Chapter 4:

[Diego Rivera: Nude with Calla Lilies (1944)]

Part Three:

Hudson and the Pastoral

William Henry Hudson


Questions of Genre

For reasons of rhetoric - that is to say, for clarity - most of the argument so far has been conducted in terms of binary oppositions. In the Introduction a distinction was made between 'mythologies' and 'fictions' of South America, so as to be able to differentiate the presuppositions we all share from the creative elaboration of those concepts in writing. It was made clear at the time that this was a model devised to stand in for a far more complex situation. but as this 'dialectic' pairing was complicated by the subsequent discussion, as well as being supplemented by new paradigms in each successive chapter, it is hoped that this methodological convenience has been justified.

In Chapter One, a prototype for examination of a single author in terms of synchronic context and individual variations was proposed. The chronological elasticity required in order to characterize the intellectual milieu which gives definition to a work of literature was stressed, in much the same way as the exigencies of genre in the next two chapters. In Chapter Two, then, our binary opposition was between the text and the experience of the construct known as a 'Naturalist's Voyage'; while in Chapter Three I attempted to reintroduce the distinction between Latin American and European perceptions of the same continent which had already been raised in my preface, as well as the Introduction.

Clearly, each of these pairings constitutes an ongoing argument, with only partial resolutions offered in the context of each 'author-study'. Our progress up to this point, however, demands that we now turn to scrutinize the question of possible distinctions to be made between 'fictionalizations' of 'South America' in overtly factual writing, and 'fictionalizations' in fiction. Fiction is. undoubtedly, a matter of intention. I do not mean by this to say that one simply 'intends' to write in a particular genre, and therefore does so - but rather that the suspension of veritas in favour of verisimilitude, an essential concomitant of fiction, requires a greater intensity of intention than other forms of narrative prose. One might begin to write a history or a biography and consciously falsify or distort the data at one's disposal, but this is still to recognize, without honouring them, a set of convictions about the fixity of the outside world, A more likely case is that someone will attempt to describe an event or a theory and simply get it wrong - through idleness, or inattention, or faulty self-expression. All of which serves to confirm that a belief, no matter how attenuated, in at least the possible truth of what is being said is an inescapable part of the process of reading non-fictional prose.

Fiction, on the other hand, requires a far greater suspension of conventional standards of judgement from both of its audience and its author. The author tries to make his narrative make sense (as it were, 'be real') in context - but his relationship to the outside world is now almost that of a Platonist to the 'forms' or archetypes of reality, He need not echo any event that ever occurred or any characteristic of the reality with which he is familiar, but he must provide a sufficiently tangible cosmos to convince his readers, as they read, that it has significance for them.

Attempting to pose the question in a more concrete way, one might say that our project must be to differentiate between the sorts of reading appropriate to W. H. Hudson's specifically 'Naturalistic' texts - The Naturalist in La Plata (1892), Idle Days in Patagonia (1893), or Far Away and Long Ago (1918) - and his 'South American Romances': The Purple Land (1885), El Ombú (1902), and Green Mansions (1904). (It is, however, also of retrospective interest in terms of our discussions of the 'factual' Journal of Columbus and 'fictional' Romance Oroonoko of Aphra Behn in Chapter One - not to mention the elaboration of 'fictional' elements involved in the textualization of experience in Darwin's Journal of Researches and Cunninghame Graham's historical biography A Brazilian Mystic.) There is no simple and immediate answer to such a question, since it introduces a distinction that was almost certainly not felt to be crucial by Hudson himself. The same sensibility, after all, expresses itself in both sets of works - in not dissimilar terms. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the matter can be profitably considered if it is approached in the following manner.

I have said that Hudson's works all express the same 'sensibility'. One very obvious way in which this becomes apparent is Hudson's dependence on a limited set of themes and images which appear to have a significance for him beyond their immediate meaning in context. One of the best examples - and one which is discussed in Ruth Tomalin's biography of Hudson (1984, pp.120 & 148) - is his fascination with birds, transferred to images of 'Bird-women' - conceived either as predatory birds of 'prey (like the witches in 'Pelino Viera's Confession' (1883)), or as guileless song-birds (Rima in Green Mansions or Fan in Fan, The Story of a Young Girl's Life (1892). Hudson was an ornithologist of some distinction. and wrote a number of books about British and South American birds, so it is important to note that this tendency tends to manifest itself more when he is discussing women than when he is dealing specifically with birds. In other words, women are seen by him in avian terms, but not necessarily vice versa.

Other examples of Hudson's predominant imagery include snakes (or 'serpents'), which have a two-fold significance for him. On the one hand they recall Biblical phrases and themes to him (particularly 'bruising the heel'[1]) - expressions appropriate to his role as the 'High Priest' of Nature. On the other hand, they allow him to express that alien, almost malignant spirit - inimical to mankind - which he felt at times to reside in objects as various as rivers, trees, and (especially) human and animal eyes. One might go on to point out various sub-branches and sub-sets of these clusters of images - trees, seen as animate but not necessarily anthropomorphic beings; rivers, related to snakes, but also to women's hair and bodies (in 'Dead Man's Plack' (1920)); also plains - the plains of Patagonia (in Idle Days in Patagonia), the Pampas, the Cotswold downs, and outspread vistas in general. Having made the contention, though, the next thing is to substantiate it.

These images recur obsessively in Hudson's work, but with different meanings depending on their diverse contexts. The remnants of Hudson's projected Book of the Serpent (reprinted in four chapters of The Book of a Naturalist (1919)). for example, show the same fascination with snakes as the 'seduction' scene in Green Mansions - where Abel has his heel bitten while attempting to seize Rima - but whereas in the first case Hudson is content to explore the facts and myths surrounding the creature, in the second he dramatizes it and gives it a thematic purpose in the work as a whole. This difference in function, which can be more or less extrapolated to cover other employments of these images, suggests a provisional solution to the question of how to present this dichotomy between fiction and non-fiction. We can interrogate the images in Hudson's fiction, since they must (by definition) be serving some dramatic function, however minor, in context. We cannot, however, repeat this process with the images in his autobiographical or 'Nature' writings - since the system of which they are a thematic part has expanded to include the whole of Nature, of his life, or (if you prefer) of the world. This, then, is the difference between the two classes of work - the non-fiction aims to comment on reality, and therefore moves within a system which is too large to be apprehensible critically; the fiction, on the other hand, comments only on its own cosmos (however closely that may echo the real one), and can therefore be scrutinized in terms of its immediate meaning within that smaller system.

What this means in practice is that we can submit these images to critical inquiry without lapsing into the biographical or psychoanalytical speculation which would be otherwise inevitable. A further point growing out of this one should, however, be raised first. Hudson was born and brought up on the Argentinian pampas (as he describes in Far Away and Long Ago), but left there in his early thirties to pursue his work as an ornithologist in England. All of his books date from this later period, and at least half of them are set in England (though the preponderance of South American settings is greater in the novels).

Is there, then, some structural distinction - along the lines of the one proposed between his fiction and non-fiction - to be made between 'fictional' versions of England and South America? This is obviously a crucial point for the purposes of this chapter - and one to which a 'cumulative' answer is offered by the thesis as a whole - but, at present, the best procedure would appear to be to continue to use our 'image-clusters' as the vehicles for discussion, by the simple expedient of noting any differences in the treatment of women and snakes in, say, A Crystal Age (1887), set in an England of the future, and The Purple Land; or Fan (set in London), and Green Mansions.

[Audrey Hepburn in Green Mansions (1959)]


Themes and Images

(a) Fiction – Non-Fiction

Speaking of this serpent with a strange name [the 'serpent with a cross'], I recall the fact that Darwin made its acquaintance during his Patagonian rambles about sixty years ago; and in describing its fierce and hideous aspect, remarks, 'I do not think I ever saw anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, some of the vampire bats.' He speaks of the great breadth of the jaws at the base. the triangular snout, and the linear pupil in the midst of the mottled coppery iris, and suggests that its ugly and horrible appearance is due to the resemblance of its face, in its shape, to the human countenance.

This idea of the ugliness or repulsiveness of an inferior animal, due to its resemblance to man in face, is not, I believe, uncommon; and I suppose that the reason that would be given for the feeling is that an animal of that kind looks like a vile copy of ourselves, or like a parody maliciously designed to mock us. It is an erroneous idea, or. at all events, is only a half-truth, as we recognize at once when we look at animals that are more or less human-like in countenance, and yet cause no repulsion. Seals may be mentioned - the mermaids and mermen of the old mariners; also the sloth with its round simple face, to which its human shape imparts a somewhat comical and pathetic look. (Hudson, 1924, p.25)

A number of points could be made about this quotation, but I think it best to begin by discussing the reasons Hudson gives for disagreeing with this observation of Darwin's. Hudson, though a reluctant convert to Evolutionism in his youth, was always jealous of Darwin's renown as a commentator on South America. The rather personal nature of this feeling was betrayed in an exchange of views which took place between the two in the 1870 Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, over the habits of the Carpintero, a South American woodpecker. Hudson remarked. with regard to a passage in The Origin of Species (1859):

However close an observer that naturalist may be, it was not possible for him to know much of a species from seeing perhaps one or two individuals, in the course of a rapid ride across the pampas ...

The perusal of the passage ... to one acquainted with the bird referred to, and its habitat, might induce him to believe that the author purposely wrested the truths of Nature to prove his theory; but as his 'Researches', written before the theory of Natural Selection was conceived - abounds in similar misstatements, when treating of this country, it should rather, I think, be attributed to carelessness (Tomalin, 1984, p.89).

Darwin replied quite mildly, pointing out his evidence for the assertion, but complaining: 'I should be loath to think that there are many naturalists who, without any evidence, would accuse a fellow worker of telling a deliberate falsehood to prove his theory' (Tomalin, 1984, p.90).

That lack of evidence was, in fact, the point. It is no disparagement of Hudson to say that, despite his considerable erudition in the field of natural history, he was never a man of science in the strict meaning of the term. Hudson had observed this woodpecker all his life, and had a close knowledge of the wildlife of his own district - he therefore assumed that the visiting expert Darwin, in his 'rapid ride', could have seen little that he had missed. His argument swiftly descends to personalities. Darwin, on the other hand, had the work of Don Felix de Azara (a celebrated Argentinian Naturalist) to back him up, as well as the evidence collected on a number of his own visits to the north bank of the Plata. The difference, then, amounted to the fact that Hudson's primary focus was on the bird - and his own experience of it - while Darwin's was on the conclusions that might be drawn from its habits. Hudson, too, was familiar with Azara's work, which he used extensively for his own work on Argentine Ornithology (1888-89), but his view of birds and animals and their habits remains an impressionistic one by comparison with Darwin's devotion to 'generalization' (as discussed in Chapter Two above). To make the point more clearly, further examples of this essential difference in attitude between the two can be quoted from Hudson's later work.

In the chapter on 'Eyes' in Idle Days in Patagonia, for example, Hudson complains:

For sober fact one is accustomed to look to men of science; yet, strange to say, while these complain that we - the unscientific ones - are without any settled and correct ideas about the colour of our own eyes, they have endorsed the poet's fable [of green eyes] (Hudson, 1924, p.193).

Hudson, then, accepts the designation of 'unscientific' - but points out that writers like himself may achieve a more accurate picture of things by not being so burdened with presuppositions. Thus, to return to our starting point - the controversy about why the face of the 'serpent with a cross' seems so horrible to human beings - it is hard to believe that Darwin meant his own observations on the subject very seriously (though ideas of this kind would figure in his later work on The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)), but to Hudson this sort of speculation about precisely why we find a particular face in Nature more horrible than another was of the utmost concern. Neither of them has much time for the 'poet's fable' - comments about Nature must be based on close observation in both cases; but to Hudson, nevertheless, the personality and experience of an observer is of more than peripheral interest. All of his nature writings thus become a sort of 'natural autobiography' - or adventure of the soul among birds and beasts. Darwin's final word on the subject (in the 1888 edition of The Origin of Species) was to call Hudson 'an excellent observer" (Tomalin, 1984, p.91): a discreet phrase which avoided the vexed question of his qualifications as a theorist.

In some ways, then, the difference between Darwin and Hudson's conclusions about the snake is more a question of genre than of fact. It would be incorrect to regard Darwin's view as 'more correct' simply because it is closer to the modern view of the separation of science and belles lettres.

it is true that there is something human in the faces of this and perhaps of other pit-vipers, ... as Darwin remarks; and that the horror they excite in us is due to this resemblance: what he failed to see was that it is the expression rather than the shape that horrifies. (Hudson, 1924, p.26)

What Hudson, in his turn. failed to see was that Darwin was not really very interested in the snake or its expression, except as a means to an end - proof of the processes of 'Natural Selection' in Nature.

Hudson's disagreements with Darwin and other men of science must therefore be seen partly as misunderstandings, based on a failure to recognize that they were arguing fom different premises; yet it is a striking fact that, despite this confusion, the two intellectual stances had sufficient in common for discussion to take place at all. Hudson, for example, calls Darwin's theory to account for the horror evoked by the snake's expression, 'an erroneous idea, or, at all events, ... only a half-truth', thus implying that he thinks there is a single discoverable cause for this emotion. When he goes on to specify that it is the expression of the face, rather than its admitted resemblance to a human, that causes us to shudder, the divergence widens.

Looking at a serpent of this kind, and I have looked at many a one, the fancy is born in me that I am regarding what was once a fellow-being, perhaps one of those cruel desperate wretches I have encountered on the outskirts of civilization, who for his crimes has been changed into the serpent form, and cursed with immortality. (Hudson, 1924, p.26)

On the face of it, it is a little surprising to find an argument with Darwin couched in terms such as these - 'mermaids and mermen', metempsychosis, and people 'cursed with immortality' - but it is essential to realize that, given Hudson's terms of reference, these are statements with their own kind of precision. He wishes to convey to us how he feels when he looks at the face of this type of serpent, and these literary analogies provide an exact gauge of his emotion.

The area of discourse inhabited by Hudson's nature writings is made clearer when one looks at two further 'controversies' in Idle Days in Patagonia - one with Darwin (again) over why 'these arid wastes' of Patagonia had taken 'so firm possession' of his mind' (Hudson, 1924, p.203); and the other with Herman Melville, over his statement in Moby Dick that it is the quality of whiteness which makes creatures like 'the polar bear, and the white shark of the tropical seas ... so much more terrible to us than other savage rapacious creatures that are dangerous to man' (Hudson, 1924, pp.112-13).

Taking the first of these first, Darwin thought that this feeling was caused by the fact that the 'plains of Patagonia are boundless, for they are scarcely practicable, and hence unknown' (Hudson, 1924, p.203). Hudson complains that since then the plains have become 'practicable', and yet have lost nothing of their allure; and so it must be that 'the grey, monotonous solitude woke other and deeper feelings [than those of 'wonder and admiration']. and in that mental state the scene was indelibly impressed on the mind' (Hudson, 1924, p.206). In the second case, Hudson complains of the vagueness of this 'illusive something'(Hudson, 1924, p.111) which is supposed to distinguish 'the innermost idea of this hue' (the 'whiteness of the whale'), and proceeds to explain away the various instances given in evidence by Melville in terms of the 'animism that exists in us, and our animistic way of regarding all exceptional phenomena' (Hudson, 1924, p.116).

The 'solutions' to both of these controversies may seem as vague as the original statements - but Hudson goes to great pains to define them in all their ramifications, devoting a chapter to each one. The interesting thing about these disagreements, however, is that Hudson makes no distinction between a statement about the 'quality of whiteness' in a novel about a white whale, and Darwin's musings in his Journal of Researches over why the plains of Patagonia have remained so impressed on his mind. And yet he is not ignorant of this genre distinction - he remarks, à propos of Melville, that the dissertation on whiteness in his 'romance of Moby Dick, or The White Whale ... is ... perhaps the finest thing in the book' (Hudson, 1924, p.110). Similarly, with Darwin, he makes no acknowledgement of the marginal nature of these speculations about Patagonia in the narrative from which they are extracted. though he does hint at it by calling it 'a passage which, for me, has a very special interest and significance' (Hudson, 1924, p.203).

I suspect, therefore, that this is a deliberate misapplication for effect of statements taken out of context, rather than an actual misreading of their significance. One could perhaps sum up its effect by saying that Hudson's non-fictional writings - be they Naturalistic or autobiographical - inhabit a very particular generic space. It is an space which should be equated with the more fanciful moments of researchers like Darwin, as well as the more analytical portions of novels like Melville's. To define this textual area of Hudson's accurately, it will be necessary to match it against that occupied by his own fiction - but it is perhaps sufficient for the moment to say that it is like an essayist's mixture of anecdote, analogy and analysis. Like Montaigne, Hudson takes a topic, records his personal experience of it - referring to parallels in his equivalent of the classical literatures, the writings of other Naturalists - and finally decides his case by appealing to the 'common sense' view of the question. Both Melville and Darwin, therefore, are grist for his mill. It is not. that he has mistaken the function of their writings, but rather that he is adapting to them to his own purposes.

Returning to snakes, then, the following passage, from Hudson's short story 'An Old Thorn' (1920), mentions:

the ivy, rising like a slender black serpent of immense length, springing from the roots, winding upwards, and in and out, among the grey branches, binding them together, and resting its round, dark cluster of massed leaves on the topmost boughs. That green disc was the ivy-serpent's fJat head and was the head of the whole tree. and there it had its eyes, which gazed for ever over the wide downs, watching all living things, cattle and sheep and birds and men in their comings and goings; and although fast-rooted in the earth. following them, too. in all their ways, even as it had followed him. to break him at last. (Hudson, 1935, pp.129-30)

The reference to 'him' is to the protagonist of the story, Johnnie Budd, hanged for sheep-stealing in 1821, and celebrated throughout the West Country for his insistence on stopping to beg forgiveness of a 'wishing tree' which he believed himself to have wronged, on his way to trial. This incident, which Hudson learnt about by talking to local people, may well be historical – nevertheless, it is written as fiction, with all the characters reimagined and remotivated (the constable, the unfortunate Johnnie, his wife Marty, and even, as we have seen, the tree itself).

The fact that the tree is festooned with ivy is a simple matter of observation (the 'old thorn' in question was still alive in Hudson's time), and even the resemblance of this ivy to a 'slender black serpent' could be passed off as a fairly straightforward simile; but when we arrive at the 'ivy-serpent's flat head' which was also 'the head of the whole tree, and there it had its eyes', it is obvious that we are going beyond metaphor into what Hudson himself ca1ls 'animism'. The tree is the thematic centre of the story despite the fact that it remains inactive throughout - each one of Johnnie's misfortunes being implied by Hudson to be linked to his original 'defiance' of the thorn by climbing on its branches as a child. [t is made clear, however. that while this link exists, it may be purely within Johnnie's mind - in fact, this is the explanation to which both Johnnie and Hudson (as the narrator) cling. Even the prayer to the tree before the trial is portrayed in passive terms - certainly it has no good effect on Johnnie's fortunes.

There is, then, a hierarchy of readings suggested by this story. On the one hand there is 'Hudson the narrator's' - which is that such local anecdotes record the last vestiges in England of 'tree-worship':

I had formed the opinion that in many persons the sense of a strange intelligence and possibility of power in such trees is not a mere transitory state but an enduring influence which profoundly affects their whole lives. (Hudson, 1935, p.111)

Then there is the opinion of Johnnie and the whole district (as they are portrayed in the story), which is that the thorn seems to have power over the people and creatures around it, and that it is wise to placate it whether or not one really believes it to be a supernatural entity. Finally, there is the view of the 'common reader', who tends to take it as a ghost story, with the tree taking a blind, unconscious revenge on anyone who arouses its ill-will (like Johnnie and the other children). It is according to this last reading that the 'serpent' makes most sense - a literal personification of the force which inhabits this piece of neutral nature.

Hudson the writer is careful not to declare himself too unequivocally for any of these readings - the last and most credulous of them is fostered by him through the suggestive grouping of events, but he never endorses it with any unequivocal descriptions of supernatural phenomena. He pays lip-service to the first, rationalist reading - implied to be his own - but undercuts it at the same time with leading statements (such as the one quoted above) about the presence of inchoate forces, beyond good and evil, in nature. The middle view is the safest - providing for both possibilities - but Hudson is careful to make it clear that all of his information comes from local report and gossip, that none of these events may ever have happened, and that therefore the acceptance even of so open a view would be making too many assumptions about the reliability of tradition. Hudson's avoidance of 'closure' may thus be seen to be symbolized by the central figure of the tree - an actual, existing thorn (we are told); also the central character of a ghost story; also a local landmark with slightly unwholesome associations.

The serpent, however, complicates the matter. Trees, of course, are associated with snakes from the Adam and Eve story; but this snake is not so much a spirit of evil as a blind power that echoes the motives with which it is approached. The 'old thorn had been a good thorn to him - first and last' (Hudson, 1935, p.109), says an old friend of the narrator's, as he recalls an escape from a thick mist which he attributes to its intervention. Johnnie, on the other hand, is crushed by it as he and his friends 'crushed' its branches. Hudson, then, might be seen to suggest here a revisionist reading of the Genesis story - the 'bruising of the heel' as a reaction caused by the 'crushing of the head'. This fits his own pantheist spirit, and yet allows him still to use this image to suggest something of his own disquiet at the existence of forces in our world with such a blind power for destruction. The snake, then, performs a thematic role out of proportion to its actual presence in the story. Since it is only in this description of the tree (presented as a vision of Johnnie's during the trial) that Hudson lets his mask of inscrutability slip for even a moment, he could not be said to be declaring himself unequivocally for a supernatural reading of his narrative; but he does make it clear that the sense of menace which is evoked there defies any easy spirit of rationalization.

Other snakes in Hudson's fiction include the one in Green Mansions which bites Abel on the occasion of his first encounter with Rima, but I shall be discussing this in more detail later. For the moment, then, our first example can be supplemented by another from Hudson's early novel The Purple Land.[2] In the chapter The Woman and the Serpent', Hudson's philandering hero Richard Lamb encounters a 'fat señora' (Hudson, 1930, p.104) whom he has to flatter in order to avoid going to prison (her husband is the local magistrate). After this she shows a distressing inclination to follow him about, until one day she is frightened off by 'a pretty little snake, about eighteen inches long, which she had seen gliding away at her feet' (p.108). Lamb, observing this, decides to catch the snake ('a harmless species, one of the innocuous Coronella genus (p.109)):

It occurred to me that if I kept it on my person it might serve as a sort of talisman to protect me from the disagreeable attentions of the señora. Finding it was a very sly little snakey ... full of subtle deceit, I put it into my hat, which, when firmly pressed on to my head. left, no opening for the little arrowy head to insinuate itself through. (Hudson, 1930, pp.109-10)

Predictably, when he next encounters the señora and removes his hat - 'Unfortunately I had forgotten the snake, when out it dropped on the floor; then followed screams, confusion, and scuttling out of the kitchen by madame, children, and servants' (p.110).

The innuendo in this passage is obvious enough, but any sexual double-entendre remains a subtext. What is more interesting is the varied uses which the snake is put to as a narrative device. On the one hand, there is the contrast which is made between the unreasonable fear felt by the large woman. and the understandable panic of the small snake:

how gigantic and deformed a monster that fat woman must have seemed to it! The terror of a timid little child at the sight of a hippopotamus, robed in flowing bed-curtains and walking erect on its hind legs, would perhaps be comparable to the panic possessing the shallow brain of the poor speckled thing when that huge woman came striding over it. (Hudson, 1930, pp.108-9)

Hudson appears to be transferring his hero's own horror at the size and feminine attributes of the woman to the snake ('how gigantic and deformed a monster'), while in the process defining himself as small and harmless. The significance of the byplay with the hat is that it is all a bluff - the harmless. sexless nature of the snake meaning that the woman is no danger from any 'poison'. The woman's fear of the serpent is both physical and symbolic - she is afraid of being bitten or stung, but this serves as a mask for her real fear of it as the type of the seducer. And, of course, it has this effect because she is herself both repelled and attracted by the notion of adultery with Richard. The snake serves to externalize for both of them their true reaction to the situation they find themselves in - in Richard's case, it reminds him that 'innocent' flirtation with young girls is his real desire: adult sexuality (in the form of his 'child-wife' Paquita) is what he is in flight from; for the woman, it is a reminder that seductions have consequences, and that her good-looking young guest may prove a 'viper in the bosom', An appropriate punishment for the snake is therefore transferred to the man who harboured it:

I soon heard him [the magistrate] loud in a stormy altercation with his wife. Perhaps she wanted him to have me decapitated. (Hudson, 1930, p.111)

In the end, however, like the snake, they simply let him go.

The 'sly little snakey' in this episode is, then, the vehicle for a series of rather disturbing Freudian puns - 'the viper in the bosom', the 'little arrowy head' in the hat, and the view of a woman (as opposed to a girl) as a 'hippopotamus, robed in flowing bed-curtains'. Since it serves to remind us of some of the underlying tensions beneath Richard Lamb's picaresque progress, however, it could not be said to be an unimportant element in the story. Even on such a level as this, Hudson gets a certain resonance out of his fascination with snakes, while, on a larger scale (in 'An Old Thorn' or Green Mansions), they serve as indicators of a story's entire theme.

If we return to our original question: the relation between the employment of 'image-clusters' (such as that associated by him with snakes), in Hudson's fiction and non-fiction - it should now be possible to make some effective distinctions. The most obvious is, of course, scope. The snakes in Hudson's nature writings act as rather obscure gauges of emotional tension. When, in Idle Days in Patagonia, Hudson wishes to delineate the state of mind of one of the 'aboriginal inhabitants', to whom 'the river ... is the most powerful thing in nature, the most beneficent. and his chief god', he concludes by saying that it 'would appear a sinuous shiny line, like a serpent with a glittering skin lying at rest on the grass' (Hudson, 1924, pp.42-43). Similarly, on discovering that a poisonous snake has been sleeping with him all night. he remarks:

My hospitality had been unconscious, nor, until that moment, had I known that something had touched me, and that virtue had gone out from me; but I rejoice to think that the secret deadly creature, after lying all night with me, warming its chilly blood with my warmth, went back unbruised to its den. (Hudson, 1924, pp.24-25)

We have here another example of Hudson in Biblical mood - the serpent has touched him, as the woman touched Christ, and 'virtue had gone out from me'. He rejoices that it has gone back 'unbruised to its den', a sort of innocent succubus; but his own eccentric reaction of 'rejoicing' at the snake's sleeping with him inspires more psychological than technical interest in the reader.

It is difficult, in other words, to get beyond biographical character analysis when scrutinizing the images in Hudson's non-fictional writings. We know that snakes are important to him, but we are no closer to knowing why after listing many such citations than after reading one. In his fiction, on the other hand, the snake images which we have looked at are forced to provide their own significance. The 'snaking' ivy around the tree in 'An Old Thorn' is, to be sure, proof of Hudson's tendency to see things - especially things of an ambiguous moral nature - in terms of serpents, but it also has a specific (and unsettling) function within the narrative. In a sense, then, Hudson has sublimated his fascination for snakes into an emotionally resonant story. Similarly, in The Purple Land, written thirty years earlier, a snake is made to assume the weight of responsibility for Richard Lamb's philandering which is shirked by him in the rest of the novel, mainly (one feels) because it is a snake.

The difference in function can be made clearer if we discard this image for a moment, and take a more particular look at the book from which I have principally been quoting, Idle Days in Patagonia. In the last chapter, 'The Perfume of an Evening Primrose', Hudson attempts to characterize the sensations that overcome him when he smells the flower:

when I approach the flower to my face and inhale its perfume, then a shock of keen pleasure is experienced, and a mental change so great that it is like a miracle. For a space of time so short that if it could be measured it would probablv be found to occupy no more than a fraction of a second, I am no longer in an English garden recalling and consciously thinking about that vanished past, but during that brief moment time and space seem annihilated and the past is now. (Hudson, 1924, p.234)

In effect, he finds himself 'again on the grassy pampas, where I have been sleeping very soundly under the stars'. This passage was published in 1893. Marcel Proust published Du côté de chez Swann in 1913. There is therefore little possibility of direct influence (since it seems unlikely that Proust read Hudson) in their independent use of this image of the past restored in a moment by a taste or a scent. What is most interesting about this anticipation, though, is the difference of employment that is masked by the similarity of the two sentiments.

The point can be perhaps emphasized by reference to Borges's short story 'El Congreso', where a group of people meet in Argentina to form a 'Congreso del Mundo que representaría a todos tos hombres de todas las naciones' (Borges, 1985, IV: 119) ['a Congress of the World that would represent all men
of all nations' (Borges, 1980, p.20)]. As they continue to meet, their plans become larger and larger - their library more unwieldy - until the founder, don Alejandro Glencoe, burns their headquarters to the ground:

- Cuatro años he tardado en comprender lo que les digo ahora. La empresa que hemos acometido es tan vasta que abarca - ahora lo sé - el mundo entero. No es unos cuantos charlatanes que aturden en los galpones de una estancia perdida. El Congreso del Mundo comenzó con el primer instante del mundo y proseguirá cuando seamos polvo. No hay un lugar en que no esté. El Congreso es los libros que hemos quemado. El Congreso es los caledonios que derrotaron alas legiones de los Césares. El Congreso es Job en el muladar y Cristo en la Cruz. El Congreso es aquel muchacho inútil que malgasta mi hacienda can las rameras. (Borges, 1985, IV: 128-29)

['"It has taken me four years to understand what I am about to say," don Alejandro began. "My friends, the undertaking we have set for ourselves is so vast that it embraces - I now see - the whole world. Our Congress cannot be a group of charlatans deafening each other in the sheds of an out-of-the-way ranch. The Congress of the World began with the first moment of the world and it will go on when we are dust. There's no place on earth where it does not exist. The Congress is the books we've burned. {The Congress is the Pictish tribes who routed the legions of the Caesars.} The Congress is Job on the ash heap and Christ on the Cross. The Congress is that worthless boy who squanders my substance on whores,'" (Borges, 1980, p.32)][3]

Proust's evocation of the past has meaning within a context; his memories of Combray, Balbec, Venice provide the narrator with a framework within which he can make sense of his entire life, and (by extension) the lives of his friends - Swann, Chari us, Saint-Loup. Hudson's experience has meaning within the world he inhabits, and hence is partial, a fragment of experience incapable of leading to any transcendent 'Temps retrouvé'. Proust's novel is 'autobiographical' - as is Hudson's travel book - but the difference is that Proust has organized his life as a complete fictional structure, whereas Hudson has clung to the skeleton of fact. It may be that Proust imposes a false order on the life of 'Marcel'; it may also be that Hudson's book is no more faithful to fact than Du côté de chez Swann - the intention, the context, the genre is everything: the system of meaning within which a personal image is allowed to mean.

[Bust of W. H. Hudson (Argentina)]

(b) South America – England

The bird-language of an English wood or orchard, made up in most part of melodious tones, may be compared to a band composed entirely of small wind instruments with a limited range of sound, and which produces no storms of noise. eccentric flights, and violent contrasts, nor anything to startle the listener - a sweet but somewhat tame performance. The South American forest has more the character of an orchestra, in which a countless number of varied instruments take part in a performance in which there are many noisy discords, while the tender spiritual tones heard at intervals seem, by contrast, infinitely sweet and precious. (Hudson, 1924, p.159)

The quotation above comes from the section in Idle Days in Patagonia in which Hudson seeks to differentiate between English and South American bird-song. I have already mentioned his tendency to see women in terms of birds - either predatory, like Mary Starbrow in Fan ('she walked away, her head well up, and with that stately bird-like gait seen in some women' (Hudson, 1892, I: 71); or innocent and guileless, like Fan herself in that novel ('Fan went out for her walk feeling as light-hearted as a linnet ... and as she walked along with swift elastic tread she could hardly refrain from bursting bird-like into some natural joyous melody' (Hudson, 1892, I: 154-55)). It therefore seems best to examine the distinctions to be made between his fictions of England and South America with this as our basis, in much the same fashion as our discussion of 'snakes' in the last section.

To begin with, some more quotations from Fan may make the terms of debate clearer. Mary Starbrow, Fan's protector and (virtually) lover ('I love you now, and find it sweet to love you, as I have never loved anyone of my own sex before' (Hudson, 1892, I: 127)), is described as having a 'male-bird gait ... for with us, as with the birds, stately walk and beautiful plumage go together' (Hudson, 1892, I: 71). To increase incipient unease still further, one of her fits of temper is described thus:

Her face had changed to a livid white, and looked hard and pitiless, and her eyes had a fixed stony stare like those of a serpent ... from time to time her rage would rise to a kind of frenzy, and find expression in a voice strangely harsh and unnatural, deeper than a man's. and then suddenly ris)ng to a shrill piercing key that startled Fan and made her tremble. (Hudson, 1892, I: 218)

This is when she has had a disagreement with her (male) lover, and again emphasizes the masculine nature of her character - 'No tiger in the jungle maddened by the hunters has such strength as I felt in me then' (Hudson, 1892, I: 221). She vows not to forgive him:

Never - never - until his viper head has been crushed under my heel! ... Ah, how sweet to scorch the skin and make the handsome face loathsome to look at! (Hudson, 1892, I: 219)

It might then be not too gross a simplification to say that the snake here represents the masculine principle - that of rage and deception - while the 'guileless song-bird', in this woman-dominated novel, denotes feminine innocence. Certainly, when Fan begins to be tutored by a female atheist, Constance Churton - atheism being an aspect of 'unwomanly' intellectualism - her mother Mrs. Churton muses thus over the possible consequences:

Had she told this gentle human dove that she must learn the wisdom of a serpent from a serpent - a kind of Lamia who had assumed a beautiful female form for the purpose of instructing her? (Hudson, 1892, I: 296)

Again, when Fan's wicked brother 'Arthur Eden' seeks to tempt her into an incestuous relationship with him. he invites her on an outing to the zoo:

In the snake-house a brilliant green tree-snake of extraordinary length was taken from its box by the keeper, and Eden wound it twice round her waist; and looking down on that living, coiling, grass-green sash, knowing that it was a serpent, and yet would do her no harm. she experienced a sensation of creepy delight. which was very novel, and curious, and mixed. (Hudson, 1892, II: 261)

A 'sensation of creepy delight' is what readers may feel, too, when we observe the adroitness with which Hudson manages the rather morbid themes of lesbian aggression (in Mary's case), incest (in 'Eden's' - a reference to Cain's wife?), and intellectual sterility (in Constance's). The narrative may be a little absurd, but it is notable that any impression it gives of a serious attempt to deal with these issues is achieved by covert manoeuvering of his favourite images: birds and snakes. The same dichotomy is revitalized by the use of fire (again linked to serpents) and water in another of his English fictions, 'Dead Man's Plack':

I am alone with my two friends which I have found, one out of doors, the other in - the river which runs at the bottom of the ground where I take my walks, and the fire I sit before ... This one I think is too ardent in his love - it would be terrible to be wrapped round in his fiery arms and feel his fiery mouth on mine. I should rather go to the other one to lie down on his pebbly bed, and give myself to him to hold me in his cool, shining arms and mix his green hair with my loosened hair. (Hudson, 1935, pp.26-27)

Elfrida begins her career as the 'caged bird of pretty feathers' of Earl Athelwold, who must be ready with a 'sweet song to soothe him when he is tired' (Hudson, 1935, p.26) - the 'Fan' motif: but her ambition soon leads her to transfer her affections to the King, Edgar:

His was the wisdom of the serpent combined with the gentleness - I will not say of the dove, but rather of the cat, our little tiger on the hearthrug, the most beautiful of four-footed things, so lithe, so soft, of so affectionate a disposition, yet capable when suddenly roused to anger of striking with lightning rapidity and rending the offender's flesh with its cruel, unsheathed claws. (Hudson, 1935, pp.11-12)

Elfrida is beguiled by a serpent, whose cunning, however, proves to be matched by her own - but in old age, repenting her sins, she finds peace in her love for the girl Editha, symbolically identified with the river in the first quotation. When Elfrida is finally found drowned. 'it was as if she had fallen into the arms of the maiden who had in her thoughts become one with the stream - the saintly Editha through whose sacrifice and intercession she had been saved from death everlasting' (Hudson, 1935, p.99). A platonic love, to be sure, but still (as in Fan) a love between women surpassing that of men.

The main impression one might get from this imagery is of a poverty of implication - birds as innocent doves (or strutting 'male-birds'), beguiled by serpents, and contrasted again with the qualities of 'fire and water'. Hudson's inability to portray the fruitful union of the two sexes is, to be sure, as apparent in The Purple Land as it is here, but somehow his 'pastoral' vision of shepherds (or gauchos) on the Pampas seems more playful and less didactic. It is not that Fan or 'Dead Man's Plack' are preaching sexual stereotyping - just that Hudson's imagination (and therefore his system of imagery) seems to move on a narrower track when he is no longer distracted by the 'orchestra' of impressions provided by the flora and fauna of South America.

One suggestion why this might be so is provided by Hudson's disagreement with Darwin in Idle Days in Patagonia over the true sources of fascination in the Patagonian plains. I have already quoted his remark that 'the grey, monotonous solitude woke other and deeper feelings [than wonder and admiration]', but it remains to record a further explanation of this phenomenon of 'memorableness ':

We know that the more deeply our feelings are moved by any scene the more vivid and lasting will its image be in memory - a fact which accounts for the comparatively unfading character of the images that date back to the period of childhood, when we are most emotiona1. (Hudson, 1924, p.205)

Hudson claims to have here 'the secret of the persistence of Patagonian images'. but I think we have here also the secret of the greater intricacy and resonance of his system of imagery when applied to South American than to English scenes. It is notable that his 'Proustian' image of total restoration of the past is applied once to Patagonia and then, in Far Away and Long Ago, to his childhood on the Pampas, This, combined with the simple fact of the greater wealth of untamed South American nature, spelt out in Hudson's early poem 'A London Sparrow' (1883), where the birds of the metropolis inspire in him a desire to fly away home to the richer bird,haunts of Argentina, explains the contrast between 'a band ... of small wind instruments' and a full orchestra in the quotation above.

To establish the fact of this greater richness of response, let us look at the use of bird imagery in Green Mansions, where it is associated almost exclusively with Rima, the 'lustrous daughter of the Didi [spirits]' (Hudson, 1954, p.80). The hero Abel's first encounter with her is through the agency of her song, 'a low strain of exquisite bird melody, wonderfully pure and expressive ... [whose] greatest charm was its resemblance to the human voice - a voice purified and brightened to something almost angelic' (Hudson, 1954, pp.38-39). After a while, though, he succeeds in getting a glance at the singer:

a girl form, reclining on the moss among the ferns and herbage, near the roots of a small tree. One arm was doubled behind her neck for her head to rest upon, while the other arm was held extended before her, the hand raised towards a small brown bird perched on a pendulous twig just behind its reach, She appeared to be playing with the bird, possibly amusing herself by trying to entice it on her hand ... From my Rosition it was impossible to see her distinctly, yet I dared not move. (Hudson, 1954, pp.62-63)

The sense of gradual disclosure provided by these early parts of the book is most striking, first the song, then sight of her 'form' indistinctly juxtaposed on that of a 'smallbrown bird', Finally, there is the meeting itself.

Abel picks up a stone to kill a snake, but is halted by the sudden irruption of the girl, accompanied by a 'torrent of ringing and to me inarticulate sounds in that unknown tongue' (Hudson, 1954, p.73). He promptly stops, and attempts to establish contact with her. She seems as curious. but withal as wary as he is, and when a 'swift, startled expression' comes into her eyes,

Thinking she had become alarmed and was on the point of escaping out of my hands, and fearing, above all things, to lose sight of her again so soon, I slipped my arm around her slender body to detain her, moving one foot at the same time to balance myself; and at that moment I felt a slight blow and a sharp burning sensation shoot into my leg, so sudden and intense that I dropped my arm, at the same time uttering a cry of pain, and recoiled one or two paces from her. (Hudson, 1954, pp.788-79)

The ingenuity with which this scene is constructed is quite noteworthy. The pain is, of course, caused by the snake, which has taken the opportunity to attack its aggressor (an opening provided by his moving his foot). Symbolically, it also seems to stand for the 'Natural World's' defence of its sister Rima - who protects all the birds and animals in the forests round about, as the Indians have already told Abel (they regard her as a spirit). The snake can be seen on an allegorical level as well, as the personification of Abel's desire - perhaps not quite so innocent as he imagines. The 'poison' of lust, in other words; the serpent in the garden of Eden. Certainly his advent is the cause of Rima's downfall, though he suffers for it himself:

at last from the top of the tree, out of the green leaves, came a great cry, like the cry of a bird, 'Abel! Abel!' and then looking we saw something fall; through leaves and smoke and flame it fell like a great white bird killed with an arrow and falling to the earth. and fell into the flames beneath. And it was the daughter of the Didi, and she was burnt to ashes like a moth in the flames of a fire. and no one has ever heard or seen her since. (Hudson, 1954, p.242-43)

Fire again is opposed (though less mechanically in this case) to the peaceful spirit of the dove or 'great white bird'.

One important difference between the deployment of Hudson's favourite images in these passages from Green Mansions and the ones taken from Fan and 'Dead Man's Plack' is the fact that they can be more naturally evoked in the setting of South America. Rima lives in the woods, surrounded by wild birds and snakes, whereas Fan has to visit the zoo in order to be fitted with a 'grass-green sash', and go to Kensington Gardens to see the birds. A certain sense of absurdity is never far off from these English scenes, whereas the greater alienness and strangeness of the Guianan jungle fits the symbolic nature of Hudson's fiction far better.

It might be objected that Green Mansions is simply a better written novel, and therefore disposes its images more skilfully. Undoubtedly to some extent this is the case, but this begs the question of why these novels differ so greatly in merit. At least one cause must surely be the greater imaginative stimulus provided by the South American landscape. To sum up, then, a good deal of Rima's effectiveness comes from the fact that 'there was a kind of mistiness in the figure which made it appear somewhat vague and distant, and a greenish grey seemed the prevailing colour'(Hudson, 1954, p.63). In other words, the childhood associations which make one scene more memorable than another - the 'greenish grey' plains of Patagonia set against the fields of England - applies also to novel-settings. Rima must always seem far away from us in order to make her effect: at first in physical terms, when she is recognized solely by her song; and later through the strangeness of the lost culture she represents. Abel and she fall in love, but that love contains the seeds of their destruction - the embroidery of birds and snakes forms for once a relatively unobtrusive accompaniment to the emotional force of the narrative.

Extrapolating general principles from the specific set of associations connected with W. H. Hudson is perhaps a little risky, but it ought at least to be possible to say that - in the field of the Romance as a whole - the advantage of a South American setting is its closeness to archetypal, childhood images and associations: forests, birds and water, snakes and fire, which function as avatars of the larger forces in nature, rather than simple personifications of the masculine and feminine. English settings (in Hudson's case, at any rate) are also handicapped by the necessity of providing accurate descriptions in cases where one's accuracy can easily be checked - thus the Gissing-like realism of the early scenes of Fan, and the particularity of her experiences at the zoo; thus, too, the controversy with a 'learned' Professor over the historical accuracy of Elfrida's story at the beginning of 'Dead Man's Plack', a case where he actually goes to the lengths of claiming a sort of spiritualist rapport with his subject in order to justify his conjectures, The distinction may be one of degree rather than of particulars, but it is no less tangible for that, South America, then, in a literal sense has become the 'metaphysical' landscape which we first detected in the works of John Masefield - susceptible to any imaginings that may be imposed on it; any imaginings, that is, which fit the twin conditions of forming part of their author's 'inner landscape', and the larger set of associations of the Pampas, Cordillera and Amazon in European tradition.

[Nicolas Poussin: Et in Arcadia Ego (1647)]


Green Mansions

Pastoral poetry,

has - and this is very important - a correlative scenery: pastoral Sicily, later Arcadia. But it also has a personnel of its own, which has its own social structure and thus constitutes a social microcosm: neatherds (whence the name bucolic), goatherds, shepherdesses, etc. Finally, the shepherd's world is linked to nature and to love. One can say that for two millenniums it draws to itself the majority of erotic motifs. The Roman love elegy had a life span of but a few decades. It was little capable of development or renewal. But Arcadia was forever being rediscovered. This was possible because the stock of pastoral motifs was bound to no genre and to no poetic form. (Curtius, 1979, p.187)

Leaving aside the complex patterns detected at its heart by Empson and Northrop Frye, let us agree for the moment that one of the most basic constituents of Pastoral is the principle summed up in the words Et in Arcadia Ego - the presence of death and decay at the heart of a paradisal landscape. This is most effectively illustrated by Poussin's painting - distant vistas flanked with mountains, and, at the centre of the composition, a group of shepherds trying to decipher the inscription on a tomb. And, in fact, this is much the same image as that which inspired Hudson's story 'Dead Man's Plack' - suggested by the memorial for the death of Earl Athelwold in the forest where he was hunting.

The Arcadia that was, in Curtius's words, 'forever being rediscovered' was identified with the New World of South America from a very early date - its attraction being again that it was tied to 'no genre and to no poetic form'. It therefore suited the prose Romance, Hudson's preferred medium, as well as any other means of artistic expression - painting, drama, poetry or music. He seems to have felt that it went particularly well with the Pampas and the 'bucolic' gauchos, but also with Rima's 'tropical forest' (she too, after all, is a kind of shepherdess - only of wild animals and birds rather than goats and sheep). Hudson's South American version is slightly changed in particulars but remarkably faithful in implication. For the death's-head, he has a snake - symbol both of lust and death: the two forces which must at all costs be excluded from pastoral stasis. Thus the chapter 'Materials for a Pastoral' near the beginning of The Purple Land, where the still innocent Richard Lamb finds shelter for the night with 'a very numerous family' (Hudson, 1930, p.28) (including five pretty daughters - he is only driven away by some too virulent mosquitoes), is succeeded by the moral ambiguities of 'The Woman and the Serpent', where physical love begins to disturb the flirtatious equilibrium which he has contrived to create. (The same 'stock of pastoral motifs' can be paralleled in Sarmiento's Facundo, where the paradisal wonders of Tucumán - in the interior of Argentina - are sullied by the irruption of the barbarian Facundo Quiroga:

Es Tucumán un país tropical, en donde la naturaleza ha hecho ostentación de sus más pomposas galas; es el edén de América, sin rival en toda la redondez de la tierra. lmaginaos los Andes cubiertos de un manto verdinegro de vegetación colosal, dejando escapar por debajo de la orla de este vestido doce ríos que corren a distancias iguales en dirección paralela, hasta que empiezan a inclinarse todos hacia un rumbo, y forman, reunidos, un canal, navegable que se aventura en el corazón de la América ... Los bosques que encubren la superficie del país son primitivos, pero en ellos las pompas de la India están revestidas de las gracias de la Grecia.

... ¿Creéis, por ventura, que esta descripción es plagiada de 'Las mil y una noches' u otros cuentos de hadas a la oriental?

... Facundo había ganado una de esas enramadas sombrías, acaso para meditar sobre lo que debía hacer con la pobre ciudad que había caído como una ardilla bajo la garra del léon
. (Sarmiento, 1981, pp.180-82)

['Tucuman is a tropical country, where Nature has displayed its greatest pomp; it is the Eden of America, and without a rival on the surface of the earth. Imagine the Andes covered with a most luxuriant vegetation, from which escape twelve rivers at equal distances, flowing parallel to each other, until they converge and form a navigable stream, which reaches to the heart of South America ... Primeval forests cover the surface, and unite the gorgeousness of India with the beauties of Greece ... Perhaps one might believe this description to be taken from the "Thousand and One Nights," or other Eastern fairy tales ... Facundo went into one of these recesses formed by shady branches, perhaps to consider what he should do to the poor city fallen into his hands, like a squirrel into the paw of a lion.' (Sarmiento, 1961, pp.152-53)][4]

This is the pattern also (though on a more serious level) in Green Mansions, where Abel's attempt to teach the 'bird-girl' Rima about love results, indirectly, in her death. One imagines that this enshrines one of Hudson's own impressions of nature - the Naturalist's simultaneous desire to shoot and to spare his prey, as evidenced by his encounter with a 'Magellanic eagle-owl':

I scarcely had the heart to pull the trigger ... But I wanted that bird badly, and hardened my heart. (Hudson, 1924, pp.187-88)

Rima was 'burnt to ashes like a moth in the flames of a fire' because of the
inevitable corruption introduced into her life by Abel's love. Abel, in the Bible, is the innocent cause of harm. This one, too, intends no more than a dalliance between shepherd and shepherdess - but in fact rouses the rancour of the forest Indians to whom she is an enemy.

There seem, however, to be personal motives as well in Hudson's employment of Pastoral conventions. Hudson's young girl heroines must at all costs be prevented from becoming predatory, sexual women like Mary Starbrow in Fan, or the señora in The Purple Land. In the case of Fan, the protagonist of a conventional three-volume novel, this is achieved simply by ending the book at an arbitrary point. A more drastic solution can scarcely be avoided with the mysterious Rima, 'without doubt one of a distinct race which had existed in this little-known corner of the continent for thousands of generations, albeit now perhaps reduced to a small and dwindling remnant' (Hudson, 1954, p.76) (a race, what is more, which was 'neither brown nor white' but of an 'indeterminable' (p.63) tint). She must be sacrificed on the altar of her uniqueness. As the heroine of this particular Pastoral, she is constrained to more than other Chioes, Phyllises and Delias, whose problems are limited to the truth of shepherd's tongues. Rima is the spirit of pastoral nature itself, and as such can have no earthly bridegroom.

Classical Pastoral depends on being caught in the present - dalliance will lead to generation, and the seasons advance to winter and death - but, for the moment, it is held in a magic summer, where the innocent tiffs of the shepherds and shepherdesses as yet merely prefigure the 'skull beneath the skin'. Hudson's images, too: birds that become snakes, girls that become women, fires that rend and destroy, can only be held in balance by an especial effort of the imagination - one that is granted by the combination of the natural scenes which were his predilection (the plains of Patagonia and the Pampas, the forests of Guiana and Venezuela) and the emotions invested in them by childhood memory. Hudson cannot bear to contemplate the poignancy of the decline of Fan or Rima (or Yoletta in A Crystal Age) into childbirth, drudgery and death (the fate of Rima's mother), but such a fate can only be temporarily held off even in this landscape of fantasy. It is Hudson's strength that he can use these emotions to good effect in his work, by attempting to make the processes of mortality and corruption more assimilable to himself (and his audience), as expressions of the general will of nature.

How strange to see this stolid, immutable creature ['Nature at home in England'] transformed beyond the seas into a flighty, capricious thing, that will not be wholly ruled by you, a beautiful wayward Undine, delighting you with her originality, and most lovable when she teases most; a being of extremes, always either in laughter or tears, a tyrant and a slave alternately; ... now cheerfully doing more than is required of her; anon the frantic vixen that buries her malignant teeth into the hand that strikes or caresses her ... A thousand strange tricks and surprises will she invent to molest him ['man']. In a hundred forms she will buzz in his ears and prick his flesh with stings; she will sicken him with the perfume of flowers, and poison him with sweet honey; and when he lies down to rest, she will startle him with the sudden apparition of a pair of lidless eyes and a flickering forked tongue. (Hudson, 1924, pp.85-87)

Woman here achieves apotheosis as personified 'Nature' - and we see that Rima's reappearance as ghost (and guide) in the later pages of Green Mansions, while it cannot take away Abel's pain at her death, at least makes it clear that her spirit has some immortality in this form.

What is more, the contrast made here between 'Nature at home' (England) and 'Nature in South America' implies that this is a solution to the technical problem of preserving one's heroines inviolate which is only feasible in the latter setting. After all, if Nature is 'the only woman who can keep a secret, even from a lover' (Hudson, 1924, pp.30) - the secret being how one is to reconcile the innocence of love with the 'corruption' of sex, generation with death, the serpent with the dove - then the dilemma comes closest to being resolved for Hudson in this 'Romance of South America'.

In the next two chapters, we shaH be looking at further implications of the process of 'romancing' South America, including aspects which have been rather downplayed here - such as the contrast between 'real' and 'imaginary' countries as fictional settings, and the associations between particular landscapes and specific types of narrative. It is hoped, however, that the theoretical overview required of this chapter in the context of the argument as a whole has not overpowered any sense of the interest and variety of Hudson's work both as Naturalist and novelist (at any rate, the baroque charm still exerted by The Purple Land, El Ombú and Green Mansions).

[Guiana (1860)]

1. Genesis 3. 15: 'And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel'.

2. Since I shall be quoting from the 1904 revision of the novel, so entitled, I do not think it necessary to use the complete title of the 1885 edition: The Purple Land that England Lost.

3. The portion in curved brackets, omitted by the original translator, has been supplied by me.

4. Note the analogue here to Darwin's mention of 'the Arabian Nights' (quoted in Chapter Two, above); not to mention (to continue a line of argument from Chapter Three), the 'gringa' translator, Mrs. Horace Mann's alteration of Sarmiento's 'America' to 'South America'.

[Jacob Epstein: Rima (1923-25)]

Works Cited:

  • Borges, Jorge Luis. Prosa completa. 4 vols. Barcelona, 1985.

  • Borges, Jorge Luis. The Book of Sand & The Gold of the Tigers: Selected Later Poems. Trans. Norman Thomas di Giovanni & Alastair Reid. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980.

  • Curtius, Ernst R. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. Willard R. Trask. London, 1979.

  • Hudson, W. H. [as 'Henry Harford']. Fan: The Story of a Young Girl's Life. 3 vols. London, 1892.

  • Hudson, W. H. Idle Days in Patagonia. 1893. London, 1924.

  • Hudson, W. H. Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest. 1904. London, 1954.

  • Hudson. W. H. South American Romances: The Purple Land; Green Mansions; El Ombú. London, 1930.

  • Hudson, W. H. Dead Man's Plack, An Old Thorn and Poems. London, 1935.

  • Proust, Marcel. À la recherche du temps perdu. Ed. Pierre Clarac & Andre Ferre. 3 vols. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Paris: Gallimard, 1954.

  • Sarmiento, Domingo Faustino. Facundo: Civilización y Barbarie - Vida de Juan Facundo Quiroga. Colección Hispanica. New York, 1981.

  • Sarmiento, Domingo Faustino. Life in the Argentine Republic in the Days at the Tyrants: or, Civilization and Barbarism. Trans. Mrs. Horace Mann. New York, 1961.

  • Tomalin, Ruth. W. H. Hudson: A Biography. Oxford, 1984.

[Joseph Conrad: Nostromo (1904)]

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