The Smithsonian Magazine for May 2017 ran an article about Henry Hudson who collected Latin American birds for the Smithsonian Institution while living a sparse life in Argentina. A bearded loner in threadbare clothes, he sought an income writing about the natural world for journals and the popular press – certainly an insecure way to make a living at best. He was part naturalist, part writer.
Surprisingly, his memoir Far Away and Long Ago has been used in Japan to teach English. According to the article, the measured pace, beautiful imagery, and universal themes of this book written 100 years ago have made the English language come alive for the Japanese students. Eventually, he lived out his life in England arguing with Charles Darwin about woodpeckers and becoming admired as a writer. Joseph Conrad, no slouch as a writer himself, was a friend, and novelist Morley Roberts called him “an eagle among canaries.” His London Times obituary deemed him “unsurpassed as an English writer on nature.”
For all of that, he suffered the rejection common to writers as he offered his work to magazines and journals. I loved one quote attributed to him, “It occasionally happened that an article sent to some magazine was not returned and always after so many rejections to have one accepted and paid for with a cheque worth several pounds was a cause of astonishment.” I share his pain, if not his English spellings. I can verify that following many rejections, from dismissive to gentle, having one accepted and paid for with a check worth several dollars remains a cause of astonishment.
For what it’s worth, if you are as intrigued with this naturalist writer as I was, his book is available for free from Amazon on Kindle.