Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Afterword >> Page 256

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Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription 256 THE CUB OF THE PANTHER
congruous with the humor so manifest in this book. Two examples from
many will illustrate this bitterness. The rustics classify the widows and
other educated or wealthy people as "nabobs." This classification is appro-
priate, for there is hardly an action done or a word said by them that is
not condescending, arrogant, or malicious. A "voluptuary, a gross feeder,
and habitual drinker," Edward Fairleigh hunts a great black bear with a
double-barreled English fowling piece. Severely mauled by the beast he
has wounded, Fairleigh is rescued by his own illegitimate son, the Cub.
However, during the bear's death struggle, the boy slightly wounds
Fairleigh with his knife. Not only does Fairleigh say that he killed the bear
and refuse to admit that the boy saved his life, but he also accuses the boy
of striking him and tries to claim the meat as his own. This ill temper and
cupidity are typical of Fairleigh and his companions, though not always
to so strong a degree. Simms is creating a thoroughly depraved charac-
ter and might be forgiven such a dark view, were the "nabobs" the only
villains in the novel.
However, the rustics also display bitterness toward the Fairleighs.
Widow Fairleigh takes Rose Carter as her companion and servant, and,
after Rose suffers egregiously from this arrangement, the country people
show their indignation by refusing to sell their hunting spoils to the
Widow. Simms was careful to say that the rustics had "large self-esteem,
in spite of poverty" and that they had "good grounds for indignation,"
but their actions display a bitterness not usual in Simms's sympathetic
characters. "Her cattle were slaughtered among the hills. Her park fences
were broken down, and rude replies, and wicked comments, were audi-
bly uttered, in her own hearing, by persons of a class whom she had
always hitherto despised." This display of malice is interspersed through-
out the book, sometimes in simple nagging comments made by the
otherwise sensible and sympathetically treated characters. It is almost as
if Simms's personal antagonism not generally characteristic of his
other works has slipped into his writing.
The fault of verboseness in this novel may perhaps be attributed to
Simms's antiquarian interest. The looseness of structure may be blamed
on the personal, social, and economic conditions under which he wrote
the book. This unusual strain of bitterness might be attributed to
Simms's personal irritation, as he wrote to John Esten Cooke, at having
to "tone down" his mind for his stupid and unappreciative public.
For all of its weaknesses, The Cub of the Panther has many redeeming
features. One of them is character portrayal. Aunt Betsy Moore, an old
maid of fifty, is the most memorable character in the book. She remains