As pocket field guides and reference books for identifying plant and animal life became popular in the 1770s, people from every social class participated in learning about their local environment. Reference books like Withering’s An Arrangement of British Plants were widely used, both to expand people’s knowledge of botany and for practical home herbal remedies. The Wordsworths owned a copy, writing personal notes in it, and the poet’s sister Dorothy relied on it for her precise descriptions of plant life in her journals (some of which found their way into William’s poems). Interest in scientific literature such as this book was important in forming the appreciation for nature that characterizes the writings of Wordsworth and other writers in that time period.
Contributed by Staci Fisher