Some Outstanding Problems in Bartram:

            Or What Did Billy Know and How Could He Have Known It?

 

          Today, more than two--hundred years since the publication of  William Bartram's Travels, the book is universally regarded as a  minor classic.  In Florida, where many of the book’s most famous passages occurred,  the  book is an outright classic.  And for good reason.  Bartram, was  the first native--born American to write a book of literary  consequence about our region.  Then too, Bartram's tome is  responsible in a great part for the way Florida came to be  thought of.  Bartram  loved Florida.  He regarded the state as North America's Eden.  He set the tone for much of the writing about the state that came  after him.         

          A cliched term in writing circles these days is "resonance."   But resonant, cliched or not, is a correct designation for Bartram’s Travels.  The book was published in 1791 in America.  The press run was about a thousand copies and was not reprinted in the U.S. until 1928 (Travels Naturalist’s xxiii).  The first British edition came out the following year‑‑just as the new crop  of British writers were giving up on the staid, formulaic  rationalism of Neoclassicism and turning toward the Romantic.  In spite of its seemingly low sales in Bartram’s homeland, before the turn of the 19th Century, editions were published in Ireland, Germany, Holland, France, Vienna and possibly Sweden.

             According to N. Bryllion  Fagan, Bartram's Travels was "the first genuine and artistic interpretation of  the American landscape."  Given the book's subject matter,  natural history, and Bartram's poetic and artistic  interpretation, little wonder that the book was (again following  Fagin) "to fascinate Romantic poets and nature lovers in many  parts of the world,"  which it certainly did.  Coleridge copied many passages,  sometimes whole pages from Travels, into his notebook (128).  Professor John Livingston Lowes, in Road to Xanadu, has  shown that "none of the books Coleridge was reading during the  gestation of "The Ancient Mariner" left more lively images in his  memory than Bartram's Travels" (Lowes 46).  Similarly, the Euphrates in  Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" flowed from Bartram's Florida rather  than the Mideast’s Mesopotamia.                                                  

          The Wordsworths--both brother William and sister Dorothy--appear  to have been readers and admirers of Bartram.  Lowes tries to show, perhaps a bit  tenuously, that Dorothy’s notebook entry on daffodils--which brother  William turned into the famous poem--was inspired by Bartram.  However, his exegesis on her "Floating Island" rings true, given the masses of floating vegetation which are common on the Saint Johns River and elsewhere in Florida.

          Among the other writers of note who owe some degree of  homage to Bartram are Southey, Shelley, Tenneyson.  Carlyle asked  Emerson if he had read the book and expressed the belief that  "all American libraries ought to provide themselves with that  kind of book" (Fagin 6).   Is it merely an accident that Emerson's "Nature"  and Bartram's general philosophy of nature are so closely  parallel, asks Fagin?  Thoreau could be expected to  have treasured Bartram‑‑and indeed he did.  Even Lafcadio Hearn  seems to have fallen under Bartram's sway in Leaves from the  Diary of an Impressionist.  Not surprisingly Chateaubriand uses  Bartram as the background for his poem, Atala, which was set in  Florida, a place Chateaubriand had never visited. 

          Given the early success of his work‑‑or at least what from  the vantage point of two centuries seems the early success of his  book--one might assume William Bartram was a member in good standing of the nascent literary and intellectual  establishment of colonial and federalist America.  In a major way he was.

          Although William's father was born a simple Quaker farmer in  Pennsylvania, he became the leading American botanist; Linnaeus  called him "the greatest natural botanist in the world" (Fagin 1).   Crevecoeur devoted one of his epistles to John Bartram;  he  Frenchified the name as John Bertram in Letters from an American  Farmer."  Pater John established the first botanical garden in  the country and cofounded with Ben Franklin the American  Philosophical Society.  So, yes, young William Bartram had  advantages of an intellectual and artistic sort not available to  many youngsters, especially in a new country like the British American colonies.

          However, William had difficulty making the most of his  opportunities. That the boy had talent, in drawing in particular,  was apparent early on.  But his  impractical ways thoroughly vexed his father.  An attempt to  establish young Billy‑‑he was 22 at the time‑‑as a trader in  North Carolina under the tutelage of his uncle was a failure.   Billy then accompanied his father on a botanical tour of what was then known as East Florida.   Billy was powerfully attracted to  the subtropics and at the end of the journey he begged his father  to be allowed to stay in Florida, where the latter set him up as  an indigo planter on the St. Johns near Picolata.  Billy was 27 then‑‑and he failed again. 

          Henry Laurens, soon to be president of the Continental  Congress, left this description of Billy and his plantation.  "A  gentle, mild young man, [with] no wife, no friend, no companion,  no neighbor, no human inhabitant within nine miles of him . . .  totally devoid of all comforts of life, an unpleasant and  unhealthy situation, six negroes, rather plagues than aids to  him, of whom one is so insolent as to threaten his life, one a  useless expense, one a helpless child"--perhaps this experience  gave Bartram his lifelong detestation of slavery (Fagin 9).  In any case,  William returned to the Philadelphia area and the mercantile  life where in his late twenties and early thirties, he ran up  debts totaling more than 100 pounds.  He dealt with these debts  in his usual responsible fashion, by deserting his creditors and running back  to Carolina where he wrote a botanical correspondent of his  father in England, one Dr. Forthergill, suggesting he sponsor a  botanical expedition to Florida.  Fothergill’s true interest was northern plants that could be grown in England, but as a Friend  as well as friend, he thought it "a pity that such a genius  should sink under duress," and offered to bankroll the  expedition.

          So at the age of 33 in 1773 William Bartram embarked on what  was to become the most famous botanical journey ever undertaken  in America.  The outbreak of hostilities with Britain forced Bartram to break off his explorations and return to the rebelling colonies.   For whatever reason,  Bartram did not prepare a manuscript until almost fifteen years  after the end of his truncated journey.   

       

          By some standards, Bartram's Travels may  have  seemed a success.  George Washington, John Adams and Thomas  Jefferson subscribed to the work (Travels Naturalist’s xxii).  We have already discussed the  editions brought out in Europe, none of which it appears sought  the approval of the author.  In other words, he wasn't paid for  the foreign publications or perhaps even knew of them.  But what  William did know about was the controversy that raged around his  book at home.  For one thing, his approach didn't seem right for  a scientific treatise:  "Many rhapsodical effusions might have  been omitted with advantage to the work" a reviewer in The  Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine wrote (xxiv).  "In description  he is rather too luxuriant and florid to merit the palm of  chastity and correctness," said the massachusetts review.  Then  there were those who objected to matters of fact:  "it is much to  be regretted that with his opportunities this amiable author had  not written with a greater degree of precision."  This last  reviewer by the way was a Floridian‑‑non other than Bonaparte's  nephew, Achille Murat; he wrote several decades after the book's  publication but his is a typical specimen of the criticism  leveled at Bartram.

          Bartram did, perhaps by virtue of the family position,  maintain a solid reputation as a botanist nevertheless.  He was  offered the chair of botany at the University of Pennsylvania  before his book came out, and Thomas Jefferson wanted to appoint  him as botanist to the Lewis and Clark expedition afterwards,  both of which he turned down.  Still, Bartram's old age was vexed  by what Alexander Baldwin called "suspicions of his veracity.  It  was truly a feast to me to observe how his time‑worn countenance  brightened up at the vindication of his character, which I  informed him I was prepared to offer" (Travels Fothergill 127).

          And in the years after Bartram's death in 1822 the pendulum  continued the reverse swing.  Bit by bit, scientific observers  replicated Batram's observations.  Initially, for instance, Sir  Charles Lyell expressed skepticism about the behavior of  alligators as reported by Bartram.  Later he wrote, "all my  inquiries here [in Georgia] and in Louisiana convinced me that he  may be depended on.”  Other naturalists such as Major Le Conte  expressed similar doubts; in LeConte's case, as well in others, he  reversed himself later.  "For my own part I must say that having  traveled in his track I have tested his accuracy, and can bear  testimony to the absolute correctness of all his statements.”

          By the twentieth century Bartram had become established in  scientific circles as a reliable source on the natural history of  the regions in which he'd traveled.  In other words, his  observations were accepted generally without critical comment.   To the close observer, however, there were still some troublesome  elements in Bartram's Travels.    Francis Harper, a research  associate at the John Bartram Association in Philadelphia, wrote,  "a large difficulty with nearly all [his] critics has been on a  sort of insistence on a literal interpretation of everything he  wrote.  They overlook the fact of his dreamy, impractical, poetic  nature, which, in the view of a fair-minded person should entitle  him to a little leeway--the proverbial poetic license--in his  literary flights" (128).  "In Bartram's intellectual make-up  there was an undeniable streak of carelessness," Harper noted (130).  "His indifference and inaccuracy in matters of dates,  distances and dimensions constitute a virtual "blind spot" in his  mental vision.  For instance, Bartram's often claimed to have  ascended the St. John's or River San Juan as he liked to call it  for more than 400 miles.  In that case the headwaters of the  stream would be somewhere in Cuba.   Harper goes on to say:   "His memory was evidently faulty" and points out the protracted  spells of illness Bartram suffered by way of allowance.   Bartram's "erroneous estimates of distances and dimensions may  have been due, at least in part, to defective eyesight.”  The chronology of the Travels,  Harper continues, "is so sadly confused as to have misled  practically all who have attempted to cite his dates."  Yet in  spite of all this, Harper concludes "there can be no question of  Bartram's fundamental integrity as a naturalist."   And as noted  above, Harper's conclusion is the prevailing one in the  scientific community.

          Forgetting for the moment the general high regard Bartram is  held, there are several problems in Bartram that have not yet been  satisfactorily resolved.  This paper will examine two of them.   The first is the problem of the bird‑‑that of Bartram's Vultur  sacra.  The second is the problem of the mystery palm tree.

          Among the field marks  Bartram notes for his vulture sacra or painted vulture are a bare neck of "deep bright yellow intermixed  with coral red . . . .  The crown of the head is red; there are  lobed lappets of a reddish orange color which lie on the base of  the upper mandible. . .   The plumage is generally white or cream  color except the quill feathers of the wings and two or three  rows of the coverts which are of a beautiful dark brown" (Travels 138).   The only problem with his sighting is that no one but  Bartram has ever recorded a bird of this sort in Florida‑‑or any  place else in America north of central Mexico.

          "The  palm‑trees here seem to be of a different species from the  cabbage tree; their straight trunks are sixty, eighty, or ninety  feet high, with a beautiful taper, of bright ash colour, until  within six or seven feet of the top, where it is a fine green  colour, crowned with an orb of rich green plumed leaves" (113).  The tree described here is immediately recognizable as the  royal palm.  As the name implies, the royal palm is a  regal tree.  What other palm, or any other plant for that matter,  has a trunk of such distinctive color, ash gray.  Then there is  the graceful taper and the excessive height the plant commonly  attains, as Bartram observes, 60, 80 or 90 feet.  One of the  royal palm's more unusual features is the way the bright green  leafstalk clings to the trunk.  The plumed or feather‑like leaves  shoot out, as Bartram notes, at a ninety degree angle forming a  sort of crown. 

          Bartram located this stand of trees a few miles south of the  present crossing of Hiway 40 over the Saint Johns.  Hiway 40 is  the road that connects Ocala with the northern Daytona suburb of  Ormond Beach.  Unlike the king vulture, the royal palm has long  been known to be a member of the natural community of Florida.    The problem is that the tree is quite cold tender.  Its requirements may be termed tropical.  Bartram is the only  observer who has reported it outside of the far--southern tropical  reaches of the peninsula.  In short, he reports royal palms  a distance of approximately two hundred miles north of any other observer.

          The question then is how did Bartram happen to report that  bird and find those trees where he claims to have?   And what difference does it make in our understanding of Bartram?

          To Francis Harper--the Bartram research associate, who  labored long over the manuscripts of both Bartrams--the answer is  quite simple.  "We may conclude," he argues,  "that the King  Vulture actually occurred in Florida in Bartram's time, although  it has not been definitely recorded since then.  Certain severe  freezes in subsequent years may have brought about a local extinction of the bird.  In 1835, for example," Harper continues,  "a severe northwest wind blew for 10 days, and the thermometer  dropped to 7 degrees; the St. John's River was partly frozen, and  "all" fruit was killed to the ground" (Introduction 359).   Similarly regarding that  stand of royal palms, he reasons (following Cooper 1861) that the  trees "have not been reported so far north in Florida by  subsequent observers, and it is presumed that they did not  survive the `freeze' of 1835" (354).

          On the face of it, that argument seems reasonable enough.   Tropical creatures and vegetation are known not to be fond of cold.  True enough, it has been very cold  in Florida many times since Bartram traversed the peninsula  before the Revolutionary War.  Aside from 1835, there were the  Great Freezes of 1894‑5.  More recently the peninsula has experienced the iron freezes of the 1980s‑‑1983, 85, and 89, where the  temperature fell to 7 degrees or lower in some of the northern  portions of the state.  And there have been many other similar  freezes in 1917, 1940, in the late fifties and the early sixties.

          And that is exactly the problem with Harper's argument.   Yes, there was a super-dooper freeze in 1835, but just as it  wasn't the last such freeze, why assume it was the first one in  however many thousands of years that would be required for  tropical species to migrate into central Florida?  There is  internal evidence aplenty in  Bartrams' private journals that  the climate of central Florida was at least as sharp then in the  winter months as it is now.  For instance, when Bartram was in  the area of present-day Palatka on November 8-10 (probably in  1774--Billy could never keep his years straight), he recorded a  spell of unusually brisk weather which included two and perhaps  three straight nights of below freezing weather (Travels Fothergill 163).  And this was in  early November.  Although modern record minimums in the area do fall to the freezing point, such temperatures are very very rare.   Bartram had spent at least two and perhaps three winters in Florida previously in his failed career as an indigo planter.  He did not remark on the unusualness of the weather.

          Then there was the even more peculiar meteorological event  that occurred at almost the same location where William described  the mystery palm.  His father John Bartram camped near that spot on his tour  of the Saint Johns in the winter of 1765‑66  where he recorded a  26 degree overnight low on the morning of January 3 (John Bartram 39).*

          Obviously, in order to make a definite determination for or  against Harper's argument about the climate of central Florida,  hard scientific data was needed.  The herptologist Dr. Jack Myers, suggested pollen studies might be able to provide the  clues required.**  As fortune would have it, one such study was conducted at  Mud Lake, Marion County, Florida.  Bartram cited the mystery  palms a few miles south of present‑day Hiway 40.  Mud Lake is a  few miles north of Hiway 40 and perhaps twenty miles west of the  location of the mystery trees.

          Fossil pollen  of individual plant species is easily identifiable.  Since fossil pollen is preserved in the sediment of lake bottoms, core  samplings are taken and radio‑carbon dated.  A careful study of the  sediment, therefore, can yield a historical record of plants  growing in the locality.  The plant community, so I  reasoned should, or at least could give evidence about the climate  over a period of some centuries.

          W. A. Watts, who is on the faculty of Trinity College,  Dublin Ireland, conducted the sampling and resultant analysis.   Watts' prefatory remarks seemed to hold out especial promise for  the problem of tropical palm trees in a warm‑temperate area of  the state.  "The Florida peninsula," Watts noted, "where pine and  oak forests grade into stands of subtropical vegetation is a very  suitable area for the study of Pleistocene movements of the  temperate‑subtropical ‘tension zone’" (632).

          After all, isn't Bartram's sighting of the tropical palms in  warm‑temperate central Florida a report of the northward movement  of this tension zone'?  Just as heartening was the notice that  unidentified pollen accounted for only about two percent of all  recovered. So what did Watts report?  Namely that the tree pollen  examined were basically, pine, red maple, wax myrtle, elm, ash  and cypress.  In sum, he says, "it may be concluded that the  vegetation and environment of Mud Lake has changed little in the  last 5000 years" (637).   In short, he offers no evidence for holding  that subtropical species may have found a favorable refuge in the  area.

          Since I am not by formal training qualified to interpret  this data, I wrote the author.  I explained my problem was  essentially one of literary exegesis that required scientific  analysis and asked him to render an opinion.  In particular, I  mentioned that I felt the lack of pollen from other subtropical  species was a puzzle.  Why wouldn't a climate that fostered the  nurture of royal palms not also accommodate some of the  subtropical species these plants grow in association with farther  south? 

          Dr. Watts did not answer, but Dr. Barbara Leyden of the  University of South Florida, who Mark Brenner of the University  of Florida directed me to, did.  Dr. Leyden’s return correspondence cited a past occurrence of royal palms in the area, no doubt Bartram’s own citing, the fact that palm pollen, due to its unique structure, would not necessarily turn up in core samples, and that "the 1700s were colder than today.”

Photos above were taken at the point Harper identified as Battle Island. 

          Obviously, the foregoing data are somewhat confused.  I'm even willing to say that my attempts to straighten  matters out have only confused them the more.  However, I do  think it fair to say my investigation casts doubt on Harper's  hypothesis that after many decades, no centuries, of consistently  warm winters a rogue killer freeze came along in 1835 and  destroyed the king vulture and the royal palm in Central Florida.  Watts' pollen study of  Mud Lake showed no great variation in climate‑‑as reflected by  the vegetation‑‑in the area in the past five thousand years.  Nor  does the historical record suggest that the climate was more mild  in central Florida in Bartram's day‑‑as a matter of fact, Dr.  Leyden presented an opinion it was actually cooler then than now.   Finally, let us not forget that by 1835, Florida had been an  American territory for a decade and a half.  American plantations  lined the banks of the Saint Johns and steamboats plied its  waters.  Among the passengers on one of those boats was John  James Audubon‑‑yet neither he nor anyone else reported passing  the stand of the mystery palms or seeing a painted vulture.    

          The larger question, of course, is why is this significant in  terms of Bartram?  But before trying to come to terms with that  question, let me first try to develop a scenario that would  explain the passages in question.  There can be no doubt Bartram wrote what he did.  Similarly,  credibility would be stretched‑‑given Bartram's hard‑won  reputation as a naturalist‑‑to deny that the passages have some  sort of correlation with reality.  In other words, the man might  have had some irresponsible qualities, but he was also a hell of a naturalist.

          The easier of the two problems is the one of the bird.  We  are not ornithologists.  That discipline has its own demanding  criteria and rightly so.  Ornithologists might require a specimen  in hand or confirming reports by reliable observers before  accepting a species as native in a given range.  We don't.  It's  pretty obvious to me that Bartram described a species not  currently found in the state‑‑as opposed to giving a poor  description of a bird that is still here.  In fact, since I have  no scientific reputation to uphold I'll even venture to say his  painted vulture was indeed a king vulture.  What happened to the  king vulture?  Birds have wings.  It is entirely possible that  Bartram shot and examined the only stray that ever arrived in  central Florida.  Then too there is the fact that king vultures in their present range in south and central America are particularly sensitive to human encroachment.  Bartram tells us the Seminoles used their tail feathers.  As Bartram  noted elsewhere, the Seminoles "wage eternal war against the deer  and bear. . . indeed carried to an unreasonable and perhaps  criminal excess, since the white people have dazzled their senses  with foreign superfluities."

          The problem of the tree is much more difficult to resolve--even by the reduced standards of lit-crit speculation.  Trees have roots.  Centuries would have had to pass before the royal palm, on its own, could have traveled from the locations in which it grows wild today in Broward or Collier Counties to the Lake‑Volusia boundary.  But who says the royal had to arrive in  central Florida on its own?  The Native American was probably the  greatest of all  aboriginal horticulturists.  The wild orange  groves Bartram described were kept in a state of  semi‑cultivation by the Indians. Isn't it possible that they  brought seeds or young trees of royal palms from south Florida for ceremonial or  other purposes? 

          But if the Indians planted the trees, why was Billy the only  Bartram to note them‑‑his father, his majesty's botanist on an  official expedition, passed by the spot without a word about any  unusual palm species.  As a matter of fact, the elder Bartram did  make a note about palm trees in the area:  he said:  "We now came  to plenty of the tree palmetto, which the inhabitants call  cabbage tree" (John 39).  In sum, the palm tree he cites is the common sabal palm of Florida.  Nor did anyone else who ever traveled on the  Saint Johns see one of the mystery palms. 

          On the other hand, from the description Bartram gives it is  perfectly apparent what he described was a royal palm.  There simply  isn't any other tree growing in Florida that could be mistaken  for that description.  The passage itself is peculiar for any number of reasons.   For starters, he wastes no words‑‑something very unusual for  Bartram who could wax ecstatic on a minnow.  Yet, this magnificent tree‑‑one that more prosaic, garden-variety botanists have garlanded with the term “royal”‑‑Bartram could spare  no more than seven lines on.  And he is hesitant about it as  well‑‑he says they "seem to be a different species."

          Even more peculiar is Bartram's failure to take note of this  species in his report to Fothergill  penned at the time.  He mentions it only in the book‑‑which  he published more than a decade and a half after he supposedly  made the observation. Then there is the puzzling fact that in his report to Fothergill he refers to the “Timber in the Swamp, Elm, Ash, Scarlet Maple, Water Oak, Red Bay, Palm Trees and underneath small Palmetos, Elder, & variety of Shrubs and Plants, but I discovered nothing new” (Travels Fothergill 152).  Two paragraphs later, when still discussing the general area where the royal palms are sited in Travels, he speaks of “Live Oak, Laurel & the proud waving Palm Tree.”   "Palm" singular when  mentioning tree species in a new locality (Travels Fothergill ).  Why wouldn't he  speak of palms, if two species grew in the area?  Indeed, why wouldn’t he make special mention of them altogether instead of saying, “I discovered nothing new”?

          It is important to understand that Bartram thought of his  book as a literary endeavor as well as a scientific one, much as  Zora Hurston seemed to regard Mules and Men, an anthropological  text with literary overtones.  He had no scruples about reordering events to squeeze more drama into the text.   For instance, the famous incident of the bear in the orange trees that's described in the alligator section near what appears to be presently called Stagger Mud Lake, actually occurred on Crescent Lake.  Also, he had a companion with him during the famous alligator battles, but in the book it appears as though Billy  faced the gators alone.  He left the matter of the November  freeze out of the book, probably because it would spoil the paradisiacal element he had gone to great lengths to develop.  All  this isn't to say that he didn't take his job as a naturalist  seriously.  He did.  It's just that he didn't always apply the same rigid standard many modern scientists do.  Once Harper even  found Bartram to have "placed in the Mississippi a mollusk that  is known only from the Altamaha in Georgia" (Travels Fothergill 130).

          I think the sort of carelessness noted in the example of the Mississippi mollusk is quite likely how the royal palms came to be located on the Saint Johns.  Bartram's hesitance and diffidence in  discussing what most‑‑including himself‑‑would consider a major  discovery reinforce me in that belief.  The main hurdle to accepting that solution is the equally thorny matter of explaining how Bartram could have witnessed such a stand of trees anywhere. But did he necessarily have to witness the trees?  Bartram was a Romantic and highly impressionable.   Isn't it possible one or more of the Indians may have told him about this strange palm tree growing elsewhere in the state.   It's even possible he heard that story in the 1760s‑‑twenty‑five years before Travels was published.  A description of a second species would have made a strong impression on a botanist‑‑and perhaps (under those circumstances) a rather weak impression in his book.  Then the matter of more than a decade between the end of his travels and the writing of the book may well have produced the shift from being told to his belief that he observed it  himself.  That decade, of course, was a wild one.  The  Revolutionary War was fought and then afterward there was the  national ferment and foment of casting about for a means of  governing the former colonies.  Bartram lived in the Philadelphia  area.  Many distractions would have taken his mind off his southern journey‑‑even if he was a Quaker and prone not to let his head be turned by such things.

          Then, too, there is the possibility that he actually did see  royal palm trees‑‑growing not in central Florida but in south  Florida.  Evidently William worked for De Brahm, Florida's first  geographer during his 1766‑67 sojourn in the territory.  The map which  presumably appeared in the original Travels‑‑Van Doren includes  it in the much republished 1928 edition--bears the notation "Wrecked here" in  the lower coastal portion of the map.  It's obvious he was aboard  that ship‑‑presumably de Brahm was too‑‑but no one has yet  turned up an account of that expedition.  Was it coming up the coast from the south, as the position of the vessel seems to  indicate?  Oddly, Bartram never said much about his activities in  Florida in the 1760s. 

          In any case, given the usual criteria we use to make critical judgments, Bartram's  report of the royal palm near present day Astor is highly  suspect.  The larger question is what difference does it make?  To scientists, the answer would appear to be a lot.  Suddenly, Bartram would become a suspect source.  His entire canon would have to be rethought, or at least that is the impression I have received from the extreme resistance many scientific Bartram aficionados (none of whom was cited in this essay) have shown.  Many of them, are absolutely adamant, that a grove of royal palm trees was once located on the shores of Lake Dexter, never minding the lack of supporting data.  Literary folk, on the other hand, have much less to lose.  We already knew Bartram was a Romantic, and by planting a mystery palm grove in the pages of his Xanadu, he only reinforces our previous impression of him, and perhaps makes him a bit more endearing.  

 

                                                Notes

          *  Some slight internal counter-evidence exists supporting the possibility of subtropical vegetation in Central Florida in the Bartrams’ times.  For instance, after citing the 26 degree freeze, John adds “many curious evergreens up the river, that were near twenty years old, and in a flourishing state” were destroyed.

          ** I must thank the following “hard” scientists for their interest and advice, many of whom have been intrigued by these Bartram puzzles themselves:  Jack Myers formerly of University College of Belize, Paul and Hazel Delcourt of the University of Tennessee, Mark Brenner and Tom Webber of the University of Florida.  

                                                Works Cited  

Bartram, John.  “John Bartram’s Diary.”  Annotated by Francis Harper. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society.  New Series--Vol. XXXIII, Part I (December 1942), 1-122.

Bartram, William.  “Travels in Georgia and Florida, 1773-74: A Report to Dr. John Fothergill.”  Annotated by Francis Harper.  Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series--XXXIII, Part II (November, 1943) 123-242.

______________.  Travels of William Bartram.  Edited by Mark Van Doren. Reprint of 1791 edition. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1928.

______________.  Travels of William Bartram, Naturalist’s Edition.  Ed. by Francis Harper.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958.

Fagin, N. Bryllion.  William Bartram: Interpreter of the American Landscape.  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1933.

Leyden, Barbara W.  Personal letter, dated December 3, 1992.

Lowes, John Livingston.  The Road to Xanadu: A Study in the Ways of the Imagination.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1927.

Watts, W. A.  “A Pollen Diagram from Mud Lake, Marion County, North-Central Florida.”  Geological Society of America Bulletin, Vol. 80, 1969, 631-642.  

 

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