Ralph Hodgson and Aurelia Bolliger Hodgson papers
Held at: Bryn Mawr College [Contact Us]Bryn Mawr College Library, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 19010
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The British poet Ralph Hodgson (1871-1962) was born September 9, 1871 in Darlington, England. He was the sixth son in a family of seven boys and three girls; his father was a coal merchant. Hodgson's childhood was spent in the English countryside, an experience which fostered his love of nature and animals, traits which would stay with him the remainder of his life. Very little is known about his early life, but in the 1890's he worked in London as a newspaper and magazine illustrator, signing some of his works 'Yorick'. He founded "The Sign of the Flying Fame" publishers along with Claud Lovat Fraser (who illustrated many of the volumes published) and Holbrook Jackson in 1913. This private press would be responsible for publishing his poems as chapbooks and broadsides.
During these years he was writing poetry, but much of it did not satisfy him and he destroyed it. His first published poem, "The Storm Thrush," appeared in the Saturday Review in 1904, and in 1907 he published his first collection of poems, The Last Blackbird and Other Lines. His second volume, Poems, appeared in 1917 and it is upon this work that his reputation was based. Included there were such poems as "Time," "You Old Gypsy Man," "The Bull," "The Song of Honour," and "Eve." Hodgson joined the army at the beginning of World War I and stopped writing during the period of his enlistment.
In 1923 he accepted a position as a lecturer in English at Sendai University in Japan. During his fourteen years there he was active in the Japanese educational community, but the volume of his poetry declined. His personal life was difficult during this time: his first wife, Janet Chatteris, died in 1920. He then married Muriel Fraser in 1924. This marriage was dissolved in 1932 and the next year he married Aurelia Bolliger, an American teaching at a local missionary school in Japan. The couple faced difficulties in the early years of their marriage: Aurelia was nearly thirty years his junior and was forced to give up her position with the school because of her relationship with Ralph. Her family struggled to accept their marriage.
Aurelia Bolliger (1898-1984) was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in September of 1898, the first child of a second-generation minister. She attended Heidelberg College in Ohio in 1917, studying English, and then moved with her family to Wisconsin in 1919, where she taught elementary school for a brief time. She applied to the Foreign Board of Missions for a position in Japan as a teacher of English and was accepted. She arrived in Tokyo in 1922, but left the city after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. She then moved to Sendai and taught for the next seven years at the Women's College of Sendai. Her younger sister Louise joined her there in 1924 but contracted pneumonia shortly after her arrival and died the following winter. Despite the loss of her sister, Aurelia remained in Japan, teaching at the university until her resignation in 1930.
With the exception of time spent in Madison, Wisconsin to see Aurelia's family and trips to England to see friends of Hodgson's, the couple remained in Japan until 1938. They then left the continent for retirement in the United States. They purchased a farm called Owlacres in the countryside outside of Minerva, Ohio where Hodgson lived his remaining years in relative seclusion and anonymity. Hodgson rarely appeared in public, with the exception of a few lectures and workshops he participated in around the country in the 1940's. Aurelia taught English at the local high school and took care of her husband in his later years.
Hodgson, however, was not inactive during this period; he published a series of broadsides entitled Flying Scrolls between 1941 and 1951, and released The Skylark and Other Poems in 1954, both with the collaboration of Seymour Adelman, a Philadelphia collector who admired his work. His health began to fail in the 1950's, and he died in November 1962, just after his 91st birthday. His Collected Poems were published in 1961.
In 1914 Hodgson won the Polignac prize for "The Song of Honour," and in 1939 Japan awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun. He was recognized for distinguished achievement by the American Academy and the British National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1946, and received the Queen's gold medal for poetry in 1954. Throughout his life, Hodgson numbered many other writers and poets of the day among his friends, including T.S. Eliot (in photo at left with Hodgson in London, 1932), Siegfried Sassoon, W.H. Davies, Samuel Koteliansky, and Walter de la Mare.
Beyond his literary career, Hodgson had wide-ranging interests, including boxing, the outdoors and art and illustrations. As a young man he traveled to the United States and worked for a short time as an assistant scene painter in New York City's Thalia Theater. He also worked as an art editor of C. B. Fry's Weekly Magazine of Sport and Outdoor Life in 1912 and contributed illustrations to London newspapers and magazines. His fondness for drawings and design would stay with him throughout his life. He had a love of animals, particularly birds and dogs and most especially bull terriers. He was also fascinated by English history and topography, and collected rare books related to these subjects.
The collection is divided into four sections: Correspondence, Poetry, Other Material and Aurelia Hodgson Material.
Correspondence is organized into Personal Correspondence and Business Correspondence, with further distinctions made according to the period of time in which the letter was written or received. Groupings are as follows: London between 1896 and 1923, Japan between 1923 and 1938, and Ohio between 1938 and 1962. Within these groupings, letters are arranged alphabetically by sender. There are separate groups for Personal Correspondence between Ralph Hodgson and his wife Aurelia, and Personal and Professional Correspondence between Hodgson and Seymour Adelman. Finally, there is an additional group of Business Correspondence of Aurelia Hodgson following her husband's death, from 1962 till 1984.
Ralph Hodgson's Personal Correspondence consists of numerous incoming and outgoing letters to family and friends throughout his life, including lasting contacts with Japanese acquaintances, more than fifty years of correspondence with his friend and admirer Seymour Adelman (shown at right with Hodgson at Owlacres, 1947), and a folder of correspondence from various well-known writers sending congratulations on his 90th birthday; these include T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden and others. Personal Correspondence between Hodgson and Aurelia begins during their early years together in Japan and stretch into the 1940's and 1950's while they lived in Ohio. Letters between Hodgson and Seymour Adelman, beginning in 1926, center around discussions of Hodgson's work, ongoing projects the two were working on, including publications of Skylark and Other Poems and a previously unpublished sonnet of John Keats, and third party correspondence conducted by Adelman regarding Hodgson's death, his estate, and the centenary of his birth in 1971.
Hodgson's Business Correspondence, especially while in London, consists of communication with literary agents and publishers regarding his poetry, and includes letters to Holbrook Jackson, Macmillan Publishers and Four Seasons Press. Other correspondents include Walter De la Mare, W.H. Davies, C.L. Fraser, W.H. Maas, and Siegfried Sassoon. Correspondence while in Japan concerns his professorship and the university's operation, greetings from local Japanese contacts, and advice and suggestions on manuscripts and translation projects. Correspondence with Japanese contacts continued after Hodgson departed and is on both personal and professional topics; there is also some mention of World War II and its effects on U.S./Japanese relations. Business Correspondence conducted later in his life, while living in Ohio, is grouped into more general Incoming and Outgoing categories and pertains mainly to his publishing ventures, copyright permissions and fan mail. Aurelia Hodgson's Correspondence following her husband's death mostly concerns the management of his estate and her original plan to donate his papers to Yale.
Poetry is organized into five categories: Notebooks, Poetry Work, Poetry Fragments, Legal Documents and Press Material. Notebooks consist of 94 notebooks, mostly 4" x 6" spiral bound and small pocket notebooks with fragments, miscellaneous notes, dreams and ideas. Also included in this section are bound books containing handwritten poems in more finished form, small published pamphlets and brochures of poetry, an Ohio Book Award medal and certificate, and miscellaneous ephemera. Poetry Work contains many of Hodgson's poems at a variety of different stages, from handwritten to published form; they are organized alphabetically by the title of the poem. Of interest are "Eve" and "Time, You Old Gypsy Man" in proof form, with handwritten notes by Hodgson, and early handwritten copies of "Bells of Heaven" and "The Bride." Poetry Fragments contains loose pages of poems, many untitled or fragmentary, and miscellaneous fragments of notes, unbound. Legal Documents contains marriage licenses, birth and divorce certificates, an early will, deeds to the Ohio farm, documents relating to Ralph and Aurelia's pets, and miscellaneous bills and invoices. Also included are documents concerning the Bolliger family; several of Aurelia's passports, accounts of her family history, and family legal documents. Press Material contains clippings from newspapers and magazines, organized chronologically into four folders: Early Years, Middle to Later Years, Obituary Notices and published material dated after his death. Most of the articles relate to Hodgson and his poetry: reviews, appearances of his poems in print, biographies of his life, and, in some cases, articles of interest to him on a variety of subjects. Also included in this section are essays and biographical information on Hodgson by several outside sources, 8 magazines (retained because they contain articles about Hodgson or related materials), two 45 RPM records of Hodgson reading his poetry aloud from 1942, and a manuscript titled The Muse in the Meadow by Twila Carman, a reporter who wrote about Hodgson's later life for the Canton Repository, the local Ohio newspaper. Contained in her notebooks are short essays and reminiscences about visits with Hodgson in the 1950's and numerous articles collected from local and national papers about him.
Other Materials is organized into two categories: Photographs and 3-Dimensional Materials. The Photograph Collection is ordered chronologically and includes early photographs from the Hodgson and Bolliger families, images from Ralph and Aurelia's period in Japan, shots of them at their home in Ohio, a series of photographs of Ralph with his bull terriers, images of Ralph's burial and his grave site and photographs of Aurelia later in her life. Other folders contain a collection of portraits made of Ralph and two photo albums: one containing photographs of Japan and the other of Seymour Adelman's visit to the Hodgson home in 1947. Of particular interest is a collection of photographs of some of Ralph Hodgson's well known friends: CL Fraser, S.S. Koteliansky, T.S. Eliot, and Walter De la Mare, in London. Also included is a grouping of artwork, drawings and illustrations by Hodgson. 3-Dimensional Materials contains a wide range of artifacts and memorabilia, including glass transparencies of early cartoon drawings by Hodgson, printing blocks with designs for Flying Scrolls, clothing from Japan, dresses given to Aurelia by Vivienne Eliot, Japanese boxes, fans and a collection of animal figurines. Also included are two of Hodgson's walking sticks, an assortment of pipes, and a traveling watercolor set with brushes.
Aurelia Hodgson Materials is organized into two categories: Personal Correspondence and Notebooks. Personal Correspondence is divided into three categories: letters from Japan, letters from Ohio, and general family correspondence from throughout her life. Of particular interest in this category is correspondence regarding Aurelia's resignation from missionary service while in Japan. Letters contained in this group include letters to her father about her personal choices, her religious beliefs and her position as a young, independent woman in a foreign country. Also included are letters to and from the Japan Mission of The Reformed Church in the United States discussing the process of her resignation. Later letters to her family are more subdued discussions of her life in Ohio with Hodgson and related matters. Correspondence includes letters to both her parents, as well as her sister Katherine, her brother Pete, and her sister-in-law Dorothea. Her Notebooks and personal diaries record her experiences in Japan from 1922 to 1936, and include her thoughts and reflections on her relationship with Hodgson, her teaching position and the culture of Japan in general. School notebooks record her teaching plans, course curriculums and thoughts. Several account books contain monthly expenses, as well as accounts relating to Hodgson's publications. Her series of notebooks, Consider the Canary, are detailed observations of her pet birds taken between 1930 and 1937. Two notebooks contain biographical information on T.S. Eliot. Seven small yearly appointment books record her dreams from 1962 to 1968. A final folder contains miscellaneous Personal Notes, some partial essays, and an early autobiography.
Part of the collection was the gift of Seymour Adelman. The bulk of the collection was purchased by the Seymour Adelman Fund. Some items were the gift of Aurelia Bolliger Hodgson.
- Bryn Mawr College
- Finding Aid Author
- Claire Liachowitz, Charles Reed, Barbara Grubb, Claire Pingel, Emily Houghton, Melissa Torquato
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
The Ralph Hodgson and Aurelia Bolliger Hodgson Papers are the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Literary rights in Ralph Hodgson's works belong to Bryn Mawr College, by bequest from Aurelia Bolliger Hodgson.
See also Box 2, Folder 9 for their correspondence while Hodgson was in Japan
See also Box 4, Folder 2 for Translation Project correspondence
See also Box 7, Folder 14 for her personal correspondence with ABH
See ABH correspondence in Box 3 for her Japanese correspondence
See also Mayfield's correspondence with S. Adelman regarding RH's death in Box 10, Folder 6
Note at back: "sketch book Lovat Fraser gave me RH". Also contains paper with verse "Damsels of Time" by Emerson in RH's hand
Note in front "C. Lovat Fraser. Given me by RH at Evanstan Miles's Restaurant, 1911. This was the first copy of the poem. Corrected by RH"
Signed "For Lovat Fraser. RH. Oct 1911". Note at back: "My father, Colonel AH Bagnold, C.B., C.M.G., had his daughter (i.e. me) taught bookbinding- and at a later date, not far off I am afraid- from the beginning- I practiced a bit and at last I bound this book, Ralph Hodgson's poem "The Bull" given by him to Lovat Fraser- and having bound it gave it to Lovat- 1912" signed Enid Bagnold.
Note on back: "Galley proof of Ralph Hodgson's 'Eve' and 'Time' with his and my alterations. Mine are made in green ink -C.L.F."
See also Box 32 for other drafts of Flying Scroll.
-Classmate magazine, September through October 1942, Vols. 37-41; contains article titled "Time, You Old Gypsy Woman" -Punch magazine, September 16, 1959, "Poet's Corner" p. 181 -Think magazine, April 1956, no related material -The Saturday Review of Literature, March 22, 1947; contains 4 poems by RH p. 33 -Time Magazine, March 30, 1959; "Book Review" p. 90 -Travel in Japan, 1937, general interest -TP's Weekly, August 17, 1929; contains RH's poemBells of Heaven -Life magazine, July 21, 1967; contains article on John Berryman with reference to RH in poem p. 75
See also her letters to RH while in Japan: Box 8, Folder 5-7
See also Box 26, Item 1 for collection of other blank Japanese postcards