Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 2) >> Notes & Queries and Simms Society News >> Page 40

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Page 40

Scholarship | 1999

An essay by Daniel J. Ennis (Auburn University) entitled "W.G. Simms and the
Mexican War" appeared in South Carolina Review, 31 (Spring 1999), 31-45.
Here, Ennis focuses on Simms's Lays of the Palmetto and his unofficial laureates-
ship for his state. Particularly illuminating are the parallels Ennis draws between
Wordsworth, the English laureate, and Simms's sense of his own public position.
Ennis may, however, reconsider one of his minor comments, citing the
instance of "ungainly rhyme" in Simms's pairing of Louisiana and banner.
Banner, pronounced as Simms no doubt did, from the evidence of dozens of such
er-ending rhymes, would sound bannah. Simms, the Southerner, of course had a
Southern accent.
In a bigger matter, Ennis has worked toward an understanding of Simms's
Southern nationalism, but fails to tackle the entrenched, and I believe incorrect,
view that Simms came to Southern nationalism only at mid-career. From the
start, his nationalism always bore a regional and local stamp. Indeed, his
allegiances were always local. Ennis provides good citations which show that, by
the 1840's, Simms was working and hoping for South Carolinian independence,
this on the eve of his Lays of the Palmetto. These are good indications of the
centrality of his devotion to local sovereignty and well before the 1850's.


1999 marks yet another milestone in the progress of Simms's acceptance as a
major literary figure. Just out this summer is Steven R. Serafin's prestigious
Encyclopedia of American Literature (New York: Continuum Press). This
mammoth volume surveys 1,100 authors, including Simms. The essay, written by
the editor of The Simms Review, states that Simms is indeed one of the key figures
in American Literature. One of the reasons this essay is a milestone is its length
Simms garnered 8 full, large columns, compared to Hawthorne's 5, Irving's 5,
Bryant's 3, Poe's 4, Cooper's 7, Stowe's 5, Emerson's 8, Thoreau's 8, and
Whitman's 5. Indeed, this news should be cause for celebration in Simms circles.
The essay highlights Simms's contributions to the short story, the novel, poetry,
the gothic and grotesque, literary realism, romanticism, romance theory, criticism,
the profession of letters, localism in literature, and place in literature. It surveys
his many-faceted career and calls Simms the Balzac of our literature.
Incidentally, Simms's literary friends received notice as well: Timrod 2
columns; Hayne 2; John Esten Cooke 1; A.B. Longstreet 2; Caroline Gilman 2;
William Elliot 2 1/2; and John Pendleton Kennedy 1 1/2. Hemingway received 8
columns and Faulkner 12.