Simms: A Literary Life

Overview

Upon his death in 1870 at the age of sixty-four, William Gilmore Simms was eulogized not only throughout his native state of South Carolina, but also in New York, Cincinnati, Mobile, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Correctly called by Jay B. Hubbell "the central figure in the literature of the Old South," Simms played a major role, as editor and critic as well as author, in encouraging the development of Southern letters; but though quintessentially Southern, Simms was also a national literary figure. ...
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Overview

Upon his death in 1870 at the age of sixty-four, William Gilmore Simms was eulogized not only throughout his native state of South Carolina, but also in New York, Cincinnati, Mobile, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Correctly called by Jay B. Hubbell "the central figure in the literature of the Old South," Simms played a major role, as editor and critic as well as author, in encouraging the development of Southern letters; but though quintessentially Southern, Simms was also a national literary figure. Indeed, Edgar Allan Poe viewed Simms "in invention, in vigor, in movement, in the power of exciting interest, and in the artistical arrangement of his themes" as surpassing "any of his countrymen." After the Civil War, "long years of neglect" tarnished Simms's reputation, but not his achievement, the magnitude of which is fully demonstrated in John Caldwell Guilds's Simms: A Literary Life, the first full-length biography of Simms since 1892. Beginning with Simms's inauspicious birth into a working-class Charleston family, Guilds charts the gradual rise of a complex and headstrong young man into prominence as an admired author and critic and records the personal and political upheavals that helped Simms define his position on the interplay between art and life. Adhering to Simms's own prescription regarding biographies - that they should "be written con amore.... without violating the truth, and yet with some softening of its harsher effects" - Simms offers an honest and revealing portrait of this at once insufferable and endearing man who "was well worthy of respect, but hardly of hero-worship" and who, while fulfilling responsibilities as planter, husband, and father, produced no fewer than seventy-two book-length works, including novels, short story collections, poetry, drama, literary criticism, essays, history, and biography. Simms's vision of America encompasses ante-colonial America, the English colonies, the Revolutionary War, and the rampaging fronti
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A humanities professor at the University of Arkansas, Guilds seeks to rescue writer William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) from obscurity in this academic study. Raised by his grandmother, Simms lived in Charleston, S.C., where he published 82 books during his lifetime. Although he also wrote poetry, plays and short stories, he was best known for his southern border novels Guy Rivers (1834), The Yemassee (1835) and Mellichampe (1836). An outspoken advocate of slavery, Simms dabbled in politics and vigorously supported the southern way of life. Guilds argues that Simms's historical fiction is an epic study of the U.S. and should earn him a place as a major American writer. Interviews with Simms's descendants and access to family archives provided the author with a wealth of detail of interest to scholars. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557283788
  • Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1995
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Pt. 1 The Formative Years (1806-1832)
I Ireland and Charleston: Background and Influences 3
II Education and Apprenticeship 15
III The Beginnings of a Career 23
Pt. 2 The Making of an Author (1833-1841)
IV Ambitions and High Hopes 43
V The Unquenchable Flame Burns On 76
Pt. 3 Gentleman Planter: The Established Years (1842-1859)
VI The Lure of Politics and Diplomacy 111
VII Spokesman for the South: The Responsibilities and Frustrations of an Editor 130
VIII Nonetheless the Author 162
IX Personal Matters 234
Pt. 4 Against the Wind (1860-1870)
X The Years of Secession and War 271
XI "The Strength to Endure" 304
Conclusion
XII The Measure of the Man 331
App. I The Children of William Gilmore Simms 351
App. II The Final Will of Nash Roach 353
App. III Simms and International Copyright 355
App. IV Two Elegies in Charleston Periodicals 357
App. V The Writings of William Gilmore Simms Appearing in Book Form 359
Notes 367
Index 417
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