Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Subject time periods
Spanish Colonial HistoryAncient HistoryFrench Colonial History
Medieval HistoryEarly Modern HistoryBritish Colonial History
Revolutionary HistoryEra of the Early RepublicAntebellum Period
Civil War and Early Reconstruction
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Confession; or, The Blind Heart. A Domestic Story.

Confession; or, The Blind Heart. A Domestic Story.

Novel (Romance) | Lea and Blanchard | 1841
            Building out of his early experiences with writing in the psychological gothic mode in such texts as Martin Faber (1833) and Carl Werner (1838) and anticipating his later work Castle Dismal (1844), William Gilmore Simms published Confesssion; or, The Blind Heart in 1841.  Coming at the front of what many consider to be the author’s most productive period, this novel is the extended confession of Edward Clifford who is orphaned at a young age and sent to be reared by his aunt and uncle in Charleston.  Rising above his foster parents’ scorn, Clifford becomes a lawyer, a prominent citizen, ...
Father Abbot, or, The Home Tourist; a Medley

Father Abbot, or, The Home Tourist; a Medley

Journalism | 1849
           Father Abbot collects together a series of related political fictions Simms wrote for the Charleston Mercury from September to November 1849.[1]  Here, the author revealed his significant wit and complex thinking about social, political, and philosophical issues through the perambulations of the titular Father Abbot about Charleston and its environs.  As Father Abbot travels around the city with various companions, its economic and political future are discussed; this conceit allowed Simms to use his satirical gifts to create a humorous, yet biting, commentary on the socioeconomic ...
The Lily and the Totem, or, The Huguenots in Florida

The Lily and the Totem, or, The Huguenots in Florida

French Colonial History | Novel (Romance) | Baker and Scribner | 1850
                While it largely fell out of the public consciousness after the author’s death, Simms’s The Lily and the Totem is one of his most intriguing works, both because of its overall quality and its experimentation with the possibilities of mixing history and fiction.  While The Lily and the Totem is a story of French Huguenots in sixteenth-century Florida, it is not, importantly, a historical romance.  Rather, Simms here experimented with a new way in which to relate history—by telling history through fictionalized narratives that fill in the gaps between what we do and do ...
Count Julian; or, The Last Days of the Goth

Count Julian; or, The Last Days of the Goth

Medieval History | Novel (Romance) | William Taylor & Co. | 1845 - 1846
                While generally considered to be one of Simms’s weakest novels, Count Julian; or, the Last Days of the Goth provides one of the most intriguing textual histories of any of the author’s numerous works.  Conceived as a sequel to Simms’s 1838 novel Pelayo, Count Julian continues Simms’s fictional treatment of Medieval Spain, dramatizing the legendary betrayal of Julian, Count of Cueta, an act that helped lead to the Muslim conquest of Iberia.  The work suffered from multiple delays in both composition and publication and was not published until 1845 or 1846, more ...
The Life of the Chevalier Bayard

The Life of the Chevalier Bayard

Medieval History | Biography | Harper & Brothers | 1847
           For Simms, it was in a time “when chivalry was at its lowest condition in Christian Europe,” that the Chevalier Bayard provided the world, “the happiest illustration, in a single great example, of its ancient pride and character,” and “the most admirable model to the generous ambition of the young that we find in all the pages of history.”[1]  Simms wrote The Life of Chevalier Bayard, a biography of the late-medieval French knight, to serve as an archetype of virtue for Americans.  In 1845, Simms had written two articles on Bayard for Southern and Western[2], and ...
A Supplement to the Plays of William Shakspeare

A Supplement to the Plays of William Shakspeare

Early Modern History | Drama | Geo. F. Cooledge & Brother | 1848
           Well-known as a poet, cultural critic, and novelist, William Gilmore Simms’s undertaking of an edited volume of Shakespearean apocrypha seems, at first, odd and atypical.  Yet, throughout his long career, Simms displayed a real interest in the theatre, attempting, often unsuccessfully, to write and stage plays.  His correspondence also shows a recurring concern with the opinions and evaluations of the great Shakespearean actor Edwin Forrest, for whom Simms wrote several dramas, none of which were ever staged.[1]  Taking into account the author’s deep and abiding interest ...
Donna Florida. A Tale.

Donna Florida. A Tale.

Early Modern History | Poetry | Burges and James | 1843
            Donna Florida is a narrative poem dealing with Ponce de Leon's exploits in what would later become Spanish Florida.  Before full publication in 1843, portions of the poem appeared in The Boston Monthly in 1841 and in the February-May 1843 issues of the Magnolia.[1]  Simms more than likely paid for the publication of this work in book form himself, with the volume being issued in 1843 by Burges and James in Charleston, SC.[2] Simms described the work as not “published, but presented for private distribution.”[3]  Indeed, according to a 29 June 1843 letter that Simms sent ...
The History of South Carolina, From Its First European Discovery to Its Erection into a Republic

The History of South Carolina, From Its First European Discovery to Its Erection into a Republic

Early Modern History | History | S. Babcock & Co. | 1842
            Believing it “necessary to the public man, as to the pupil,” Simms undertook The History of South Carolina explicitly for the education of the state’s young people, so as to tell them the vibrant history of the state and the distinguished accomplishments of her leaders.[1]  There is evidence to suggest that Simms was particularly motivated to write such a history in order to provide an historical account of South Carolina and notable South Carolinians, to his eldest child Augusta, who was attending boarding school in Massachusetts in the late 1830s.[2]  Simms seemingly ...
The History of South Carolina, From Its First European Discovery to Its Erection into a Republic

The History of South Carolina, From Its First European Discovery to Its Erection into a Republic

Early Modern History | History | S. Babcock & Co. | 1840
            Believing it “necessary to the public man, as to the pupil,” Simms undertook The History of South Carolina explicitly for the education of the state’s young people, so as to tell them the vibrant history of the state and the distinguished accomplishments of her leaders.[1]  There is evidence to suggest that Simms was particularly motivated to write such a history in order to provide an historical account of South Carolina and notable South Carolinians, to his eldest child Augusta, who was attending boarding school in Massachusetts in the late 1830s.[2]  Simms seemingly ...
The Social Principle

The Social Principle

Early Modern History | Speech | The Erosophic Society of the University of Alabama | 1843
            William Gilmore Simms delivered his lecture The Social Principle: The True Source of National Permanence to the Erosophic Society[1] at the University of Alabama on 13 December 1842 during the occasion of his receiving an honorary LL.D. degree from that university.[2]  An important text in Simms studies, this oration marks “Simms’s single most extensive published exposition of his social philosophy.”[3]  He took as the genesis for his talk what he perceived as the fundamentally changed nature of the environs of western Alabama from his previous visit to the area, ...
The Geography of South Carolina

The Geography of South Carolina

British Colonial History | History | Babcock & Co. | 1843
            The Geography of South Carolina, written as a companion piece for the 1842 edition of The History of South Carolina, was published by Babcock & Co. in 1843.  Simms conceived of The History and The Geography as parts of a single project and initially desired the two books to be published together in one volume.[1]  Sean R. Busick notes that such a publication was cost-prohibitive; thus, The History and The Geography were published separately.[2]  In the preface to The Geography, Simms suggests another reason for their separate publication:  by breaking up his subject ...
The Life of Captain John Smith. The Founder of Virginia.

The Life of Captain John Smith. The Founder of Virginia.

British Colonial History | Biography | Geo. F. Cooledge & Brother | 1847
           The Life of Captain John Smith was published by George F. Cooledge & Brother in March 1847 as part of The Illustrated Library series intended for school libraries and general reading.[1]  Simms’s letters indicate that he began the biography as early as November 1844 when he wrote to George Frederick Holmes: “I have half contracted to prepare a Life of Sumter, one of Paul Jones, and a third of John Smith, with a new edition of his history of Virginia.”[2]  By the middle of the month Simms informed James Lawson he had already “written a chapter.”  The process of getting ...
The Sources of American Independence

The Sources of American Independence

British Colonial History | Speech | The Town Council of Aiken, SC | 1844
            The Sources of American Independence. An Oration, on the Sixty-Ninth Anniversary of American Independence was delivered by William Gilmore Simms on 4 July 1844 in Aiken, SC.  As its long title suggests, the speech was composed to celebrate the sixty-nine years of American nationhood since the Declaration of Independence; what is unmentioned in the title but equally relevant to an understanding of this work is the fact that it was composed essentially as a stump speech[1] during Simms’s successful 1844 run for a seat in the South Carolina State Legislature.  Giving a speech ...
Katharine Walton; or, The Rebel of Dorchester

Katharine Walton; or, The Rebel of Dorchester

Revolutionary History | Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
          Set in September of 1780, Katharine Walton is the third installment of a trilogy that follows The Partisan and Mellichampein covering the Revolution in South Carolina.[1]  While The Partisan and Mellichampe are set in the interior of the Santee and Wateree rivers, Katharine Walton  takes the reader to the city of Charleston in 1780-81 to trace the social world of South Carolina under British occupation.[2]  The city functions narratively as a “unifying center,” according to John C. Guilds, to free Katharine Walton of the “awkward shifts in action and setting ...
Katharine Walton; or, The Rebel of Dorchester. An Historical Romance of the Revolution in Carolina.

Katharine Walton; or, The Rebel of Dorchester. An Historical Romance of the Revolution in Carolina.

Revolutionary History | Novel (Romance) | A. Hart | 1851
          Set in September of 1780, Katharine Walton is the third installment of a trilogy that follows The Partisan and Mellichampein covering the Revolution in South Carolina.[1]  While The Partisan and Mellichampe are set in the interior of the Santee and Wateree rivers, Katharine Walton  takes the reader to the city of Charleston in 1780-81 to trace the social world of South Carolina under British occupation.[2]  The city functions narratively as a “unifying center,” according to John C. Guilds, to free Katharine Walton of the “awkward shifts in action and setting ...
South-Carolina in the Revolutionary War

South-Carolina in the Revolutionary War

Revolutionary History | Reviews/Essays | Walker & James, Publishers | 1853
           Throughout his life, William Gilmore Simms was deeply invested in researching and interpreting the history of the American Revolution and was particularly concerned with promoting the participation of his native South Carolina in that conflict.  As evidenced by his biographies of Francis Marion and Nathanael Greene, his series of epic romances of the Revolution largely set in South Carolina, and his emphasis on the Revolution in his The History of South Carolina, Simms’s understanding of South Carolina’s role in the conflict was one of patriotism and heroic self-sacrifice.  ...
The Kinsmen; or, the Black Riders of Congaree.  A Tale.

The Kinsmen; or, the Black Riders of Congaree. A Tale.

Revolutionary History | Novel (Romance) | Lea and Blanchard | 1841
            William Gilmore Simms’s third novel of the Revolutionary War (though fifth in order of plot chronology) was originally published in 1841 under the title The Kinsmen.  It became an early offering as part of the Redfield edition under its more popularly-known title The Scout in 1854.  A novel of familial conflict in the context of war and a broad-minded exploration of patriotism across classes, The Scout opens shortly after the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill (aka the Second Battle of Camden)[1] in May 1781.  The action ends with the British departure from the Star Fort at Ninety ...
The Life of Francis Marion

The Life of Francis Marion

Revolutionary History | Biography | Henry G. Langley | 1844
A significant aim throughout Simms’s work is to provide South Carolina, and the South generally, with pride of place in the emergence of the American nation, its people, and their national character.  Simms does this work largely through his narration of the Revolutionary War in South Carolina, the focus of numerous romances, histories, and other works.  One such work is The Life of Francis Marion, a biography of the legendary “Swamp Fox.”  Simms’s interest in Marion is pronounced, as the famous general appears in several of the revolutionary romances; while flawed at times, Simms’s ...
The Life of Nathanael Greene, Major-General in the Army of the Revolution

The Life of Nathanael Greene, Major-General in the Army of the Revolution

Revolutionary History | Biography | Geo. F. Cooledge & Brother | 1849
                Simms was interested in the American Revolution throughout his career, writing significant works about the conflict in both fiction and nonfiction.  By 1840, he had already produced the first edition of his History of South Carolina as well as two of his Revolutionary Romances, all of which are works largely concerned with the effect of the Revolution on his native state.  Around this same time, Simms had decided to complement this work by writing biographies.  In April 1840, he wrote to James Lawson that he was “meditating and taking notes for several Biographies—say ...
Beauchampe; or, The Kentucky Tragedy. A Tale of Passion.

Beauchampe; or, The Kentucky Tragedy. A Tale of Passion.

Era of the Early Republic | Novel (Romance) | Lea and Blanchard | 1842
            Early in the morning of 7 November 1825, in the town of Frankfort, KY, a young lawyer named Jereboam O. Beauchamp crept to the house of the state attorney general, Solomon P. Sharp, and stabbed him to death.  The murder was orchestrated to avenge the honor of Anna Cook[1], Beauchamp’s wife, who as a single woman had been seduced, impregnated, and abandoned by Sharp[2].  The event was a national sensation immediately following its discovery and Beauchamp’s capture days later.  Following Cook and Beauchamp’s failed joint suicide attempt and the latter’s subsequent execution, ...
Areytos

Areytos

Antebellum Period | Poetry | John Russell | 1846
            Published in 1846 by John Russell in Charleston, SC, Areytos was also titled Songs of the South, because all the poems dealt with subject matter related to the southern United States.  Many had been published previously in various periodicals.[1] Simms issued this collection on the heels of his Grouped Thoughts and Scattered Fancies. A Collection of Sonnets.[2]  Thinking of himself primarily as a poet and wanting to secure his place as one of America’s best, he followed the publications of Grouped Thoughts (1845) and Areytos (1846) with five other volumes of poetry, all published ...
Atalantis; A Story of the Sea.

Atalantis; A Story of the Sea.

Antebellum Period | Poetry | Carey and Hart | 1849
            Though the first edition of Atalantis.  A Story of the Sea (1832) was well received by reviewers both North and South, it had only one printing.  The limited print run of just 500 copies meant that relatively few readers could enjoy the many “uncommonly strong and vigorous passages” that comprised William Gilmore Simms’s fanciful tale.[1]  Simms was early convinced that a larger readership existed and that Atalantis offered him an opportunity to increase his reputation in both the Northern states and Europe.  In 1837 he wrote to James Lawson, one of his best friends ...
Border Beagles:  A Tale of Mississippi

Border Beagles: A Tale of Mississippi

Antebellum Period | Novel (Romance) | Carey and Hart | 1840
          In The Major Fiction of William Gilmore Simms, Mary Ann Wimsatt argues that Border Beagles, the sequel to the scandalous Richard Hurdis, shows Simms as continuing to explore the contentious relationship between the older, civilized tidewater south and the wild trans-mountain frontier.[1]  While thus continuing a theme begun with Guy Rivers and Richard Hurdis, Border Beagles saw Simms decidedly scaling back the violence found in those two books, especially the latter.  Here, the author’s presentation of the chaos and dangers of the frontier is tempered by humor, with ...
Castle Dismal; or, The Bachelor

Castle Dismal; or, The Bachelor's Christmas

Antebellum Period | Novella | Burgess, Stringer & Co. | 1844
            A gothic tale of ghosts, infidelity, murder, and love, Castle Dismal follows the protagonist Ned Clifton, a “veteran bachelor” who fears the bonds of marriage, in his holiday visit to the home of married friends.  Set during the Christmas season in South Carolina, Simms’s story illustrates the southern custom of bringing together family around a table to feast; and while Clifton eventually marries Elizabeth Singleton—freeing him from the “melancholy dependencies of bachelorism”—Simms subverts naïve nineteenth-century notions of marriage and domesticity.[1]  Marked ...
Charleston, and Her Satirists; a Scribblement.

Charleston, and Her Satirists; a Scribblement.

Antebellum Period | Poetry | 1848
            Charleston and Her Satirists consists of a single poem that William Gilmore Simms drafted in response to a previously published work on Charleston.  Simms is not directly identified as the author, but is referred to as “A City Bachelor.”  The work was printed and published in two sections by James S. Burges in Charleston, SC during 1848.  The first section probably came to press sometime around November 24, as that is when Simms sent a copy to J.H. Hammond.[1]  In the accompanying letter, Simms asked for Hammond’s opinion of the work, noting that he himself had some ...
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