William Henry Hudson
|Born||4 August 1841|
Quilmes, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
|Died||18 August 1922 (aged 81)|
Kensington, London, England
|Known for||Green Mansions (novel)|
Hudson was the son of Daniel Hudson and his wife Catherine (née Kemble), United States settlers of English and Irish origin. He was born and lived his first years in a small estancia called "25 Ombues" in what is now Ingeniero Allan, Florencio Varela, Argentina.
In 1846 the family established a pulpería further south, in the surroundings of Chascomús, not far from the lake of the same name. In this natural environment, Hudson spent his youth studying the local flora and fauna and observing both natural and human dramas on what was then a lawless frontier, while publishing his ornithological work in Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society initially in an English mingled with Spanish idioms. He had a special love for Patagonia.
Hudson emigrated to England in 1874, taking up residence at St Luke's Road in Bayswater, where he continued to live for most of his life; in 1876 he married his landlady, the former singer Emily Wingrave, in Kensington, London. She was his senior by some years (sources differ). He supported himself as a writer and journalist; the couple had no children. Hudson himself obtained British citizenship on 4 July 1900.
Hudson was a friend of the late-19th century English author George Gissing, whom he met in 1889. They corresponded up until the latter's death in 1903, occasionally exchanging their publications, discussing literary and scientific matters and commenting on their respective access to books and newspapers, a matter of supreme importance to Gissing.
After his wife became an invalid and moved, in 1911, to Worthing in Sussex, England, Hudson lived apart from his wife "for reasons of his own health", though it is clear from their abundant surviving correspondence that Hudson visited her frequently, and they remained on affectionate terms.
He produced a series of ornithological studies, including Argentine Ornithology (1888–1899) and British Birds (1895), and later achieved fame with his books on the English countryside, including Hampshire Days (1903), Afoot in England (1909) and A Shepherd's Life (1910), which helped foster the back-to-nature movement of the 1920s and 1930s and was set in Wiltshire.
Hudson was an advocate of Lamarckian evolution. He was a critic of Darwinism and defended vitalism. He was influenced by the non-Darwinian evolutionary writings of Samuel Butler. He was an early member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The Hudson Memorial Bird Sanctuary in Hyde Park, London includes a carved stone memorial by Sir Jacob Epstein representing Rima, the child goddess of nature, who featured in Hudson's novel Green Mansions. The engravings are by the designer Eric Gill.
Ernest Hemingway referred to Hudson's The Purple Land (1885) in his novel The Sun Also Rises, and to Far Away and Long Ago in his posthumous novel The Garden of Eden (1986). He listed Far Away and Long Ago in a suggested reading list for a young writer.
James Rebanks' 2015 book The Shepherd's Life about a Lake District farmer was inspired by Hudson's work of the same name: "But even more than Orwell or Hemingway, W.H. Hudson turned me into a book obsessive ..." (p. 115), and: "One day, I pulled A Shepherd's Life by W.H. Hudson from the bookcase ...and the sudden life-changing realization it gave me that we could be in books – great books." (p. 114)
In Argentina, Hudson is considered to belong to the national literature as Guillermo Enrique Hudson, the Spanish version of his name. A town in Berazategui Partido and several other public places and institutions are named after him. The town of Hudson in Buenos Aires Province is named for him.