Critical Essays Hudson's World in Green Mansions


Green Mansions is a romance and an allegory, using nature and a tragic love as the background for the presentation of Hudson's ideas and ideals.

Is Hudson, then, a poet, or is he primarily a naturalist in Green Mansions?

Close to the tradition of Western civilization which found great inspiration in nature in classical times, Hudson is a follower of the Romantic movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Wordsworth and Thoreau are spiritual relatives of Hudson. Although he spoke little of the former, Hudson proclaimed Thoreau's Walden as "the one golden book" in the field of nature literature. In an increasingly scientific age, Hudson absorbed influences, such as Darwin's, but he developed his style according to the established patterns of the prior generation. No innovative stylist, Hudson accepted the lengthy, descriptive, and flowery techniques of Victorian prose. His lack of a formal education and his removal from the main currents of literary trends until late in life may be some rationalized explanations for his modes of composition.

The naturalist or the scientist gives the value of his intellect, his experience in research, and his training to any subject. He must, of course, be almost coldly rational and objective in his approach, outlook, and presentation. Hudson, a recognized naturalist before his transfer to England, contributed greatly to the popularization of the South American continent to English-speaking audiences, unaware or scornful of the beauties of that vast, unknown world. Hudson's love and respect for his former homeland clearly won him admirers for his contributions about accurate, stimulating, and revealing aspects of Latin America. Although, ironically, he never visited the precise setting of Green Mansions, his descriptions of the flora and fauna of the region have not been challenged. Nature, always a theme in his writings about South America and England, characterizes the whole atmosphere, setting, and philosophy of the romance.

Hudson believed that the poet, in harmony with the naturalist, must reveal and explain nature. The poet relies upon the senses and the imagination to interpret natural phenomena, and he consequently is personal, emotional, and perceptive. The intuition or the reliance upon the first, swift feelings guides the poet. Hudson is very close to the preceding generation, to poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, in his defense of the lyrical and subjective renditions of the sights of nature.

If, therefore, Hudson is an artist who paints word pictures of nature for his readers, he is likewise restrained in this realm by his commitment to science. But he is, critics seemingly agree, a poet first and a naturalist second. Visual observation is evidently his primary sensorial quality, and Hudson resembles in many ways a painter by his emphasis on colors, linear movements, and harmonious form. Many of the scenes, especially the two dramatic meetings on the mountaintops of Ytaioa and Riolama, can be visualized within the framework of a painting. Hudson speaks of the art of painting very often in his works, and he criticizes photography because it reduces nature to a single dimension. He is very articulate in his poetic descriptions: He can concentrate upon a small creature of the woodland, the leaves of his beloved "green mansions," or the effect of light and shadow upon the setting; or he can write at length about his deep feelings for nature and his vision of humanity's happiness on earth. Thus, Green Mansions is an esthetic creation rather than a scientific treatise, but the book possesses a solid basis in scientific fact which gives verisimilitude and balance to the total effect.

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