Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 1) >> William Gilmore Simms and John Donald Wade >> Page 25

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Page 25

Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription newspaper tradition is written by unit of chapter. Mark Twain had
little historical-cultural background for Conn Yankee; the only
thing about the Middle Ages that struck him was the stark
unadorned facts; he was out of patience with people who kept
sighing after the past glories of chivalry.
There is much else of value in these notebooks, including discussions of
William Garrett Brown's The Lower South, Edward Eggleston's The Hoosier
Schoolmaster, and Josiah Royce's California several of which are included in a
note on the back flyleaf apparently listing books Wade intended to look at or
buy showing regional interests that both grew out of and transcended his
devotion to his native Georgia and the South. Concerning Royce's book, on April
3 Wade wrote "See Josiah Royce California, VanD says the most brilliant book
ever written on Am. state."
Wade's class-notes reveal also great esteem for Bret Harte, Edward
Eggleston, George W. Cable, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (Ward), Rose Terry Cook,
and Sarah Orne Jewett, regional writers who made significant contributions to
American literary realism as outlined in Van Doren's The American Novel,
published a short two years after Wade's class. Concerning Jewett, Wade wrote:
"Decline of rural districts had definitely set in by time Miss Jewett," adding:
She was very faithful to fact, and is in addition somewhat elegiac.
She is somewhat exotic, thoroughly artistic.
words that might equally well be applied to Wade's agrarian elegy, "The Life and
Death of Cousin Lucius," and which reveal Wade's response to Van Doren's
struggle with the conflicting claims of realism and romantic ideals in nineteenth-
century American literature.4
It may be considered something of an irony that these reflections of the
young Wade, a Southerner and a Georgian, were written in New York that the
young man who would later say of the proverb Stretch your legs to suit your quilt,
"Stretch you legs to suit your quilt,""Very many of us are always busy
stretching or shrinking ourselves to suit somebody's quilt besides our own" 5--
went North to learn of one of the antebellum South's most important literary
figures.



4 See Van Doren's The American Novel (New York: Macmillan, 1921), revised in
1940 under the influence of Vernon Louis Parrington's Main Currents in
American Thought, published—ironically—in 1930, the same year as I'll Take My
Stand.
5 Virginia Rock, "The Twelve Southerners: Biographical Essays," in I'll Take My
Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, Louis D. Rubin Jr., ed. (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), p. 402.