Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 2) >> Some Thoughts on Simms's Growing Reputation >> Page 35

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Page 35

Secondary Scholarship | 2007
Transcription Some Thoughts on Simms's Growing Reputation

Simms Society member Matthew Brennan is guest-editing a special
Simms issue of Studies in the Literary Imagination scheduled for publication in
Fall 2008. He announces that the eight contributors will be Kevin Collins, Jim
Kibler, Nick Meriwether, John Miller, David Moltke-Hansen, David Newton,
Colin Pearce, and Laura Perkins. Congratulations to Matt for this significant
achievement in getting Simms recognised. Dr Mimi Shillingsburg's guest
editorship of the Simms issue of Studies in the Novel in 2003 prepared the way
for it. Achievements such as these have lasting impact. The scholarly world
works slowly, but once such an issue is put on record, the influence only grows
with the years. Recent lengthy favourable treatments of Simms in various
American literary encyclopedias have also already begun to have an effect.
It appears that the genie is out of the bottle, and there will be no putting
him back. Simms scholars have been labouring quietly and consistently as
interest in other writers has come and gone. The Simms Society's influence
over the last fifteen years has played no small Tole in the process. The
dedication of Simms family members and a growing number of scholars and
faithful general readers especially in the South have provided the critical mass
that will insure his fame, thereby frustrating the efforts of those anti-Southern
folk like the officer under Sherman who declared in 1865 that Simms after
Woodlands was burned now had no roof over his head and in the glorious future
of the U.S. he would "have no name." For a time, the officer was correct in
fact, for nearly a century. As Dr Mary Ann Wimsatt so wisely observed in her
introduction to Simms's Tales of the South, Simms has long been the
"scapegoat" in American literature.
Simms was only resurrected with the publication of the Letters in the
1950s, and largely through the devotion of his scholar-granddaughter Mary
Simms Oliphant and her friend, poet-essayist-scholar Donald Davidson. They
and the University of South Carolina Press edition of his works in the 1960s and
1970s kept his name alive; but it has been only in the last twenty years that he
has come into his own. I can remember when (in the 1970s) as a young
scholar, the pages of no American Lit journal were open to articles on Simms.
I recall one particular rejection from American Literature informing me that
Simms was just a regional writer and I should only try to publish on him in
regional journals. It is clear from those writers this journal published upon, that
its great interest has traditionally been on writers of the North, and most
particularly from New England.
Now Simms's name grows larger and brighter with every year; and
with scholars in Germany, South Korea, Russia, and Japan, the next phase will
be that his name will spread worldwide. One major step in this direction is the
publication of the first critical book-length study by a scholar outside the U.S.
Professor Masahiro Nakamura's excellent work on Simms is due from the
University of South Carolina Press in 2008. Nakamura teaches in Aichi, Japan,
and is the first translator of Simms into Japanese. He is now finishing his
translation of Simms's short stories. Nakamura, and others from abroad, have
broken Simms out of the provincial confinement of the American literary box,