Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 2) >> ''Poe's Poetry'': A New Simms Essay >> Page 21

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Reviews/Essays | [1845-10-11]
Transcription 21

critic." Simms was acutely aware of the Puritan roots of their austerity,
narrowness, inflexibility, spitefulness, and self-interest, traits he limned more full
in other places.
Simms's essay seems itself to have been precipitated by this tomahawking
attack on Poe, which went so far as the Boston Lyceum's recent proposal to
"censure" him formally and publicly for reading before them what they considered
an "inferior" poem. Simms's defense of Poe from this tomahawking, uses the
countering weapons of intelligence, sharp wit, restraint, and a steady balancing
sense of humor which puts all in a broader perspective. It is the best of defenses.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Simms's essay shows the two most
significant Southern men of letters of their day to be sympatico at every
significant point. They understand each other's weaknesses and strengths as
writers, and can name them without unduly injuring each other's egos. They
understand the nature of each other's literary credos and, in fact, find much
common ground in them. As critics, they have the same dislike of didacticism
and the same basic assumption that the work under consideration is more
important than the personality or fame of its author. Further, it might also be said
that they have much in common in being the two most perceptive American
literary critics of their day. As brothers in battle against a powerful New England
literary establishment which was attempting, in its petty provincial way, to
marginalize all authors outside its own small circle, Simms and Poe stand together
once again-- courageous, wise, and wonderfully perceptive. The following essay
is yet another important proof of this significant truth. It is good, sound criticism
well-expressed.




Poe's Poetry.---Mr. Edgar A. Poe is one of the moct
remarkable, to many respects, among our men of letter.
With singular endowments of imagination, he is at the
same time largely possessed of many of the qualities that
go to make en admirable critic; —he is methodical, lucid,
forcible; well-read, thoughtful, and capable, at all times,
of rising from the mere consideration of the individual
subject, to the principles, in literature and art, by which
it should be governed. Add to these qualities, as a
critic that he Is hot A pers'oh to be overborne and si-
lenced by a reputation--thAt mere names do not control
his judgment;—that he is bold, independent, and stub-
bornly analytical, in the formation of his opinions. He