Despite the poverty and ill health from which W. H. Hudson suffered much of his life, the dominant mood of HAMPSHIRE DAYS is the quiet joy found in the creatures, plants, and seasons of nature. This mood may have been furthered by the Civil List pension granted the author in 1901, the year before he finished the work. He tells us that he returned to New Forest in December, 1902, to complete this book, which chronicles his activities and discoveries in Hampshire from 1900 to 1902. His purpose was to write of this “delectable spot in the best bird months of April, May, and June,” but fortunately his vision included more than these months and a far wider variety of subjects, including Hampshire people, towns, and buildings, than this statement indicates.
Because Hudson was an important naturalist, one would expect much of the book to be devoted to the flora and fauna of Hampshire and its centuries-old forests, like Harewood, Wolmer and, especially, the somewhat misleadingly named New Forest. Hudson reveals his love of this particular forest on many pages and on one occasion speaks of it as containing the most beautiful forest landscape in all England. Its name derives from its being placed under forest laws by William the Conqueror in 1079. Of its present-day 130-square-mile area, thirty square miles are privately owned and forty-five of the remaining hundred are Crown woodlands, largely of oak and pine. Hudson lived in a former manor house in...
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