Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Romantic Vision as Shown in His Critical Writings >> Page 75

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 75 THE SIMMS REVIEW

long and strenuous labor to perfect one's style and means of expression:
his review of the poems by "Semlan" in 1854, for example, mercilessly
skewers the defects of the young poet's verses ("Art. X" 522).
Several of Simms's reviews of American poets are especially apt
demonstrations of his critical beliefs and qualities. In 1854, in a short
article on the American poet W. C. Hosmer, Simms praised Hosmer's
"smooth, spirited and fanciful" verse, but chided him for being largely
imitative of Sir Walter Scott's border romances and for not daring to
develop his own style ("Art. XII" 265). In another review in the same
issue of Southern Quarterly Review, Simms compared the poetry of
the Bostonian publisher James T. Fields to that of the British poet and
publisher Edward Moxon. He deemed both of them contemplative and
graceful poets, but bemoaned the fact that neither were especially brave,
ambitious or inventive ("Art. XII" 236-238). The same was true for the
contemplative poetry of the Reverend Ralph Hoyt, who earned Simms's
praise for his ability to "lull you into a musing mood" and for his "calm,
gentle and decorous" verse, but who nonetheless failed to rouse any
Simms's preference for more bold and energetic poetry becomes
obvious in his admiration for the work of young South Carolinian
Robert P. Hall, whose only faults were a lack of refinement and stylistic
polish ("Art. XI" 226-27, 229). He admired the "charming" poetry of
Longfellow, whom in September 1850 he called a poet almost without
peer in the United States, due to the fact that Longfellow's verse pos-
sessed exactly the right measure of morality, fancy, and thoughtfulness
("Art. X" 255). Yet Simms still found Longfellow's style unquestionably
imitative, his thinking mundane, and his style unimaginative. Worse, he
detested Longfellow's abolitionist poems which he found "gross and
coarse" and full of "brutalities and falsehoods" ("Art. X" 225-26). Given
Simms's outspoken defense of the South and slavery, one might expect
this sort of evaluation. However, this also highlights the overwhelm-
ingly positive assessment Simms accorded Longfellow in general, rightly
esteeming his worth as a national poet despite his New England origins
and sectional bias.
Clearly, Simms was a careful critic. He not only took into consid-
eration a poet's mastery of the language the delicacy of expression, the
easiness, energy and beauty of style—but he also attempted to determine
the success of the choice of subject matter, the poet's descriptive and