Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 6: No 1) >> The Actual and the Ideal: History and Fiction in ''Lucas de Ayllon'' >> Page 30

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Secondary Scholarship | 1998
Transcription In a letter to Philip Pendleton, editor of the Magnolia, dated 12 August 1841
Simms revealed how an author could elevate the moral character of his readers. An
author can only hope to elevate the moral character of his readers when he presents
them with a story of the ultimate triumph of virtue over vice. This Simms stated in
defending another story from The Wigwam and the Cabin, "Caloya; or the Loves of
the Driver", against the charge of immorality. Writers have a responsibility to show
their readers the whole truth. They must not make vice attractive. Furthermore, the
author "is and cannot but be, immoral, whose truth is partial and one-sided; who
shows the sweets of vice, without their bitterness; who depicts the successes, while
he hides or softens the defeats, the shame and suffering of the criminal."6 Simms
thus hoped to improve the moral character of his readers by showing them the
criminal receiving his just punishment.
Except as regards the manner of Ayllon's death, Simms adhered faithfully
to the essential facts in "Lucas de Ayllon".' Chiquola and Lucas de Ayllon were
both historical figures. While exploring the eastern coast of North America in the
early sixteenth century Ayllon came ashore at the mouth of a river somewhere
between the Savannah and the Potomac, and left with Chiquola and scores of
captive Indians who were intended to be sold as slaves. Whether Chiquola went
willingly or not is not known. Then, as Simms recounts, Ayllon later returned to
the mouth of the river from which he had earlier stolen slaves. There one of his
ships ran aground and sank and although no one is exactly certain how, Ayllon and
most of his companions perished.
Although in "Lucas de Ayllon" Simms was generous in blessing the Indians
with virtues such as hospitality and courage, he did not portray them unrealistically
"Fierce valour and generous hospitality were the natural virtues of the Southern
Indians," wrote Simms.' It was this valour that enabled the Indians to attack the
Spanish ships in their canoes to attempt a rescue of Chiquola armed only with bows
and "their strength, and skill and courage."9 The Indians' fatal flaw however was
their naivete. As Simms wrote, "The natives were a race as unconscious of guile as
they were fearless of danger," and thus fell victim to the wily Spaniard.'.°
Simms's description of Chiquola's tribe bears a striking similarity to his
description of the Indian character in his nonfiction essay "Literature and Art among
the American Aborigines" in his collection Views and Reviews. There Simms
described the North American Indian as "proud, . . . generous, and capable of the
most magnanimous actions; hospitable,--you shall share his bread and salt to his
own privation;--loves liberty with a passion that absorbs almost all others--and