In his study of Romantic naturalists and early environmentalists, Dewey W. Hall asserts that William Wordsworth and Ralph Waldo Emerson were transatlantic literary figures who were both influenced by the English naturalist Gilbert White. In Part 1, Hall examines evidence that as Romantic naturalists interested in meteorology, Wordsworth and Emerson engaged in proto-environmental activity that drew attention to the potential consequences of the locomotive's incursion into Windermere and Concord. In Part 2, Hall suggests that Wordsworth and Emerson shaped the early environmental movement through their work as poets-turned-naturalists, arguing that Wordsworth influenced Octavia Hill’s contribution to the founding of the United Kingdom’s National Trust in 1895, while Emerson inspired John Muir to spearhead the United States’ National Parks movement in 1890. Hall’s book traces the connection from White as a naturalist-turned-poet to Muir as the quintessential early environmental activist who camped in Yosemite with President Theodore Roosevelt. Throughout, Hall raises concerns about the growth of industrialization to make a persuasive case for literature's importance to the rise of environmentalism.
Dewey W. Hall is Professor of English at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, USA. During his residence as a Mayers Research Fellow at the Huntington Library in 2012, he completed much of the writing for this book.
’Romantic Naturalists, Early Environmentalists makes a contribution to scholarship in the field by bringing together a range of transatlantic authors - White, Wordsworth, Emerson, Hill, and Muir - to show their literary, philosophical, environmental, ecological, conservationist, and preservationist intersections. It is a wide-ranging study that makes connections not previously foregrounded in criticism.’ Douglas Kneale, Brock University, Canada, author of Romantic Aversions: Aftermaths of Classicism in Wordsworth and Coleridge 'This book brings a historical perspective to the most important discussion of our time. It takes the observation and recording of natural phenomena by Gilbert White in eighteenth century Southern England as its starting point, showing how this seemingly simple activity influenced thinking through the nineteenth century. Dewey W. Hall clearly demonstrates the influence of the new sciences such as meteorology on the literature of two hundred years ago.' Jeff Cowton, Wordsworth Trust, UK 'This clearly written and enjoyable book makes an important contribution to lanscape studies ...' Environment and History