Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> Folk and Fairy Tale Elements in Guy Rivers >> Page 15

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription marked contrast to Forrester's use of the vernacular: "Bad as the.fellbw is, do you
think it possible that they will torture him as you describe, or hang him,- without
law, and a fair trial?27 David Newton writes: "These comic scenes of frontier
justice clearly illustrate Simms's interest in realistic depictions of frontier life and
speech; however, they also reveal how Simms focuses imaginatively on language
to enrich his portrait of the Southern frontier."28 Simms brings a character like
Ralph Colleton to the frontier in order to help his readers see the events of the
novel through the point of view of someone they understand. He portrays
characters like Forrester in a positive light, though, so that his readers will
empathize with the backwoods people.
There are inconsistencies in Simms's use of language, however. He
presents Forrester as a backwoodsman who wears a fox-skin cap while he
interacts with men, but later, when he interacts with the woman he loves, his
language is very different. According to Rayburn S. Moore, "the well-born
characters speak a language very much like that of similar characters in the fiction
of the period and described later by Mark Twain in his famous essay of Fenimore
Cooper (1895) as 'gilt-edged' and 'hand-tooled. 29 For the most part, the "gilt-
edged" English is used in the love scenes in Guy Rivers. For instance, Ralph and
Edith use it when talking to each other, and Lucy and Rivers use it when he
kidnaps her; however, it is interesting to compare variances in Forrester's
language in several sections of the novel. For instance, when he is telling
Colleton about Bunce, he says, "why, Lord love you, ha'n't I told you that he'll
have a fair trial, afore the regulators ... But of you know'd Bunce, you'd>-know:
that a fair trial is the very last marcy that he'd aix of Providence."30 Later, as
Forrester is talking to Kate, the woman he loves, he says, "Forgive me, Katherine
--dear Katherine-- but you little know the madness and the misery at my heart."31
A few lines later he says, "I feel desperate like the man striving with his brother
upon the plank in the broad ocean."32 In Guy Rivers, Simms was integrating
several genres, including the traditional romance, a -border-frontier story, and
backwoods Southern humor: "Whatever the novel's faults, then, it is a pioneering
attempt to introduce and deal with fresh American background and materials."33

27 Ibid., p. 71.
28 Newton, David W., "Voices Along the Border: Language and the Southern Frontier in Guy
Rivers: A Tale of Georgia," William Gilmore Simms and the American Frontier, Ed. John
Caldwell Guilds and Caroline Collins, (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1997), p. 128
29 Moore, p. 58.
30 Simms, p. 71.
31 Ibid., p. 217.
32 Ibid., p. 218.
33 Moore, p. 61.