Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 5: No 2) >> Simms Looks at Poe >> Page 13

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Page 13

Secondary Scholarship | 1997
Transcription Simms Looks at Poe
Benjamin F. Fisher

The late Arlin Turner made two grave mistakes in the mid-1960's. First, he
responded to my proposal that "Simms and the Gothic" would make a good
doctoral dissertation topic with the comment: "You'd probably have the makings of
a good article or two, but not enough for a dissertation." Turner's second error
was suggesting that Poe and the Gothic would offer far richer dissertation
materials, thus resulting in several decades' worth of energies devoted to the topic.
Nevertheless, I have also taught works by Simms in whatever classes permitted,
have directed several graduate-student projects concerning Simms, and have by dint
of my own reading maintained lasting interests in one of my favorite American
authors, who stands with Poe as among the greatest duos of antebellum writers. In
the present study, I aim to pick up some threads left by Turner in his essay, "Poe
and Simms: Friendly Critics, Sometime Friends," published in 1972.' Turner's
treatment of the Poe-Simms relationship is primarily biographical, and I wish to
amplify the critical aspects of Simms's writings about Poe--granting the inescapable
interest he manifested toward Poe's personal affairs in many of his letters to
correspondents in New York City, particularly during the closing years of Poe's
life, when his day-to-day life and literary activities often were cited for the disarray
they presented.
After charting Poe's responses to Simms's earlier publications, Turner
remarks Simms's silence in regard to reviewing Poe's works before 1845 (p. 146),
attributing that silence to possible emotional wounds sustained by Simms from
Poe's strictures leveled toward The Partisan and to the apparently greater status
accorded to Simms by Rufus Griswold's anthologies of American verse and prose
(1842, 1846 respectively). From the greater generosity of selections from Simms,
Turner infers, a natural assumption of superiority, by the public at large and by
Simms himself, as regarded Simms's abilities, may have deterred Simms from
noticing either The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838) or Tales of the