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David Douglas’ Canadian Trees: The Romantic Imagination versus the Lumber Industry”

Oliver, Susan David Douglas’ Canadian Trees: The Romantic Imagination versus the Lumber Industry”. In: The Transatlantic Studies Association 18th Annual Conference, 2019-07-08 - 2019-07-10, Lancaster University.

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Abstract

Born the son of a stone mason in 1799 and initially working as a gardener at Scone Palace and at Sir Robert Preston’s Valleyfield estate in Fife, David Douglas became one of Scotland’s foremost botanists and a prominent 19th early century explorer after gaining access to Preston’s extensive natural science library. Valleyfield, which was visited by Robert Burns and Walter Scott, had been landscaped by Humpry Repton in 1800 and contained imported specimen trees. As an estate with aesthetic and literary recognition, Douglas could hardly have wished for a better step towards his eventual main career. His interests led him quickly to take another job at Glasgow Botanical Gardens, where he became friends with William Hooker, Professor of Botany at Glasgow University. Following collecting trips with Hooker in his own nation and then in Pennsylvania, Douglas then went westwards to the Pacific north-western coast to “discover”, name and export to Britain hundred of plant species and the two tree species that would most transform the nation’s forested landscapes: Douglas fir and Sitka spruce. Both trees were commercially valued for their size, straight trunks and fast growth. The sublime proportions and presence of the native trees captivated Douglas at the same time that he helped to ensured their destruction at the hands of the lumber industry. My paper investigates the conflict between a Romantic imagination and the drive for scientific enterprise in Douglas’s letters (including Hooker’s memoirs and extracts from his letter) and his journals from before and during the journey he made with the Hudson’s Bay Company to Port Vancouver (Sketch of a Journey to the North-Western Parts of the Continent of North-America during the Years 1824-27). I will also trace and explore the significance of some of main the literary sources from Britain, Europe and North America that influenced Douglas, including William Curtis’s exquisitely illustrated The Botanical Magazine, for which Hooker was a contributor and eventual editor.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: Published proceedings: _not provided_
Uncontrolled Keywords: Transatlantic studies, ecocriticism, environmental writing, trees, forestry, travel writing, botany in literature, Scotland, David Douglas, Canada, Pacific Northwest
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2019 10:37
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2019 04:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/25043

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