Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 9: No 2) >> Home and Wilderness in Simms's Vasconselos >> Page 21

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Secondary Scholarship | 2001, 2002
Transcription petty nobleman. But mostly they came from the growing middle class.15

Simms says that chivalry is "only another name for enthusiasm" because
enthusiasm must exist "where the virtues essential for performance do not entirely
stagnate" (188). It symbolizes enterprise and courage. Philip is a commoner who
does not have his men or any distinguished title. A gentleman "by all four descents,"
De Soto gets wealth and fame mainly by "his personal merits" which prove to be
"superior to those of birth" (5). "[A] startling mission of performance before them"
distinguishes all the conquistadors including not only De Soto and Philip but also
"Cortez, the Pizarros, Ojeda, Balboa, and a host besides" (179). These Castillians
who represent "the compound passion of avarice and ambition" or "the impatient
and fevered restlessness" become the prototypes of the Americans in future ages
insomuch as their "provocation to performance" knew no limit and their fiery
passions would never be at home:

The compound passion of avarice and ambition left them in no humor for
repose. Without pause, yet not blindly, they pursued their mission; and the
impatient and fevered restlessness which it demanded and excited, rendered
them superior to every persuasion that threatened conflict with their
strength. These could only prevail finally with the race which, with ample
luxuries in possession, find no longer in their thirst the provocation to
performance. They have still a great work to do, are still goaded by fiery
passions ,which will not suffer them to sleep, and they seize their luxuries
with the mood of the hurrying traveler, in a strange land, who plucks the
flower along the wayside as he passes, and hastens on his way. The fresh
desires of achievements kept them from all loitering. Acknowledging the
sweets and beauties of the scene, as proffered them by Nature
acknowledging with due appreciation the bounty in her gifts they tasted
only, and pressed forward. They had then fiercer impulses to appease, and
more exacting and earnest appetites to satisfy. They obeyed a destiny! They
were still chiefly sensible of passions taught in the market-place; by the
multitude; during the struggle; in which to hope is to contend; strife, blood,
conquest, glory and personal prominence... (179-80)

The traveler who busily moves ahead after picking flowers on the roadside,
and the group who are destined to seek "strife, blood...glory, and personal
prominence" are nothing less than the Americans portrayed in Simms's Border
Romances. The Spaniards of Vasconselos are the immediate precursor of the white
Americans whom he represents in Charlemont and Beauchampe (1856) as moving
onward to new Canaan without building up and improving the social order in the
fertile land of which they have robbed Native Americans. A word Simms uses to
portray the passion of Orville Beauchampe is "Saracenic" (193, 246) which

15 Carlos Fuentes, The Buried Mirror: Reflections on Spain and the New World (New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992), 129.