Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 6: No 1) >> The Actual and the Ideal: History and Fiction in ''Lucas de Ayllon'' >> Page 33

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Secondary Scholarship | 1998
Transcription This then, is the point at which the actual gives way to the ideal--the point at
which Simms used fiction to supply the deficiencies or correct the judgments of
history.27 In order to teach a truth, Simms the artist has Ayllon suffer a terrible yet
just punishment for his crimes without obscuring the moral lesson by having him
cannibalized and becoming a victim himself to a barbaric crime perpetrated by the
Indians. As Simms wrote, the author who wishes to elevate the moral character of
his readers must show virtue and vice "in contrast and opposition." He must
illustrate for his readers "the beauties of the one and the deformities of the other."28
In James Kibler's judgment, Simms's dislike for utilitarianism and "His
affirmation and demonstration of a fuller way of seeing pervade so many of his
poems, stories, novels, and essays as to constitute . . . the major theme of his
canoa_'_'29 . We might . say that _Ayllon was the perfect personification of this
utilitarianism, and it is most certainly this theme that he conveyed in "Lucas de
Ayllon." He presented forcefully to his readers by blending the actual and the ideal
and by contrasting the virtues of the Indians with the vices of the utilitarian Ayllon.

This paper was presented at the Simms-Faulkner Conference, New Orleans, 11 December 1997.

1 William Gilmore Simms, "Dedication," in The Wigwam and the Cabin (New York: J. S.
Redfield, 1859), 5.

2 Simms, "Lucas de Ayllon. A Historical Nouvellette," in The Wigwam and the Cabin, 430.

3 Nicholas G. Meriwether, "Simms's The Lily and the Totem: `History for the Purposes of Art',"
in Long Years of Neglect: The Work and Reputation of William Gilmore Simms, ed. John C.
Guilds (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1988), 77.

4 Aristotle, Poetics, in The Complete Works of Aristotle vol. 2, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1984), 2323. For an example of a modem scholar who has recognized
this difference between history and fiction, see: John Lukacs, Historical Consciousness: The
Remembered Past (New Brunswick, N. J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994), 124-128.

5 Simms, Views and Reviews in American Literature, History and Fiction. First Series, ed. C.
Hugh Holmann (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1961), 38.

6 Simms to Philip C. Pendleton, 12 August 1841, in The Letters of William Gilmore Simms vol.
1, eds. Mary C. Simms Oliphant, Alfred Taylor Odell, and T. C. Duncan Eaves (Columbia: The
University of South Carolina Press, 1952), 259.

7 For historians' accounts of Lucas de Ayllon's voyage to Carolina, see: Robert M. Weir,
Colonial South Carolina: A History (Millwood, NY: KTO Press, 1983); Samuel Eliot Morison,
The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1971); and John Fiske, The Discovery of America; With some Account of Ancient
America and the Spanish Conquest vol. 2 (Cambridge, Mass.: The Riverside Press, 1894).

8 Simms, "Lucas de Ayllon," 431.