Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 9: No 2) >> Home and Wilderness in Simms's Vasconselos >> Page 25

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 25

Secondary Scholarship | 2001, 2002
Transcription lusciously in sight, in close proximity, and drooping to the hand. On each
side, the passages were cut through seeming walls of thicket, affording
arched walks of the most noble natural Gothis. These all conducted to the
one center, in the light and airy octagon cot to which Olivia had retired

Philip, who sees Balthazar in the summer house together with Olivia made to sleep
by the medicine, runs away, and to escape from his agony, declares his participation
in De Soto's expedition of Florida. The only way left to Olivia is to disguise herself
as a black and to follow Philip as a boy attendant.
Thus "the discovery of such guilt" (328) as that of incest between Olivia and
Balthazar greatly stimulates Philip into participating in the Florida expedition. The
expedition means to him an expulsion to the wilderness due to the loss and
destruction of home, rather than leaving home overflowed with charm temporarily.
The home which Philip dreamed of collapses, never to take him back to the white
world again. However intimate Philip and Olivia become in their expedition, they
never return to the relation of man and woman. She can do nothing but see the
Native American Princess Cocalla establish intimate relationship with Philip. Olivia
wins Philip's trust, only because she disguises herself as a black boy. She
persuasively asserts that the beauties of Native Americans do not "suit the better
tastes of a refined people" and that they "lack the correspondences of education and
learning, and the charm of accomplishments, such as are needful to satisfy the
desires of a Christian people," and yet, Philip chooses "the embrace with the rude
and simple woman of the Apalachian" rather than "the whited sepulchres of
loathsomeness and corruption within" (410).
The importance of Balthazar in this romance lies in Simms's description of
him as a res ii nt of the island "for ten years" with "large estates, and larger
enterprises, with involvements more than corresponding with the former, and such
as might well be supposed to follow from a somewhat reckless indulgence of the
latter" (6). It is to be remembered that Olivia's counterpart Medea flees to Corinth
and lives there happily with Jason for ten years. The purpose of Balthazar's
participation as a leader in De Soto's expedition is to secure as many Native
Americans in Florida as possible as slaves to work on his vast plantations in Cuba.
His avarice can best be demonstrated by the fact that Balthazar shows a great
interest in whether Philip joins the expedition because the latter might deprive him
of Olivia's property under his charge. He embodies the energy of an egocentric and
self-destructive white who tries to expand his home.
The passion of chivalry represented by Balthazar or the energy of American
westward movement leads to gaining and increasing wealth and land. De Soto's
Florida expedition originates in the same desire. Philip's chivalric enthusiasm is
preordained to be sapped by these types of desire as well as by his loss of Olivia.
When Princess Cocalla is nearly caught by De Soto's men, in his mind arise "the
sympathies of race and education" (399) which conflict with "every trusted virtue,