William Bartram Criticism - Essay

N. Bryllion Fagin (essay date 1933)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fagin, N. Bryllion. “The Art of Bartram.” In William Bartram: Interpreter of the American Landscape, pp. 101-123. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1933.

[In the following excerpt, Fagin provides an important reassessment of Bartram's Travels, noting unique stylistic techniques and describing underpinnings of his philosophy. Fagin also briefly notes the influences on Bartram as well as the effect he had on later writers.]

Throughout this study Bartram's “style” has received incidental mention. This has been inevitable because of the amount of attention it has attracted from both literary and scientific commentators. English reviewers noted his...

(The entire section is 8894 words.)

Robert D. Arner (essay date 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Arner, Robert D. “Pastoral Patterns in William Bartram's Travels.Tennessee Studies in Literature 18 (1973): 133-45.

[In the following essay, Arner explores Bartram's account of his travels in terms of his personal discoveries and the impact the work had on future American literature.]

Like many of the classic works of American literature, William Bartram's Travels is structured around a three-part pastoral pattern that begins with the naturalist's withdrawal from society, focuses upon an encounter with nature, usually intensely personal and fraught with ambiguities, and ends either with the explorer's return to civilization or with some...

(The entire section is 5412 words.)

Bruce Silver (essay date 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Silver, Bruce. “William Bartram's and Other Eighteenth-Century Accounts of Nature.” Journal of the History of Ideas 39, no. 4 (1978): 597-614.

[In the following essay, Silver argues that critics have overlooked the contribution of Bartram to the naturalist literary tradition. Also investigated is how the Travels characterize the natural world.]

Despite the intellectual productivity of our Bicentennial year, too little was said about colonial Americans whose contributions to our culture were not tied to the decision and struggle for independence. William Bartram (1739-1823), the apolitical son of the Quaker botanist John Bartram (1699-1777), is among...

(The entire section is 8049 words.)

Hugh Moore (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Moore, Hugh. “The Southern Landscape of William Bartram: A Terrible Beauty.” Essays in Arts and Sciences 10, no. 1 (1981): 41-50.

[In the following essay, Moore argues that Bartram's Travels is powerful and effective because of the writer's ability “to write as a Romantic poet with a sense of wonder, feeling, and imagination and as a scientific Rationalist like his father.”]

William Bartram's Travels (1791) is perhaps the most comprehensive work from early America. It is a pioneering and inclusive natural history of the new world—its botany, zoology, geology, ethnology—with observations on agricultural, industrial, and commercial...

(The entire section is 3979 words.)

John Seelye (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Seelye, John. “Beauty Bare: William Bartram and His Triangulated Wilderness.” Prospects: The Annual of American Cultural Studies 6 (1981): 37-54.

[In the following essay, Seelye claims that Travels was originally intended as a record of scientific observations, but a closer look reveals a humanistic tone that is based on the divine providence of nature.]

In September 1753 the American botanist John Bartram set out with his young son Billy from their farm on the banks of the Schuylkill for the Catskill Mountains for the purpose of gathering seeds and plant samples. The journey ended at the Hudson Valley home of Cadwallader Colden, surveyor-general of...

(The entire section is 8691 words.)

L. Hugh Moore (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Moore, L. Hugh. “The Aesthetic Theory of William Bartram.” Essays in Arts and Sciences 12, no. 1 (March 1983): 17-35.

[In the following essay, Moore argues that Bartram is a prime example of a writer trying to describe nature within the context of eighteenth-century aesthetic theory.]

From its publication in 1791, William Bartram's Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida has been praised for its scientific and literary merit. Francis Harper and Joseph Ewan, among others, have demonstrated the value of Bartram's contributions to zoology, botany, and ethnology, the precision of his observations, and the logic of his...

(The entire section is 7243 words.)

Christopher Looby (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Looby, Christopher. “The Constitution of Nature: Taxonomy as Politics in Jefferson, Peale, and Bartram.” Early American Literature 22, no. 3 (1987): 252-73.

[In the following essay, Looby discusses the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Charles Willson Peale, and Bartram in relation to their views on the relationship between the natural order and the social order.]

Natural history,” Benjamin Rush wrote, “is the foundation of all useful and practical knowledge.” He made this remark in 1791, in the context of designing the proper education for the citizens of the new American republic. “By making natural history the first study of a boy, we imitate the...

(The entire section is 9372 words.)

Douglas Anderson (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Anderson, Douglas. “Bartman's Travels and the Politics of Nature.” Early American Literature 25, no. 1, (1990): 3-17.

[In the following essay, Anderson examines the lessons Bartram attempts to teach his reader in Travels, lessons that nature can teach society about its social and political organization.]

William Bartram's Travels (1791), like so many of the most interesting products of the Anglo-American sensibility in the eighteenth century, challenges the reader's capacities of adjustment. It presents itself at various times as a travel journal, a naturalist's notebook, a moral and religious effusion, an ethnographic essay, and a...

(The entire section is 6191 words.)

Pamela Regis (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Regis, Pamela. “Description and Narration in Bartram's Travels.” In Describing Early America: Bartram, Jefferson, Crèvecoeur, and the Rhetoric of Natural History, pp. 40-78. Northern Illinois University Press, 1992.

[In the following essay, Regis examines Bartram's use of narrative as a mode for employing two different description techniques for the external world.]

As an instance of the literature of place, William Bartram's Travels represents large portions of the territories of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to readers eager for images of the New World they had never seen. Using the rhetoric and method of natural history,...

(The entire section is 13877 words.)

Charles H. Adams (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Adams, Charles H. “Reading Ecologically: Language and Play in Bartram's Travels.The Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South 32, no. 4 (summer 1994): 65-74.

[In the following essay, Adams argues that previous characterizations of Bartram have been too narrow, and that in Travels the author creates a world that mirrors the natural one.]

In Part III of his Travels (1791), William Bartram describes a spot on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River near Augusta called Silver Bluff, the property of a trader named George Golphin. “Silver-Bluff is,” he says, “a very celebrated place,” mainly because of the...

(The entire section is 4776 words.)

Joshua David Bellin (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bellin, Joshua David. “Wicked Instruments: William Bartram and the Dispossession of the Southern Indians.” Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory 51, no. 3 (autumn 1995): 1-23.

[In the following essay, Bellin analyzes Bartram's view of native Americans and their use of land compared to the European settlers.]


On June 1, 1773, William Bartram witnessed the Treaty of Augusta, in which Creek and Cherokee Indians, constrained by trade debts, ceded two million acres of land to the Crown.1 While accompanying government agents and tribal chiefs on the surveying mission, Bartram noted a...

(The entire section is 8753 words.)

Gregory A. Waselkov (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Waselkov, Gregory A. “Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida. …” In William Bartram on the Southeastern Indians, edited by Gregory A. Waselkov and Kathryn E. Holland Braund, pp. 25-32. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Waselkov examines the evolution of the manuscript of Bartram's Travels and its general reception.]

William Bartram's Travels has been dubbed “the most astounding verbal artifact of the early republic.”1 Indeed, Bartram's work, which “presents itself at various times as a travel journal, a naturalist's notebook, a moral and...

(The entire section is 3607 words.)

Thomas P. Slaughter (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Slaughter, Thomas P. “Perspectives.” In The Natures of John and William Bartram, pp. 177-96. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

[In the following essay, Slaughter claims that, while Travels is a complicated work that has many facets, there is one message that Bartram wanted to voice more than any other: “all of nature is one … and infused with the spirit of its creator.”]

Is William Bartram's Travels poetry, readers have asked, fiction, or science? Are the author and the “philosophical pilgrim” the same person or different ones sharing the same name? Is the story true, readers have always wanted to know, or did the author alter the...

(The entire section is 7885 words.)

Thomas Hallock (essay date fall 2001)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hallock, Thomas. “‘On the Borders of a New World’: Ecology, Frontier Plots, and Imperial Elegy in William Bartram's Travels.South Atlantic Review 66, no. 4 (fall 2001): 109-33.

[In the following essay, Hallock traces the development of Bartram's Travels, noting its integration of contemporary artistic modes as well as its internal contradictions, and concludes by characterizing the work as one of America's first outstanding pastoral projects.]

such attempts I leave for the amusement of men of Letters

—William Bartram1

As the movement in any pastoral away...

(The entire section is 8528 words.)