Experience and Understanding

  • David Miller


To ask about W. H. Hudson’s understanding of nature, and existence in general, is to ask such questions as: How does Hudson approach existence? What is the foundation or basis of his perceptual and interpretative awareness? In what ways does existence appear in Hudson’s writings? These are some of the issues I will be attempting to deal with. Specifically, I will be fastening upon the notion of attention, in relation to an ‘open’, engaged, empathetic or participative mode of understanding. Attention occurs from a given, finite standpoint, involving a particularised horizon; and it is directed towards an understanding of existence in terms of its various modalities of being. This is not a simple procedure where the beings and things of existence — whatever they may be — are revealed totally, transparently, within an act of knowing: rather there are always layers, depths, degrees, shifting perspectives of illumination, and the process of understanding is an open-ended response to an essentially mysterious alterity. Beyond this, Hudson’s reading of natural and existential details is ultimately directed towards the disclosure of the spiritual or supernatural.


Participative Mode Blue Butterfly Green Enclosure Standing Motionless Fleet Street 
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  1. 1.
    Hugh Kenner, A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers; New York, 1975, p. 94.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Samuel J. Looker, ‘A Study of W. H. Hudson’; William Henry Hudson: A Tribute, ed. Looker; Worthing, Sussex, 1947, p. 39.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays; San Francisco, 1981, pp. 232, 236.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Hudson, The Book of a Naturalist; London, 1980, p. 189.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    W. J. Keith, The Rural Tradition: William Cobbett, Gilbert White, and other non-fiction writers of the English countryside; Hassocks, Sussex, 1975, p. 187.Google Scholar
  6. (He goes on to invoke Blake’s distinction ‘between those who see with and those who see through the eye’.) See also Robert Hamilton’s emphasis on Hudson as a ‘man of vision’, seeing nature ‘in the light of the spiritualized senses’. (W. H. Hudson: The Vision of Earth; London 1946, pp. 1, 4.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    See Hudson’s A Hind in Richmond Park, London, 1922, pp. 54–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 27.
    John T. Frederick, William Henry Hudson; New York, 1972, p. 26.Google Scholar
  9. 29.
    Richard E. Haymaker, From Pampas to Hedgerows and Downs: A Study of W. H. Hudson; New York, 1954, p. 158.Google Scholar

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© David Miller 1990

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  • David Miller

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