Bartram Trail wrote about the effect of William Bartram’s Travels on the English Romantics:
Moreover, Bartram was describing not merely the New World, but one of its most exotic regions, the subtropical forests, rivers, and savannas that were so unlike the tame English countryside, even in the Lake district. Bartram’s America was inhabited by tribes of Indians, whom the English writers saw as “natural men,” the survivors of an ancient civilization, now lying in mysterious ruins, which also suggested many poetical and imaginative associations.
Coleridge read Bartram’s Travels carefully, wrote thoughts and extracts from them in his notebooks, and later withdrew images and stories for his poems. Bartram’s influence is quite evident in several major works of the period: This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison, Osorio, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christobel, Frost at Midnight, Lewti and Kubla Khan.(116) Perhaps most strikingly, Coleridge later used Bartram in The Biographia Literaria to describe the poetic imagination. A passage in the Travels describes the stratified relationship between rocks, clay, soil, and the trees growing at the surface; to Coleridge, this seemed “a sort of allegory, or connected simile and metaphor of Wordsworth’s intellect and genius.”(117)
Wordsworth was also
strongly attracted to Bartram, though his reaction was somewhat milder than Coleridge’s. Scholars have recognized images, ideas, and “echoes” of Bartram’s prose in several of Wordsworth’s writings, including Ruth, The Prelude, The Excursion, A Guide Through the Lake District, and the Ecclesiastical Sonnets.(118) Similar touches have been noted in the work of minor Romantic writers, including Dorothy Wordsworth, Robert Southey, Thomas Campbell, and Felicia Hemens.(119) Since several translations of the Travels were printed in Europe, the full extent of his influence on other writers, especially in France and Germany, was possibly even, greater than scholars have presently determined.
For the Romantics, Bartram’s Travels stated all the principles of order—God, Man and Imagination—that they also recognized as central. Bartram was an unconscious herald of the new ideas they were about to spread; throughout their careers they consciously echoed his single book.