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 4

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 4

Secondary Scholarship | 1998
Transcription Eveleigh of post-Revolutionary War days in Simms's masterpiece of long fiction,
Woodcraft (1852).
All these remarkable Simms women, including Zulieme, look
prophetically or seer-like ahead toward the development of certain Southern
heroines in twentieth-century novels of life before, during, and even well after th
War. For instance, there is Dorinda Oakley in Ellen Glasgow's Barren Ground
(1925), or Lucy and her mother-in-law Susan Allred in Caroline Gordon's None
Shall Look Back (1937). There are Sarah Bedford and Agnes McGehee in Stark
Young's So Red The Rose (1934); and, most famous of all, there is Scarlett
O'Hara in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936). Steel magnolias all
and Zulieme de Montana Calvert of Panama in Simms's Cassique is another of
their significant prototypes in antebellum Southern romance, and especially of the
immortal Scarlett herself. Zulieme has that morally uplifting, stubborn and
enduring inner strength, that long-suffering love and loyalty under great stress,
that tough-minded and tenacious determination to survive found in so many other
fictionalized Southern women cast into adversity.
True, like Mitchell's Scarlett O'Hara, Simms's Zulieme Calvert does
appear silly at first. Simms describes her as "a flirt," although not from a
penchant to vice but rather " from mere vanity and vacuity of thought" (47). He is
unabashed in his description of her vitality: healthy Zulieme is "full blossomed,
with every look speaking passion" (26). She possesses "An easy susceptibility to
all emotions; a sleepless intensity of mood, whatever the direction of the will;
great energy of passion; an ever watchful jealousy; feelings that have never
learned to brook control or denial; a temper not often accustomed to restraint"
(27). Also like Scarlett, Zulieme becomes a different woman at the end of the
story. She too is tried along the way by her passion, her disappointment and
struggle in marriage, in society, and in war. Again like Scarlett, Zulieme brazens
it all out. She perseveres stubbornly and survives, ennobled and matured at tale's
end. Zulieme's husband, Harry, on the other hand, remains the same
condescending, long-winded, surly-selfish character as he is portrayed at the start
Harry Calvert always seems to be shouldering Zulieme away, seemingly
weary of his marital attachment to her; dourly dangerous. When the reader first
meets Zulieme aboard the Happy-go-Lucky, "she is asserting" her right to know
her husband's plans. Is he going to put in at Charleston or not. She is insistent
upon going there. This wifely interference in his ship's affairs annoys Harry
tremendously, yet Zulieme remains determined: "when I want to know
4