Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> ''The Mountain Tramp. Tselica; A Legend of the French Broad'': With an Eye on the Horizon >> Page 61

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 61 THE SIMMS REVIEW

Another significant and relevant element of the poem's structure
concerns the use of quotations. All three sections are spoken by a single
voice, the city dweller, even though the events of the Indian love story
are related to him by the old hunter. Simms presents the city dweller as
telling of his trip to the hills and as reporting the words of the hunter, in
quotation marks, directly to the reader. Though it is easy, given the length
of the poem, to lose track of the fact, even the Indian story is presented
from the lips of the city dweller, reporting the words of the hunter, who
in turn is reporting legend of Tselica. In this way, Simms anticipates
another important principle of the Frontier Thesis: that the pioneers of the
expanding frontier, studied as a whole, formed a single collective and that
it was that collective that demonstrated a pattern of evolutionary devel-
opment vastly different from that of the parent cultures that produced
it. Because of Turner's interest in Darwinian theory, this notion was
particularly important to the Frontier Thesis. Though no less prominent
in Simms's works, this notion was perhaps less important, at least on a
conscious level, and for a good reason: On the Origin of Species was not
published until seven years after "The Mountain Tramp" was finished.
Rather than detracting from Simms's remarkable anticipation of Turner's
work, though, this fact perhaps adds to it by emphasizing the author's
visionary nature as he described events in his own time in precisely the
terms that America's most prominent historian would use only in retro-
spect and only under the inspiration of Darwin.
Finally, as the frontiersmen he was describing have, Frederick
Jackson Turner has taken some fairly withering criticism of late from
multiculturalist scholars, primarily for his tendency to see Indians as
a problem that pioneers had to overcome rather than as a part of the
American patchwork, as they are generally viewed today. While Simms
certainly has more than his share of multicultural critics today because
of his status as a slaveholder, he was remarkably prescient in "The
Mountain Tramp. Tselica; A Legend of the French Broad" as he was in
the novel Vasconselos, the novella "Lucas de Ayllon," and in some others
of his Indian-themed works—in his ability to envision Indians as part of
the collective that also included both city dwellers and white frontiers-
men.