Monday, August 17, 2015

William Hope Hodgson, The Night Land

One of the many pleasures of book hunting is that it's still possible to flush out a decent title in a charity shop.  So at lunch time I was at the Salvation Army store and found the above book hidden away on a lower shelf - a colonial edition of William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land.  Price: $2.  There are two sets of advertisements at the back, dated November 1911.  The publisher is Bell & Co and it has the standard Bell's decorated covers.  My understanding, which could well be wrong, is that colonial editions were made from the 1st edition sheets, cheaply bound by the publisher (not necessarily the 1st edition publisher, as not all publishers had colonial libraries), and sent off to the colonies. Some colonial editions are rarer than others and it would be interesting to know how many copies were printed - was there a set print run for each book in a colonial library, or did it vary for each book, for example a proportion of the first edition run?

Here is a contemporary Australian review of the Bell's edition, published in the Western Mail, a West Australian newspaper, in June 1912:

"The Night Land," by William Hope Hodgson. (G. Bell and Sons Ltd., London.) "The Night Land," a love romance by William Hope Hodgson, contains close on 600 pages of mysticism pure and unadulterated. If the patient reader can manage to survive the first 150 pages, with their frequent and irritating references to such obscure and occult things as Monstruwacans (not a tribe of North American Indians, be it said), Mighty Pyramids, Lesser Redoubts, Earth Currents, Home-calls, Diskos, Brain Elements, Master Words, Hour Slips, Thrilling Aether, and the rest of the remarkable quasi-transcendental jargon the author indulges in, and if the semi-archaic phraseology of the whole lengthy narrative does not hopelessly pall, the patient reader aforesaid may find some entertainment in the surprising Baron Munchausen-cum-Gulliver adventures which befall the hero of the book in his perilous quest after Naani, his lost love, who wanders forlorn and solitary in the mysterious Night Land. Finally, if the reader perseveres to the bitter end, he will doubtless be gratified to learn that the nameless hero does verily and indeed bring Naani back to the security of the Mighty Pyramid, and the paternal guardianship of the Master Monstruwacan, despite desperate and sanguinary encounters with ghostly silent ones, horrible yellow things, ferocious night hounds, huge and hairy humpt men, enormous and malodorous slugs, as big as small hills, and other dreadful nightmare monsters, all of which loathly beasts he successfully combats in his journey through the difficult and direful country of Plains of Blue Fire, of a House of Everlasting Silence, of Fire Holes and Hills, and mighty slopes and gores, and a great many more unpleasantly dangerous obstacles to safe travel, which in these glad days of Cook's universal tourist tickets would very properly be looked upon as Exceedingly Bad Management. However, all this happened in the early morning of the world, although, by the by, an obsolete airship is mentioned. There may be some subtle and occult meaning in Mr. Hodgson's ingenious chronicle, but if this is the case it is so carefully hidden away as to be beyond the capacity of the average intellect. Possibly, if one may hazard a guess, it seeks to extol the triumphs of True Love over all opposition, even including a descent into the shadowy Night Land of Death, and we offer this tentative suggestion for the problematic benefit of those as unskilled in such arcana as ourself. Despite its grotesque setting, the story of the name less hero's tender love passages with the winsome Naani in the wilderness is very attractively told, indeed it is quite the best part of a singularly prolix and perplexing book. The hero’s lament when he supposes Naani to be dead after winning safe through so many perils is one of those felicitous little touches which go far towards making the whole wide world kin.

"And lo! in that moment when I neav to be in mine armour, I to mind sudden again that I never to have waked to discover mine own maid kissing me in my sleep. And the pain gat me in the breast, so that I had surely ended then, but that the Master Doctor set somewhat to my breath, that eased me, and gave something of dullness unto my senses for a while."

Our copy is from the London publishers. 


  1. Nice find. I read The Night Land in the late nights during several months when my wife was dying (she subsequently recovered, thank God). The book hit me powerfully on several levels. It's description of a dark horrible world, the man's love for his dead wife, his willingness to go to hell and back to recover her. One of my favorite books now, right up there with LOTR. It's style is weird but I like the King James Version of the Bible, so it didn't matter much to me.

  2. I agree completely - even given it's faults it's still a powerful work.

  3. Remarkable! How I wish discoveries like yours would happen for me over here in the US. It's getting to be a rare occurrence in all my book hunting travels.

  4. They don't happen very often over here either - just one of those things.

  5. Amazing find James! Over the years I found two cheap (1920's) editions of Hodgson's books overhere, Carnacki and The Night Land, which is amazing in itself as how did these titles reach the netherlands? No DJ's unfortunately. I have a 1st of his Ghost Pirates (bought for 9 pounds when I was 17) and a 2nd of his Carnacki, next to the Arkham House reissues.

    I have held, over the years, various Hodgson 1sts in my hands of The Night Land - but they thev always been out of reach, qua price. One can always dream of finding something similar like you did, beautiful find!

    Best regards,