence subseries, some files include copies of Hodgson's replies.

Series II, Writings , 1810-1971 (boxes 40-42), is organized into two subseries: Writings by Ralph Hodgson, and Writings by Others. Writings by Ralph Hodgson is arranged alphabetically by title, and Writings by Others is arranged alphabetically by author. Many of the Writings by Others are housed with the correspondence that accompanied them; appropriate cross-references have been made in the list of writings.

Writings by Ralph Hodgson includes typescripts, page proofs, galleys, and photocopies. While there appear to be no complete holographs of his published poems present in the collection, the two folders of holograph fragments may contain parts of them, as well as unpublished poems. There are a number of photocopies of magazine articles that Hodgson wrote in the early nineteen-teens, and a couple of typescript drafts of "Memories of Poets, 1910-1920," later published as Poets Remembered by the Rowfant Club in 1967. There is also the typescript for Without Comment, an anthology of prose and verse gathered but never published by Hodgson.

Writings by Others includes T. S. Eliot's "Lines to Ralph Hodgson Esqre." and "[How Unpleasant to Know Mr. Eliot!]" (folder 167). Each poem is headed by a drawing by Eliot. Other notable authors represented in this section include Enid Bagnold, Edmund Blunden, Witter Bynner, Kochi Doi, Everard Meynell, LeRoy Smith, Jr., James Stephens, and Laurence Whistler. The originals, typescripts, galley proofs and final printed version of Tributes to Ralph Hodgson on a Hundredth Birthday September 9, 1971 (folders 867-870), and the galleys of a memorial volume for Michael McKenna, with corrections by Hodgson also are present (folder 1192).

Series III, Artwork , 1796-1951 (boxes 43-45), is organized into two subseries: Artwork by Hodgson, arranged alphabetically by title or supplied descriptive title, and Artwork by Others, which is arranged by artist. Artwork by unidentified artists has been placed at the end of Artwork by Others.

Artwork by Hodgson includes photocopies of two cartoons in Fry's Magazine and Punch, and a sketchbook containing pen-and-ink and watercolor sketches of seventeen officers in the Royal Navy at Lowestoft, where Hodgson served during World War I, some of which have humorous captions (folder 899). The subseries also includes a series of fifty-nine cartoons in pen-and-ink and crayon with references to Joyce, Pound, and Eliot (folders 1168-1188); two drawings dating from his years in Japan: Ainu chief and his son, and Tomi San, a drawing of a Japanese girl; and sketches of birds, dogs, landscapes, and people. A broadside, "Love Me, Love My Dog," which depicts famous authors and their recorded remarks about dogs, was published as the endpapers to Poets Remembered.

Artwork by Others includes a large number of clipped illustrations and cartoons by W. G. Baxter, F. A. Fraser, Forain and others, which Hodgson apparently used as study prints. There are sketches of Hodgson by Arata Endo and Jiyu Gakuen, and a photocopy of a drawing by Kikuo Kojima. There is also a self-portrait in colored pencil by George William Russell (folder 914).

Series IV, Printed Material , 1695-1975 (boxes 46-58), is organized into four subseries: Pamphlets, Maps, Clippings, and Other Printed Material. Pamphlets and Maps are arranged alphabetically by author, or by title if the author is unknown. Many of the pamphlets originally accompanied correspondence; these remain housed with the correspondence. Appropriate cross-references have been made in the listing. The pamphlets include the text of Masefield's presentation of the Polignac prize to Hodgson (folder 262), a printing of "Time, You Old Gypsy Man" by Reinold and Hannie Kuipers-Verwey, and an article by Ralph L. Schroeder about Hodgson. A group of five bound volumes of pamphlets contains book chapters and clippings on particular topics of interest to Hodgson, including illustrators and caricaturists, Londoniana, and poetical criticism. Also included are a large number of maps of Great Britain, many of them ordnance maps, used by Hodgson as part of his study of the history of Great Britain. These maps date predominantly from the 19th and 20th centuries. There is also a map of Japanese railways from 1913, and an undated map of China. There are several boxes of clippings, which are arranged by subject.

Series V, Photographs , 1930-1950 (box 59), is organized into three subseries: People, Dogs, and Buildings. The images include photographs of Hodgson with others in Japan, as well as photographs of Japanese friends and acquaintances. There is a series of photographs of his Akita, Towzer, taken once a month from the time Hodgson acquired him as a puppy in April 1935 to December 1935 (folders 1039-1042); Hodgson appears in the background of many of these photographs.

Series VI, Siegfried Sassoon Collection , 1889-1952 (boxes 60-62), consists of material presumed to have been enclosed in letters to Hodgson while he was in Japan and the United States, and which was subsequently isolated by an unknown party, possibly Aurelia, before the library acquired the collection. The series is organized into five subseries: Writings, Photographs, Artwork, Printed Material, and Other Papers. Sassoon's correspondence with Hodgson, however, has been placed in Series I. The Writings are organized into Articles, Novels, and Poetry, and are arranged alphabetically by title. These files include the full corrected galleys of Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man,Meredith, and The Weald of Youth. There is also a corrected proof of The Old Century, inscribed by Sassoon to Hodgson with a watercolor self-portrait on the title page (folder 1054). There is a page proof of the limited, signed edition of Sherston's Progress, corrected by Sassoon and Max Beerbohm (folder 1055). Novels represented by partial galleys are Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, and Siegfried's Journey.

Over fifty poems by Sassoon also are present, including poems not listed in Geoffrey Keynes' A Bibliography of Siegfried Sassoon. The poems are fair copies written out for Hodgson; the dates recorded in the box list are taken from the dates written. This section includes: Vigils, a handmade pamphlet of twelve holograph poems (folder 1089), a blank book handmade by Sassoon, which is signed by him on the first page (folder 1112) and approximately seventy photographs of Sassoon, alone and with Hodgson, with Stephen Tennant, Sassoon's wife Hester, his son George, and his house in Heytesbury. A humorous calling card in watercolor, made by Sassoon for Hodgson is in folder 1105.

Series VII, Other Papers , 1821-1960 (boxes 63-63b), is organized into three subseries: Documents, Musical Settings of Hodgson's Poems, and Miscellaneous Papers. Documents includes the Order of the Rising Sun awarded to Hodgson in 1938 by the Emperor of Japan (folder 1191). Musical Settings of Hodgson's Poems consists of sheet music setting Hodgson's poems to music, sent to him by composers seeking to publish their songs. The Miscellaneous Papers include such items as fragmentary notes by Hodgson and Aurelia, an unidentified lock of blond-brown hair, and a geometry notebook done in calligraphy by Joseph Graham.

Oversize (boxes 64-69) contains material from series I-IV and VI and is arranged in box order. The Restricted Fragile Papers in boxes 70-72 consist of originals for which preservation photocopies have been made.


  • 1695 - 1976
  • Majority of material found within 1914 - 1970


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Boxes 70-72 and cold storage: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Ralph Hodgson Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was acquired by purchase and gift between 1978 and 1981 from Bertram Rota and Howard Woolmer, who had acquired it from Mrs. Hodgson in Ohio.

Associated Materials

The Beinecke Library also acquired Hodgson's library, which has been housed and cataloged separately, with the provenance traced.


47.6 Linear Feet ((80 boxes) + 2 broadside folders)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence, writings, artwork, photographs, and printed material documenting the life of Ralph Hodgson. The bulk of the collection is made up of correspondence, which occupies 38 boxes. Principal correspondents include Enid Bagnold, Silvia Baker, Edmund Blunden, Bryher, T.S. Eliot, Vivienne Eliot, Norman Holmes Pearson, I. A. Richards, Siegfried Sassoon, Dorothy Hall Smith, and W. Bevan Whitney. Topics in the correspondence include the work and personal lives of other poets and authors of the day; dogs and their breeding, particularly bull terriers, plans for visits and writers' seminars, and first hand accounts of soldiers and nurses in the first World War. Hodgson corresponded with other British poets and authors, Japanese professors and authors, and a number of professors and students in the United States. Also present in the correspondence are files containing permissions, orders, and fan mail.
Writings include a few items by Hodgson, including typescript drafts of "Memories of Poets, 1910-1920" and for an anthology Hodgson never published of English prose and verse entitled "Without Comment." Writings by Others includes T.S. Eliot's "Lines to Ralph Hodgson, Esqre." and "How unpleasant to know Mr. Eliot!" Artwork includes sketchbooks and cartoons by Hodgson, as well as works by others, including two sketches of Hodgson, and a self-portrait by George William Russell. Also present in the collection are pamphlets, maps, clippings, musical settings of Hodgson's poems, as well as photographs of Hodgson and his dogs.
The Siegfried Sassoon Collection includes writings, photographs, artwork, and printed material. There are corrected galleys and proofs of a number of Sassoon's books, as well as fair copies of over fifty poems, approximately seventy photographs of Sassoon with Hodgson, and his family.

RALPH HODGSON (1871-1962)

Ralph Hodgson, British poet, was born September 9, 1871 in Darlington, England. Very little is known about his early life. He joined the Navy at the beginning of World War I, and later was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. After his first wife Janet Chatteris died in 1920, he married Muriel Fraser and left England in 1924, accepting an invitation to teach English at Sendai University in Japan. He divorced Muriel in 1932, and the next year married Aurelia Bolliger, who was a mission school teacher in Japan. In 1938 Hodgson left Japan and retired to live in the United States, where Aurelia had been born. They purchased a farm outside of Minerva, Ohio, near Canton, and apart from giving a few lectures and workshops around the country in the 1940s, Hodgson lived out the remaining years of his life in Ohio. His health began to fail in the 1950s, and he died in November 1962.

Hodgson's first book of poems, The Last Blackbird and Other Lines, was published in 1907. In 1913 he founded, with Claud Lovat Fraser and Holbrook Jackson, a private press named "At the Sign of the Flying Fame," which published his poems as chapbooks and broadsides. These poems included those on which his reputation was based: "The Bull," "The Song of Honour," and "Eve." In 1917 these poems and others were gathered in Poems.

Though his published output was limited, in the years following the publication of Poems Hodgson was a well-known and respected poet. During his time in Japan his poetic production slowed down, but once he moved to Ohio he began to write again. He published a series of broadsides entitled "Flying Scrolls" between 1941 and 1951 at the Boerner Printing Company in Minerva, Ohio. The Skylark and Other Poems was published in 1954, and Collected Poems in 1961. In 1914 Hodgson won the Polignac prize for "The Song of Honour," and in 1938 he was awarded the insignia of the Rising Sun. He was recognized for distinguished achievement from the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1946, and received the Queen's gold medal for poetry in 1954. Through the years Hodgson numbered many other writers of the day among his friends, including Siegfried Sassoon, T. S. Eliot, and Walter de la Mare.

Beyond his literary career, Hodgson had wide-ranging interests, which included boxing; he is said to have run away from school to join the boxing world for a time. He was also an artist, and while still a young man traveled to the United States and worked as an assistant scene painter in New York City's Thalia Theater. He worked in London as an artist for several different newspapers and magazines, signing some of his works 'Yorick.' He became art editor of C. B. Fry's Weekly Magazine of Sport and Outdoor Life in 1912. He was drawn to the outdoors and to animals, particularly birds and dogs (and especially bull terriers). In 1920, Hodgson inspired the campaign against the trafficking in birds' feathers for women's apparel, which resulted in the Plumage Act of 1921. He was also fascinated by English history and topography, and was a collector of books and maps on that subject. A calling card made by Sassoon for Hodgson humorously sums up this versatile man's many interests: "Mr. Ralph Hodgson, Minerva, Ohio. Birds watched and bull terriers taken in free of charge. Pugilism. Snooker. Poetry. Dog Fancier. Telegrams. 'Cruftitude.'"

Guide to the Ralph Hodgson Papers
Under Revision
by Diana M. Smith
April 1997
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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