Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Front Matter >> Introduction

image of pageExplore Inside

Introduction

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription INTRODUCTION
In Voltmeier, one of the few new works that William Gilmore Simms was
able to publish during the last five years of his life, the protagonist
Leonard Voltmeier, an iron-willed intellectual of courage and commit-
ment whose life had been marked by the sharpest of adversities, proudly
proclaims: "I have the strength to endure, I have endured!"' It is a state-
ment that also captures Simms's own life-long indomitability. In the
tragic years before his death the author, like the character, possessed the
will to endure hardship, misunderstanding, and pain with courage and
dignity. Simms had always prided himself on his will "I can endure
manfully," he had said to James Henry Hammond in 1842 (L, I, 304). But
never before was his valor so sorely tested his "strength to endure" so
thoroughly challenged as during the aftermath of the Civil War.2
Remarkable though it was, Simms's valor, without the will to write,
without a commitment to literature, would have contributed nothing
to his status as writer, however much it increased his stature as man.3
His valiant efforts throughout 1866 "to resume [his] profession" gener-
ated no appreciable momentum, but, mirabile dictu, late in 1867,
despite incapacitating illness, his creativity seemed to explode into one
of those marvelous surges that periodically marked his career. And even
if the final four years of his life did not see the publication of any books,
his best work of these terminal years (much of it buried in obscure
periodicals or left in manuscript at his death) approximates that of
1833-1836, 1838-1841, or 1853-1856. What in addition to poor health
makes Simms's postwar literary accomplishments surprising is that no
editorial task promising even meager compensation was too menial for
the poverty-stricken author. During all this time he remained the faith-
ful and attentive father of six motherless children, kept up a steady cor-
respondence with friends old and new, and continued as a recognized
spokesman for his region's lost cause and its hopes for the future.
Before the close of 1865 Simms had undertaken an assignment that
for almost six months proved a drain on his creative energy without
putting much money in his pocketbook the associate editorship
(along with Henry Timrod) of the Charleston Daily South Carolinian.4
After publishing a variety of editorials, book reviews, poems, short