Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 1) >> William Gilmore Simms and John Donald Wade >> Page 20

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Page 20

Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription William Gilmore Simms and John Donald Wade

Jonathan D. Evans

Scholars have speculated for some time concerning the possibility of a
direct line of literary connection between Simms and the Nashville Agrarians,
whose I'll Take My Stand (1930) was a manifesto of agrarian concerns implicit in
Simms's own career. Materials in the John Donald Wade Papers in the Hargrett
Rare Books and Manuscripts Library of the University of Georgia now confirm
the connection beyond doubt. Wade's influence upon the movement and his
mark upon the volume went beyond his written contribution, "The Life and Death
of Cousin Lucius," which exemplified in fictional biography —a genre in which
Wade excelled the principal concerns of the agrarians, including deep
reservations over the industrialization of the South and the commodification of
culture, issues which remain central in contemporary agrarian writers such as
Wendell Berry, Fred Chappell, Marion Montgomery, and others. 1 Wade also
suggested the title of the book—"What are we going to do about Wade," wrote
Allen Tate. "He insists on naming our book I'll Take My Stand."2
Wade, who spent most of his academic career as a faculty-member in the
University of Georgia English Department (1919-25; 1934-46) and as Head of the
English Department from 1939 until his retirement in 1950, founded the Georgia
Review in 1946 and served as its editor for the first four years of its infancy. But
in addition to teaching summer courses at Duke University and the University of
North Carolina, he was an assistant professor at Vanderbilt from 1928 to 1934,
where his encounters with contemporary poets, novelists, and essayists among the
Nashville Fugitives helped to solidify the key themes that would find publication
in the 1930 volume. But what were Wade's sources? What influences shaped his
understanding of literature and its role in the culture of the South? There can be
no doubt that one of the earliest shaping influences upon Wade's own literary
imagination was William Gilmore Simms.

1 Berry commented recently on I'll Take My Stand in "Still Standing," The
Oxford American, January/February 1999, pp. 64-69.
2 I am indebted to Wade's daughter, Anne Wade Rittenberry, for this reference, as
indeed for permission to quote from her father's private papers. I also wish to
thank Mary Ellen Brooks, Curator of the Hargrett Rare Books and Manuscripts
Library, for permission to use materials from the John Donald Wade Papers.