The Argentinian writer, ornithologist and proto-green campaigner William Henry Hudson was a deliberately enigmatic figure. Not fully understood in his own time, he remains difficult to grasp many biographies later. Born into a ‘displaced American family’ in 1841 in Buenos Aires province, he spent his youth roving the vast expanses of the pampas, an observer of its birdlife and a witness to its often brutal frontier culture. He left for England in his early thirties, never to return. In London he cut a striking figure: a tall, tanned and fit South American, who maintained the ‘lithe step of an athlete into old age’.
His struggle to adapt fully to what he called the ‘sad world of London’ produced an eclectic output of writing – books on Argentinian and British birdlife, the English countryside, a memoir of his early years in Argentina and numerous novels. He would only find fame and relative financial security late in life with the publication of the novel Green Mansions, a romance set in South America, which, long after his death, was made into an unsuccessful Hollywood film starring