Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

In his autobiography FAR AWAY AND LONG AGO, W. H. Hudson details, with the practiced eye of a naturalist, the pungent but lyrical memories of his childhood and adolescence up to the age of sixteen. Although Hudson wrote most of the book when he was in his middle seventies, he recalled with nearly photographic precision the impressions of places, scenes in nature—above all, the living creatures—that were the meaningful parts of his youthful days in Argentina. Previously he had published in Gentleman’s Magazine (1886) material from his first chapter, and much of the second and third chapters appeared earlier in English Review (1912); the rest of the book he composed during a six-week period while he was confined to a hospital bed. Yet his memories of “long ago” are not, as one might expect, the ruminations of an infirm old man; rather, they are presented with childlike freshness and wonder, the delight that comes from discovering the “root of things.”

In spite of Hudson’s remarkable powers of capturing the sharpest details of his past life, FAR AWAY AND LONG AGO is not entirely reliable as autobiography. Because the author was unduly sensitive about revealing his true age, the book is purposefully vague about dates, including birthdates; Hudson alters the chronology of some historical events (for example, material concerning the tyrant Rosas); and he distorts some time-sequences, so that the reader has only a general, imprecise notion of time itself. In places, Hudson’s evasive method works to his artistic advantage. Because the passage of time is made to seem unimportant, the action of the book is filtered through the author’s consciousness, as though in dream or reverie. Events in his life are treated without concern for exact...

(The entire section is 725 words.)