CULTIVATING THE WILD
April 20, 1739 – July 22, 1823
More than two centuries have passed since the publication of William Bartram’s Travels in 1791. That his book remains in print would be notable enough. But Bartram’s work was visionary. It fostered the development of a truly American strain of natural history, ornithology, and botany. His writings transcended scientific boundaries to deeply influence Coleridge, Wordsworth, and other Romantic poets. And his text continues to ignite the imaginations of Southerners who love nature.
Throughout Travels, Bartram reveals a deep spiritual connection to nature as a manifestation of divine Creation. He rejects the elevation of humans over animals and plants in favor of seeing all life as a continuum, with humans an integral part of nature rather than set apart from nature. Bartram’s holism not only lays the foundation for major themes of modern ecological science, but also for nature writing and environmental philosophy far earlier than Henry David Thoreau, the American usually credited with starting these movements.
all William Bartram artwork and Bartram Trail map © / The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London