Authors: W. H. Hudson

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Argentine-born English novelist and naturalist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Purple Land, 1885 (originally pb. as The Purple Land That England Lost)

A Crystal Age, 1887

Fan: The Story of a Young Girl’s Life, 1892 (as Henry Harford)

El Ombú, 1902 (reissued as South American Sketches, 1909; pb. in U.S. as Tales of the Pampas, 1916)

Green Mansions, 1904

A Little Boy Lost, 1905

Short Fiction:

Dead Man’s Plack and An Old Thorn, 1920

Nonfiction:

Argentine Ornithology, 1888-1889 (with Philip Lutley Sclater)

The Naturalist in La Plata, 1892

Birds in a Village, 1893

Idle Days in Patagonia, 1893

British Birds, 1895

Nature in Downland, 1900

Birds and Man, 1901

Hampshire Days, 1903

The Land’s End, 1908

Afoot in England, 1909

A Shepherd’s Life, 1910

Adventures Among Birds, 1913

Far Away and Long Ago, 1918

The Book of a Naturalist, 1919

Birds of La Plata, 1920

A Traveller in Little Things, 1921

A Hind in Richmond Park, 1922

One Hundred Fifty-three Letters from W. H. Hudson, 1923 (with Edward Garnett, editor)

Men, Books, and Birds, 1925

Biography

The naturalist and writer William Henry Hudson was born at Quilmes, a short distance west of Buenos Aires, on August 4, 1841. His father, Daniel Hudson, who was of English descent and born in Massachusetts, had left New England under threat of tuberculosis to seek a gentler climate in Argentina. There, he and his wife, Katherine Kimball, who came from Maine, raised a family of six children. William Henry, the fourth of their five sons, was a strong, alert child who rode his pony about the pampas and developed an absorbing interest in the bird life of the great plains. From these contacts with nature he learned much that was of later benefit to him, quite possibly more than he learned from the ill-equipped tutors with whom he had his formal training.{$I[AN]9810001416}{$I[A]Hudson, W. H.}{$S[A]Harford, Henry;Hudson, W. H.}{$I[geo]ARGENTINA;Hudson, W. H.}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Hudson, W. H.}{$I[tim]1841;Hudson, W. H.}

W. H. Hudson

(Library of Congress)

At the age of twenty-eight, Hudson left South America to take up permanent residence in England. During his teens, an attack of rheumatic fever had left him with a weakened heart, and he decided that Argentina was no place for someone who could not lead an active outdoor life. Moreover, the death of his father the year before had severed the last strong tie with his boyhood home.

Hudson’s earliest years in England were marked by poverty and loneliness. For a time, he became secretary to an eccentric archaeologist, who often lacked money to pay him. In 1876, he married Emily Wingreave, a gentle woman fifteen years older than Hudson; she admired her husband unreservedly, though never completely understanding his peculiar gifts and qualities. After two experiments in running a boardinghouse failed, the Hudsons settled in a dreary house near Westbourne Park that had been left to Emily Hudson by her sister.

Though he had been writing steadily since arriving in England, literary recognition came to Hudson only slowly. His novel The Purple Land, which came to be regarded as one of his best works, appeared in 1885, and in 1887 came his utopian romance, A Crystal Age. Neither book created much stir, but in 1892 The Naturalist in La Plata received favorable attention; thereafter, Hudson’s books won increasing, though still modest, circulation. In 1918 came the history of his childhood, Far Away and Long Ago; though highly regarded, it has probably been less read than Green Mansions, a brightly colored romance of the bird-girl Rima, set against the background of Venezuelan forests. Especially popular in America, it effectively combines Hudson’s gifts as a storyteller with his deep feeling for nature.

After Hudson died in London in 1922, his literary reputation grew, possibly because an increasingly urban civilization had learned to value nature more than in the author’s own time. Hudson’s style is simple and direct. At its best, it embodies the author’s almost mystical sense of natural beauty. Very appropriately, Hudson’s London memorial is a bird sanctuary, established in Hyde Park in 1925.

BibliographyFrederick, 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.
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