Hodgson was a short man of "very ordinary" build who suffered greatly from bullying in his early years in the Merchant marine. He resolved to compensate for his lack of inches by exercise.
This extract from a letter, written in 1905, to a fellow writer, one Coulson Kernahan, may make the outstanding physical strength of Hodgson's heroes a little more credible.
"My dear Sir, let us shake hands on this further matter; for strength has been and is still — in spite of indifferent health — a thing of tremendous interest to me.
"From your remark, I gather that the gods have given you a length of seventy two inches, while they have given this child something under sixty six. With such length I refused to be content, so make it up in breadth and muscularity.
"Sometime, if you would really care to have one, I must send you a decent photograph of myself, showing developement. In the meanwhile I have snipped you out a couple of weeny ones from some old postcards of mine. They may interest you.
"Of course, I'm nothing like as strong as I used to be before the flue bowled me over last year, and left my heart a wee bitte weak. Also, I think that writing has taken off a lot of muscle — confound it! But I suppose one musn't be greedy.
"Before I was ill, I could take two fifty-six pound weights in one hand, and put them at arm's length over my head, and, in fact, lift a good deal more than that with more convenient weights. Now, I very much doubt if I could lift more than eighty or ninety pounds over my head with one hand. Another thing, I could lift considerably more than a quarter of a ton off the ground, using my bare hands — no straps around hand and wrist. And that takes a bit of doing. And now — well, if I go easy I daresay I shall come back to my old form in time — let but the editors smile on me a bit."