W. H. Hudson 1841 - 1922 Preserving our literary heritage
By Petamber Persaud
Guyana Chronicle
October 29, 2006

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IN 1887, William Henry Hudson travelled to British Guiana from London to take up an appointment in a public office. During that stint, he was a daily visitor to a ‘familiar’ house in Main Street, Georgetown, the residence of a ‘Mr. Abel’ whose full name was Abel Guevez de Argensola.

Abel, poet and naturalist, was a fugitive from Venezuela who refused to return home despite news of a windfall fortune awaiting him in Caracas. He stayed in Guyana, becoming a favourite of Georgetown society, a man held in high esteem and ‘even affection’. The two men were attracted to each other chiefly because of a mutual ‘love of poetry’ even though one was ‘suckled’ on the literature of Spain and the other English Literature.

There were other areas of interest shared by the two men and they would ‘tired the sun with talking’. It was during those bouts of talking, Hudson was gifted the story of `GREEN MANSIONS’, the story of Abel’s flight from his homeland and his romance with a spectre girl/creature called Rima in the virgin jungle of South America.

Hudson promised to publish the whole truth of Abel’s story in order to dispel ‘much conjectural matter… printed week by week in the local press.’

That amazing story was only given life in fictional form because Hudson was already a published author and who was already a respected naturalist and ornithologist at a time when those subjects were treated with scant regard. By the time that story of Abel was made public, Hudson had already published some thirteen books including ‘The Purple Land’ (1885), ‘Argentine Ornithology’ (1888), ‘Fan-The Story of a Young Girl's Life’ (1892), ‘British Birds’ (1895), ‘Hampshire Days’ (1903), and a collection of stories, ‘El Ombu’ (1902).

`GREEN MANSIONS’, the novel, was published in 1904. It falls within that honour roll of first novels on Guyana. `GREEN MANSIONS’ was the first novel in our literary heritage to be made into a movie. That movie of the same name of the book was released in 1959, starring Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Perkins, Lee J. Cobb, and Henry Silva, and it was directed by Mel Ferrer. In the 1970s, DC Comics adopted the story in a series, ‘Rima, the jungle girl’.

Writer, naturalist, ornithologist, William Henry Hudson was born on August 4, 1841, in the province of Quilmes, Buenos Aires, Argentina. His father, Daniel, was born in Massachusetts and his mother, Caroline Augustus Kimble, was a native of Maine. When tuberculosis threatened Daniel Hudson, the man and wife moved from New England to the ‘more salutary climate of Argentina’.

At age 16, the younger Hudson was struck down by typhus and rheumatic fever. For the rest of his life, he was bothered by bouts of illness which constrained him to read voraciously and explore his exotic natural surroundings, becoming intimate with nature, a balm to his spirit. However, he eventually was able to go horseback riding, collecting specimens from other areas including Brazil, Uruguay and Patagonia. One of the books to influence Hudson in his formative years was Charles Darwin’s `ORIGIN OF SPECIES’ which was conceived in an area not far from the Hudson’s home and in a time not long before.

In 1874, his parents, who were struggling to make ends meet, died and Hudson later migrated to a Victorian England. Here Hudson seemed plagued by years of poverty; even the marriage to Emily Wingrave, a former concert and opera singer, did not help his fortune. It was during such long ‘years of penury’ that Hudson started his writing career. Two of his early and more popular books, `THE PURPLE LAND’ and `ARGENTINA ORNITHOLOGY’ brought him little attention and very little money.

`GREEN MANSIONS’ was the bright spot of his career for it eventually became a financial success.

Hudson was a founder-member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In the literature of Argentina to which he added more than ten books, William Henry Hudson is the Guillermo Enrique Hudson and several public places and institutions are named after him.

Hudson died in London on August 18, 2006, a few weeks into his eight-first year, leaving behind a legacy of romance with nature.

Source: * GREEN MANSIONS by W. H. Hudson, Airmont Publishing Company, 1965