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 xviii INTRODUCTION
Cub. The serial publication of the story lacks unity and balance partly
because two of its manuscript chapters were omitted but even with
the restoration of the two chapters in the authentic text established for
the Arkansas Edition by Miriam J. Shillingsburg,8 The Cub of the
Panther does not measure up to Simms's better work. Nevertheless, the
author recognized that Cub contains raw material with strong literary
appeal, and now for the first time it can be adjudged not in the highly
imperfect form in which it was published in 1869, but in a reliable
scholarly text that follows as closely as possible the author's own
manuscript and his intent in writing the tale.
Simms's rising opinion of Cub, even in its shoddy Old Guard ver-
sion, is indicative of his growing conviction especially prevalent in
the last year of his life that his "out of the beaten track" writing had
worth. During the final harrowing months of his terminal illness,
Simms turned at least four times to fresh native materials impressed
upon his memory during his 1847 visit to the mountains of North and
South Carolina. In addition to the two "mountain legends," Voltmeier
and The Cub of the Panther, the embattled author completed writing
two backwoods dialect tales of exceptional merit, "How Sharp Snaffles
Got His Capital and Wife" and "`Bald-Head Bill Bauldy,' and How He
Went Through the Flurriday Campaign! —A Legend of the Hunter's
Camp." In yet another vein of humor he composed "The Humours of
the Manager," an ironic sketch reflecting his life-long fascination with
theater. The latter three, all left in manuscript at Simms's death, rank
among the author's higher accomplishments and in a genre he had
been reluctant to take seriously until after the war. Correctly gauging
that traditional historical novels of the Old South held little appeal to
postbellum Northern publishers and readers, Simms turned his talents
to humor and dialect (for which he had a remarkable ear), focusing
upon common folk of the South and Southwest. He read the market
astutely and he performed well with The Cub of the Panther, as well
as his better known last three tales. Neither his insight nor his efforts
were of much avail against the wind of his time; but the time has finally
arrived for the first book publication of Simms's neglected last novel.
The Cub of the Panther, taking its place beside "Sharp Snaffles,""`Bald-
Head Bill Bauldy,'""The Humours of the Manager," and Voltmeier, con-
vincingly demonstrates that Simms in his final two years still simmered
with the creative fire that sparked and tempered his best fiction.9
John Caldwell Guilds