Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Simms on Melville in the Southern Quarterly Review >> Page 31

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Page 31

Reviews/Essays | 1849-10 - 1852-10

David Aiken

Between April 1849 and October 1854 when he was editor of the Southern
Quarterly Review, Simms demonstrated his breadth and depth as a critic. During
this period he wrote a monthly review of current books, "Critical Notices,"
including five on literary works by Herman Melville. Previously Simms had
reviewed Typee for the Charleston Southern Patriot (9 and 25 April 1846),
proclaiming it a curious but interesting travel book of savage life in the South
Seas. In general, Simms reveals his insight and honesty as a critic of Melville.
Simms praises Mardi in spite of Melville's misrepresentations of Calhoun,
but he criticizes Redburn for inadequate character development. Simms concludes•
that Melville must have more power in reserve than either of these books displays
White-Jacket is a social expose, not a novel, and should be studied by the U. S.
government, which fosters cruelty and injustice on the high seas. Simms quotes
Melville, who cites John Randolph of Roanoke's account of being on board an
American man-of-war to Russia, where he "witnessed more flogging than had
taken place on his own plantation, of five hundred African slaves, in ten years."
Simms likes the white whale in Moby-Dick, but the novel as a whole is "sad stuff,
dull and dreary." In his review of Pierre, Simms uses effective satire. Simms'
SQR essays on Mardi, Redburn, White-Jacket, Moby-Dick, and Pierre are herein
published in their entirety.