Hodgson ran away to sea at the age of thirteen and eventually served in the Merchant Marine. After a failed business venture he decided to support himself by writing. His early works, The Voice in the Night and The Boats of the Glenn Carrig, were based on his experiences at sea.
His second novel, The House on the Borderland, is considered to be his masterpiece, referred to by H. P. Lovecraft as "a classic of the first water".
He was killed at Ypres in 1918.