Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Avatar JWeber
2014-06-03 14:13:22
While Simms did draw from several other sources for inspiration, Helen Halsey still feels uniquely Simms, due in large part to the southern swamp setting and his depiction of the clash between frontier and modernity. The story, though, appears to have been influenced by an earlier tale published in a Charleston journal before he wrote Helen Halsey. “The Outlaw’s Daughter,” written by Edward Carroll in 1833, appeared in Cosmopolitan: An Occasional, a journal which Simms coedited. The framework for “The Outlaw’s Daughter” was one of a girl, Ellen, and her loving relationship with her outlaw father, which ultimately leads to her death. Simms changed some aspects of the story, most notably moving the setting from South Carolina to the swamps of Louisiana or Mississippi. Helen Halsey also draws from Germelshausen, by author Friedrich Gerstacker. Gerstacker published this work in 1862. It tells the story of a young man who falls in love with a woman and becomes a part of an outlaw swamp society to be with her. When he leaves the swamp he leaves this woman behind and, much like in Helen Halsey, he returns to the swamp area years later only to find much of it gone. Simms seems intrigued by the relationships amongst members of these colonies in frontier areas and their unique forms of justice, both topics that are explored in depth in Helen Halsey.
Avatar JWeber
2014-06-23 10:07:33
Helen Halsey and Castle Dismal
Helen Halsey was released just a matter of months after his work Castle Dismal, another novella. Initially, he meant for the two to be paired together, complimenting one another. Simms’s early vision for Helen Halsey was to include it in a collection, called “Tales of the South,” which he intended to be a compilation of seven tales. Many of these stories came to fruition, but in various forms separate from Simms’s original intention. For instance, Castle Dismal and Helen Halsey were each published as individual works, while many of the other proposed stories were included in the well-known collection The Wigwam and the Cabin (Letters 1: 354-55). Simms always had a fondness in his heart for Helen Halsey and thought it to be superior to Castle Dismal. He felt that it was overshadowed by and went largely unreviewed and underappreciated because of its release just two months after Castle Dismal. Even pal Evert Duyckinck tried to help Simms by published a plot synopsis of Helen Halsey in a New York paper to get audiences excited about the upcoming frontier tale, but to no avail.
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