W. H. Hudson Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

W. H. Hudson was most prolific as an essayist; most of his essays record his observations as a field naturalist. He was particularly fascinated by bird life; between 1888 and 1889 he compiled and published, with the aid of Philip Lutley Sclater, Argentine Ornithology, which was later revised as Birds of La Plata (1920). He followed this with books titled Birds in a Village (1893) and British Birds (1895). More general reflections on nature can be found in such of his books as Idle Days in Patagonia (1893) and Nature in Downland (1900). Although Hudson was primarily an observer and not a theorist, his last book of this type, A Hind in Richmond Park (1922), is a much more philosophical work, occasionally tending to the mystical, discussing the nature of sensory experience in animals and humans and linking this analysis to aesthetic theory and the “spiritualizing” of humans. He also wrote an autobiography, Far Away and Long Ago (1918), a lyrical work recalling his childhood in South America; it deals only with his early life and refers to no incidents after 1859.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

W. H. Hudson is almost a forgotten writer today, remembered primarily for Green Mansions. He was equally unappreciated for most of his own lifetime—he lived in poverty and was virtually ignored by the literary public until Green Mansions became a best seller in the United States, by which time he was well into his sixties. He seems to have had mixed feelings about this late success—it is significant that he refrained from writing any further romances, though his juvenile novel A Little Boy Lost appeared the following year. Hudson wanted to be known as a naturalist, and he considered his essays on nature his most important works. These books did, indeed, attract a small coterie of admirers, and for a few years before and immediately after his death they received due attention. He is commemorated by a bird sanctuary in Hyde Park, where there is a Jacob Epstein statue representing Rima, the enigmatic nature-spirit from Green Mansions. In 1924, J. M. Dent and Sons reissued his complete works in twenty-four volumes and his friend Morley Roberts published an appreciative memoir of him.

Hudson’s nonfiction is generally more interesting and more valuable than his fiction. His essays on nature provide an unusual combination of patient and scrupulous observation with occasional speculative rhapsodies of a metaphysical character. In his visionary moments, Hudson held a view of the living world akin to that of philosopher...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Frederick, John T. William Henry Hudson. New York: Twayne, 1972. A standard biography from Twayne’s English Authors series. Includes a bibliography.

Haymaker, Richard E. From Pampas to Hedgerows and Downs: A Study of W. H. Hudson. New York: Bookman Associates, 1954. A thorough full-length study of Hudson; a must for serious scholars of this writer.

Miller, David. W. H. Hudson and the Elusive Paradise. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Contains chapters on all of Hudson’s major prose fiction, exploring such themes as the supernatural, the imagination, symbolic meaning, immortality, and ideology. Includes detailed notes and a bibliography.

Payne, John R. W. H. Hudson: A Bibliography. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1977. With a foreword by Alfred A. Knopf. Includes an index.

Roberts, Morley. W. H. Hudson: A Portrait. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1924. A personal, intimate account of Hudson from the perspective of Roberts’s long-term relationship with this writer and naturalist.

Ronner, Amy D. W. H. Hudson: The Man, the Novelist, the Naturalist. New York: AMS Press, 1986. A much-needed recent addition to critical studies on Hudson, examining Hudson’s work in relationship to his contemporaries, his immigration to England, and his development as a naturalist and writer. Concludes with an interesting account of Charles Darwin’s influence on Hudson and consequently on his writing. A useful bibliography is provided.

Shrubsall, Dennis. W. H. Hudson: Writer and Naturalist. Tisbury, England: Compton Press, 1978. Provides much useful background on Hudson’s early years in Argentina and traces his development as a naturalist and his integrity as a writer on nature.

Tomalin, Ruth. W. H. Hudson: A Biography. London: Faber & Faber, 1982. A lively biography that has been thoroughly and painstakingly researched. Highly recommended for any serious study of Hudson. Contains excerpts of the letter which Hudson wrote in an attack on Charles Darwin and of Darwin’s response.