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Christmas card, 1901

Ralph Edwin Hodgson was born in Darlington on 9 September 1871. His mother was a schoolteacher, and his father, who died in 1884, was a coal merchant. He left school early and is said to have supported himself performing in boxing booths at travelling fairs. He also claimed to have travelled to the USA in 1888 and painted scenery for a theatre in New York.

In 1889 he started drawing cartoons for Dalziel Brothers' weekly comic Funny Cuts, using the pseudonym Yorick. He went on to become chief cartoonist on Alfred Harmsworth's newspaper the Evening News in 1903, and also drew for The Idler and The Minister, where he collaborated with Alfred Sime and Phil May.

He then returned to comics, drawing for C. Arthur Pearson's Big Budget, alongside Tom Browne and Jack Yeats, and succeeded Browne as the paper's art editor. Strips he drew included "'Airy Alf and Bouncing Billy", "Jimmer Squirm and Spooky the Sprat", "The Poll Family" (1904), "Pictures from Peckham" (1904), and "Mr Sopp" (1905). He also drew "Sunny Jim and Dismal David" (1903) on the cover of Funny Pips, a supplement to Pearson's The Boy's Leader, contributed to Illustrated Bits (1885-1909), and was art editor of C. B. Fry's Weekly Magazine of Sports and Out-of-Door Life.

He published his first book of poetry. The Last Blackbird and Other Lines, 1907, and concentrated on poetry from then on. He served in both the Navy and the Army during the First World War, and his reputation was established by his book Poems in 1917. He was invited to teach English Literature at Tokyo University in 1923, and while there was part of the committee that translated a collection of Japanese poetry, the Man'yōshū, into English, and was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun. He left Japan in 1938, and after a brief period back in the UK, settled in Minerva, Ohio, where he died on 3 November 1962.


  • Alan Clark, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, p. 78
  • John Harding, ‘Hodgson, Ralph Edwin (1871–1962)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 19 May 2013

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