Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 13: No 2) >> A Note on Adam L. Tate's Conservatism and Southern Intellectuals 1789-1861: Liberty, Tradition, and the Good Society >> Page 46

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Scholarship | 2005
Transcription A SOBER DESIRE


William Gilmore Simms as Historian

Sean R. Busick

An in-depth look at the significant role Simms played
in the development of American historical studies
Widely regarded as the antebellum South's foremost man
of letters, William Gilmore Sinims (1806–1870) wrote
novels and poetry that recently have enjoyed a remark-
able resurgence of interest. While scholars have previously consid-
ered Simms as primarily a poet, editor, and writer of fiction, Sean
R. Busick contends that the author is more fully understood as a
historian. In this fresh look at Simms and his contributions, Busick
brings to light the lasting impact of the South Carolinian's efforts
to comprehend American history and to preserve important pieces
of the historical record.
In A Sober Desire for History, Busick argues that Simms made
five significant contributions to American historiography. Simms's
achievements include his work as an archivist, preserving a wealth
of primary source materials that probably would not exist today if
not for his efforts; as a champion of accessible and well-wrought
historical writing; and as an advocate for what he considered dem-
ocratic history—history that recognizes individuals rather than
impersonal forces as the impetus for historical events. Busick also
credits Simms for focusing attention on groups, including Loyalists
and women, traditionally neglected in the telling of American
history. Finally, although Busick shows that Simms published his-
torical romances, biographies, and a state history, he also made an
important, lasting contribution to the writing of American history
Busick addresses, among other topics, Simms's ideas on the
relationship between history and fiction, his work as a biographer,
his writing of the text that would be used to teach history to gen-
erations of South Carolina schoolchildren, and his controversial
1856 Northern lecture series on South Carolina's role in the
American Revolution.

University of SC Press