Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 6: No 2) >> Simms's Scarlett O'Hara: Zulieme de Montana Calvert of Panama in The Cassique of Kiawah >> Page 3

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Secondary Scholarship | 1998
Transcription heroine, Zulieme de Montana Calvert of Panama. Zulieme is the emotionally
patronized and almost physically abused wife of the loutish, surly, philandering
"hero" of Simms's romance, a privateer of "irritable mood' on whose petulant
cheek "care sate" (24-25).
This is Harry Calvert, tall, blonde, cool-eyed, and well-made. He is
skipper of the cruiser Happy-go-Lucky, and the lost brother of the Carolina
planter, Edward Berkeley, the Cassique or lord of the manor of the story's title.
Edward is husband of the light-haired, dull-eyed, and dismally dying Olive,
whose love both brothers desire. She married Edward because her mother lied to
both of them that Harry had died at sea. Hence, Harry's irritability, his brooding
and care-worn cheek are born of frustrated physical longing and not of high-flown
purpose. From this brotherly rivalry for Olive derives what narrative tension
Simms's romance has, other than the fear of Indians.
I would hope that David Aiken is mistaken when in his "Introduction" to
the most recent edition of The Cassique he calls Calvert "Simms's ideal hero of
the American colonial period" (vi). In physique Harry might look the hero's part
all right; but in personality he is a gloomy, indrawn brute. Be this as it may, my
business is with Simms's ideal heroine, Zulieme. I agree with Aiken when he
writes that "Simms's portrayal of Zulieme is one of the triumphs of the novel and
illustrates his mastery at depicting female characters" (xxv). Anne Meriwether, in
an essay in Long Years of Neglect, correctly says that the development of the
character of Zulieme, who is "physically strong and passionate throughout .. .
lies at the heart" of the novel as she matures into womanhood (49-50). Along
with Simms's sensitively portrayed and tragic American Indians, Zulieme is for
me the highpoint in the romance.
Ostensibly delicate Zulieme in appearance certainly is nothing at all like
the type of that other Simms Southern noblewoman, rough and ready, astride-
riding Harricane Nelly Floyd of Eutaw (1856). On the other hand, though,
Zulieme certainly is one in appearance and demeanor with Simms's enduring
Southern lady of the American Revolution, Katherine Walton, who gives her
name to another romance, published in 1851. In many ways, Zulieme also is like
the frustrated poetess and sexually abused that is to say, seduced—dreamer,
Margaret Cooper of Kentucky in Charlemont (1856) and Beauchampe (1856),
Simms's retelling of the Kentucky Tragedy. And she is a younger version of the
genteelly toughest antebellum Southern noblewoman of them all, the Widow