Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Afterword >> Page 253

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Page 253

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription AFTERWORD 253
The Cub of the Panther is the only Simms novel never published in
book form. When the twelfth and final installment appeared in The Old
Guard, a Northern magazine of limited circulation begun by the
"Copperhead" party in 1863, Simms hoped that publisher W. J.
Widdleton would soon print the book. He wrote in a letter to Evert A.
Duyckinck that the novel was "quite a readable romance & out of the
beaten track," although he complained that the magazine had little cir-
culation, that the readers were "low-toned," and that he had to comply
with the "miserable requisitions of stupid publishers." The Cub was never
republished and remains until now available only in its serialized form,
minus two chapters that exist only in manuscript. The Arkansas Edition
of The Cub of the Panther is doubly significant, therefore, for it completes
book publication of the last of the Simms novels, and it restores to the
reading text the two chapters deleted in serial publication.
It is little wonder that most scholars who know the novel have either
ignored it or disparaged it. This no doubt results in part from the obscu-
rities created by the omission of the two chapters, one of them crucial
to the motivation of the hero. Their restoration improves the plot of the
novel; yet they cannot elevate The Cub to the level of Simms's best work.
It is highly uneven, ranging from the over-long and over-written speeches
of two widows trying to impress each other to some of the best dialogue
and characterization Simms ever achieved. As a whole the novel lacks
the vigor of the Revolutionary romances, the excitement of The Yemassee,
and the humor of "Sharp Snaffles." Yet the portrayal of Aunt Betsy Moore
and Sam and Mattie Fuller is in places fully equal to the author's best. The
comedy in the speeches of the rustics betrays that humor "bold, bluff,
and masculine with a touch of satirical inuendo [sic] and sly sarcasm,"
as Paul Hamilton Hayne characterized Simms —this in spite of the illness
and financial worries attending Simms at the time of his writing The Cub.
That The Cub is at all coherent is the more remarkable when one real-
izes that only one draft stands behind the novel. In addition to the evi-
dence in the Letters about Simms's voluminous writing during the six or
seven months he was working on The Cub, the manuscript chapters
demonstrate the haste with which he must have composed all this writ-
ing. Changes in the manuscript often show Simms simply retracing
hastily-formed letters for clarification, breaking up the text by insert-
ing paragraph symbols, and canceling repetitious phrases. But the large
blocks of deleted writing provide unmistakable evidence that Simms was
composing as he went.
In manuscript Chapter Ten, for example, Simms revised a passage