Unpublished Letters of W. H. Hudson (1841-1922), the First Literary Environmentalist

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William Henry Hudson (1841-1922) was a significant literary figure during late nineteenth and early twentieth-century England, where his writings were much admired by fellow authors including such popular writers as John Galsworthy, Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford. Hudson was an unusual combination: an arcane, enigmatic figure to whom the poet laureate, John Masefield, attributed four of the most romantic books of their time, and a distinguished naturalist, the author of outstanding books of travel in Latin America and rural England, definitive texts on the ornithology of Argentina and popular books about British birds. His standing as a British writer derives support from the fact that, without seeking it, he was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and appointed to its academic committee. His place in Hispanic Letters is signified by his inclusion in The Oxford Companion to Hispanic Literature.

Most of the letters in this collection were written by Hudson to carefully chosen friends and confidants, among whom were well-known authors, poets, artists, naturalists, conservationists and the indomitable Ranee Margaret of Sarawak, consort of the second white Rajah, Sir Charles Brooke. They are personal, uninhibited communications never intended for publication, in which he poured his thoughts onto paper as fast as his pen could cope. From these letters, we gain an understanding of the real Hudson. They give insight into his days as a collector of bird skins in South America and his lifelong dedication to, and work for, wild bird conservation in Britain. There are accounts of his English rural rambles: of landscapes, flora, wildlife behavior, lodging places, people he met, their modes of life and the stories they told, some of which he included in his books. Hudson criticizes books, poetry and their authors; remarks on the progress and publication of his own books; and comments on journal contributions, journals and their editors.


“ ... At the close of this book, one feels that one has been in the presence of a man with two sides – one totally dedicated to caring for the winged creatures of the Argentine pampas and the English countryside, the other in expressing his love of nature through books and articles in the busy London literary world. How fortunate for us that the letters printed here were valued enough by their recipients to be preserved, and that Hudson’s appeal has been strong enough to inspire the editor to undertake the years of research that have culminated in this fascinating collection.” – (from the Foreword) Martha S. Vogeler, Professor Emeritus, California State University

“The writing career of William Henry Hudson, the naturalist (1841-1922), was a many-sided one and the broad lines of his life and personality have become well known since his death, largely thanks to the recollections of friends, literary and scientific, and through his wide-ranging correspondence ... No full-length, thoroughly detailed biography has yet been attempted, but Dennis Shrubsall has filled some significant gaps in the last few decades [with his publications on Hudson] that give Hudson his due ... This collection represents the sum total of the editor’s discoveries [on Hudson] since Landscapes and Literati was published in 1985, and it is unquestionably a scholarly and bibliographical feat ...” – Pierre Coustillas, Professor Emeritus, University of Lille

“This collection is a valuable archive for a number of reasons. Firstly, it covers a significant period in comparatively recent history, covering mid-Victorian times to World War 1 and beyond. It is perhaps of greater significance to note Hudson’s wide range of acquaintances and correspondents, not to mention the number of eminent Victorians whose views and works he critiques in his letters. He emerges as someone with a great deal of humanity and astonishing frankness: his views are often candid, such as when he mentions “Herbert Spencer’s nonsense” and talks of Richard Le Gallienne’s “unspeakable balderdash”. His opinions are not given lightly, as he is extremely well read. His interests range from his own field of ornithology to a broad literary canvas, including poetry, essays, literary reviews and novels. Furthermore, he demonstrates an engagement with architectural and historical issues . . . this polymath aspect of Hudson’s life is of great interest to Victorianists who will be able to locate Hudson in a particular tradition of “enquirers after the truth” - Dr. Laurence J. Marriott, Senior Lecturer in English, The University of Northampton, Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Arts, The Open University

Table of Contents

Vol. I:
Foreword by Martha S. Vogeler
The Letters

Vol. II:
The Letters (continued)
Undated Letters
Biographical Register of Correspondents
Analysis of Correspondence by Calendar Years
Index to Letters

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