Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest HTML version

I take up pen for this foreword with the fear of one who knows that he cannot do
justice to his subject, and the trembling of one who would not, for a good deal,
set down words unpleasing to the eye of him who wrote Green Mansions, The
Purple Land, and all those other books which have meant so much to me. For of
all living authors--now that Tolstoi has gone I could least dispense with W. H.
Hudson. Why do I love his writing so? I think because he is, of living writers that I
read, the rarest spirit, and has the clearest gift of conveying to me the nature of
that spirit. Writers are to their readers little new worlds to be explored; and each
traveller in the realms of literature must needs have a favourite hunting-ground,
which, in his good will--or perhaps merely in his egoism--he would wish others to
share with him.
The great and abiding misfortunes of most of us writers are twofold: We are, as
worlds, rather common tramping-ground for our readers, rather tame territory;
and as guides and dragomans thereto we are too superficial, lacking clear
intimacy of expression; in fact--like guide or dragoman--we cannot let folk into the
real secrets, or show them the spirit, of the land.
Now, Hudson, whether in a pure romance like this Green Mansions, or in that
romantic piece of realism The Purple Land, or in books like Idle Days in
Patagonia, Afoot in England, The Land's End, Adventures among Birds, A
Shepherd's Life, and all his other nomadic records of communings with men,
birds, beasts, and Nature, has a supreme gift of disclosing not only the thing he
sees but the spirit of his vision. Without apparent effort he takes you with him into
a rare, free, natural world, and always you are refreshed, stimulated, enlarged,
by going there.
He is of course a distinguished naturalist, probably the most acute, broad-
minded, and understanding observer of Nature living. And this, in an age of
specialism, which loves to put men into pigeonholes and label them, has been a
misfortune to the reading public, who seeing the label Naturalist, pass on, and
take down the nearest novel. Hudson has indeed the gifts and knowledge of a
Naturalist, but that is a mere fraction of his value and interest. A really great
writer such as this is no more to be circumscribed by a single word than America
by the part of it called New York. The expert knowledge which Hudson has of
Nature gives to all his work backbone and surety of fibre, and to his sense of
beauty an intimate actuality. But his real eminence and extraordinary attraction
lie in his spirit and philosophy. We feel from his writings that he is nearer to
Nature than other men, and yet more truly civilized. The competitive, towny
culture, the queer up-to-date commercial knowingness with which we are so busy
coating ourselves simply will not stick to him. A passage in his Hampshire Days
describes him better than I can: "The blue sky, the brown soil beneath, the grass,
the trees, the animals, the wind, and rain, and stars are never strange to me; for I
am in and of and am one with them; and my flesh and the soil are one, and the
heat in my blood and in the sunshine are one, and the winds and the tempests
and my passions are one. I feel the 'strangeness' only with regard to my fellow
men, especially in towns, where they exist in conditions unnatural to me, but