CHARLOTTESVILLE -- A University of Virginia exhibit traces through rare editions the nature of the influence of English Romantics from 1796 to 1891 on such American writers as Emerson, Poe, Melville, Cooper and Whitman, experts say.

"Our exhibit at U-Va. gives an idea of how long it took America to learn to appreciate Wordsworth and other English Romantics," said Stephen Railton, associate professor of English at the university.

"It was a case of Wordsworth 'stepping Westward' to the shores of America, where Whitman and other Americans took over the role of propelling the Romantic movement farther west," Railton said.

Much of the exhibit was drawn from two of the most important collections held by U-Va., the Clifton Waller Barrett collection and the Tracy McGregor collection.

The exhibit is titled "British Bards and American Re-Viewers: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats." The exhibit, in the McGregor Room of the library, will be open through Dec. 15.

It is one of a series of state events associated with the 1987-88 National Festival of Romantic Arts.

The McGregor Room at Alderman Library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.