Nature Writing Essays

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'' Carlyle wrote to Emerson, '' Treats of Florida generally, has a wonderful kind of floundering eloquence in it; and has grown immeasurably old.

All American libraries ought to provide themselves with that kind of book; and keep them as a future biblical article.'' If the more flowery passages in Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales are to be believed, American pioneers were beginning to sound more like William than his father.

Of course, there was much writing that concerned nature before Linnaeus developed scientific classification in the mid- 18th century, but the fascination with nature itself that science evoked was new.

Before Linnaeus, there were hunting stories, fables, herbals, bestiaries, pastorals, lyrics and traveler's tales, but nature generally was seen in only two dimensions.

After Linnaeus began to give even insects impressive Greco-Latinate names, nature rapidly acquired a new substantiality, and became a subject as well as a setting.

By the 1790's, an English country clergyman who a century or two before might have been writing theological treatises or metaphysical poems produced a book (Gilbert White's '' The Natural History of Selborne'') wherein history and religion were interwoven with, sometimes overshadowed by, beech trees and earthworms.

Its scientific orientation deepened, and at the same time it began to question the directions in which economic applications of science were leading civilization.

It became increasingly aware of ecology, in other words.

In fact, early 19th-century frontier letters contain quite a few effusive descriptions of flowery prairies and soaring forests along with more prosaic matters, suggesting that nature-loving in the romantic mode had caught on.

Nature writing changed as romanticism evolved into Victorian pragmatic optimism.


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