Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 1) >> The Sense of Place in The Partisan >> Page 12

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Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription The Sense of Place in The Partisan

John L. Idol


Eudora Welty, like so many other major Southern writers, has taught us to
have a fuller and deeper understanding and appreciation of place in literature. Her
Smith College address, "Place in Fiction," has led us to think more searchingly
about the validity of the raw materials used in the presentation of setting in a pieceof
of fiction, to ask whether the characters we are reading about could truly come
from the place of the action, to respond more sympathetically to feelings evoked
in an author when a place brought before us betrays the depth of his or her
emotional attachment to the setting. Welty puts the matter in far better and fewer
words:
Place in fiction is the named, identified, concrete, exact and
exacting, and therefore credible, gathering spot of all that's been
felt, is about to be experienced, in a novel's progress. (786-87)
The gathering spot that we feel and experience in Simms's The Partisan
(1895) is the tidewater and eastern piedmont sections of South Carolina. One aim
of this essay is to examine that gathering spot, to see how Simms relied on his
sense of place to make the novel a rich experience for his readers. Another aim,
perhaps more political than literary, is to argue that we can find clear-cut evidence
of the opinions and feelings that led Simms to respond both heatedly and
learnedly in 1848 to Lorenzo Sabine's statement, appearing in The American
Loyalists, or Biographical Sketches of Adherents to the British Crown in the War
of the Revolution, (1847), that
The public men of South Carolina of the present generation, claim
that her patriotic devotion in the revolution, was inferior to none,
and was superior to most of the states in the confederacy. As I
examine the evidence, it was not so. (SQR, 45, as quoted by
Simms)
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