Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Afterword >> Page 254

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 254

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription 254 THE CUB OF THE PANTHER
several times, finally deleting it entirely. Saying that civilization is often
false and unwholesome, Simms gave an example of what he meant:
"Instead of Nora Creina, with her tresses, & figure free to move as nature
made it, hoops, & buckram, have brought woman." He then struck out
"her" substituting "wandering" on a caret, changed "buckram" to
"padding" by interlining, and canceled "brought woman." Completing
the sentence, he had:
Instead of Nora Creina, with wandering tresses, & figure free to move
as nature made it, hoops, & padding, have buckramized the bodies of
woman into Elizabeths rigidity, while the manners and morals, wholly
subtilized by convention are yet as easy.
Still dissatisfied, he interlined "free" before "easy," and finally canceled
the entire sentence with a series of large horizontal and diagonal lines.
He then began a new paragraph.'
Yet, even with this kind of attention to what he was writing, The Cub
of the Panther shows the author's haste, fatigue, and occasional disgust
with his task. The very places in which he seems to get most involved with
his characters and their stories are the most digressive to the modern
reader. If judged by late-twentieth-century standards, the weaknesses of
The Cub are those of Simms's other books verboseness, authorial intru-
sion, occasional pompousness, diffuse focus, and thin characterization.
The Cub of the Panther is really two stories. The first (comprising eight
installments) is the courtship and betrayal of Rose Carter. Rose, a poor
but educated and pretentious mountain girl, is courted by professional
hunter Mike Baynam. Both Rose's aunt Betsy Moore and Baynam's sis-
ter Mattie Fuller see that Rose's flirtations and Mike's social awkward-
ness make the match difficult, but they recognize the relationship as a
sensible one for Rose. The rich and haughty Widow Fairleigh "hires"
Rose as her companion, leading not only to economic and social
exploitation, but ultimately to her seduction and pregnancy by the
widow's dissolute son Edward. When Rose flees into a snowstorm and
gives birth to the "Cub," the babe is rescued and adopted by Mike
Baynam.
The novel takes its title from the second story, a hunting tale com-
prising the last four installments. It resolves the conflict between Baynam
and Fairleigh when the teenaged Cub, now an accomplished hunter, kills
his natural father in self-defense. The Widow Fairleigh dies, Edward's
estranged wife inherits the estate, and the Cub and his adopted family
continue their simple life. Simms's long descriptions of the countryside