Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Letters of William Gilmore Simms. Vol. 6, Supplement >> The Letters of William Gilmore Simms. Vol. 6, Supplement >> 1273a James Lawson

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1273a James Lawson

Correspondence | U of South Carolina P | 2012

Introduction

            In his lifetime, William Gilmore Simms “was the author of thirty-four works of fiction, nineteen volumes of poetry, three of drama, three anthologies, three volumes of history, two of geography, six of biography, and twelve of reviews, miscellanies and addresses, a total of eighty-two volumes.”[1]  The estimate of the output was impressive, if not quite complete.[2]  Regardless, Simms’s influence was unparalleled.  No mid-nineteenth-century writer and editor did more to frame white southern self-identity and nationalism, shape southern historical consciousness, or foster the South's participation and recognition in the broader American literary culture. No southern writer had more contemporary esteem and attention, at least after Edgar Allan Poe moved north. Among American romancers (or writers of prose epics), only New Yorker James Fenimore Cooper was as successful by the 1840s. In those same years, Simms was the South's most influential editor of cultural journals. He also was the region's most prolific cultural journalist and poet, publishing an average of a book review and a poem per week for forty-five years.  By any standard, Simms’s literary production was remarkable.  Even if one were to consider only those works that represent the author’s highest creative attainments, the subset would still dwarf the total corpus of almost any other writer of Simms’s day.  Then there are the letters. As Donald Davidson notes, with the publication of The Letters of William Gilmore Simms, any imagined collection of “the major achievement of Simms the artist must be increased.”  After all, “aside from their great intrinsic value and notable interest as human documents, the letters of Simms open the way to a new and rich knowledge of the man and his times.”[3]  This is no insignificant accomplishment, given the expanse of the author’s influence and life.

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