Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Romantic Vision as Shown in His Critical Writings >> Page 77

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 77 THE SIMMS REVIEW

poets to acquire and perfect the technicalities of writing before publish-
ing their works ("Art. XII" 245).
According to Simms, the same lack of finish holds true for the
poetry of Sarah Clark, or Grace Greenwood, whose popularity he felt
did not yet stand on entirely secure footing. Although he thought that
Greenwood's poems displayed "a lively fancy and a certain degree of
masculine energy in utterance and conception," he found her lacking in
finish, ease, and refinement of thought ("Art. X" 554). His most severe
criticisms, however, were directed at Estelle Anna Lewis and Anne
Whitney. Lewis's "Child of the Sea" earned Simms's caustic remark in
1849 that he felt completely unaffected by it and that it was "a dead level,
of regular flat versification, commonplace thoughts and fancies and sto-
ries told a thousand times, and in much better style" ("Art. XII" 246-47).1
In a long review of Whitney's Poems, Simms practically destroyed the
Massachusetts-born poet, finding fault with her Boston transcendental-
ism, her obscure, circuitous, and purposefully vague diction, and her sen-
timental and shallow imitations of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's verses
("Our Literary Docket" 1).
As these examples show, Simms seemed to be more sharply criti-
cal in his reviews of female authors and even tended to adopt a rather
condescending tone when discussing their works. A lack of empathy may
be the root of Simms's biting comments. He declared in the article on
Whitney's poetry that it was easy for a reviewer to misunderstand women
writers, especially since the majority of the public readership would "not
read their verses or desire much communion with themselves" ("Our
Literary Docket" 1). Although these lines were written with ironic exag-
geration, it could be inferred from them that Simms considered the poet's
occupation to be mainly a male one. Moreover, he repeatedly states that
he misses originality, plainness, and boldness—what he calls "masculine
daring"—in these female writers' productions. Earnestness, frankness,
"a proper simplicity," and a measured sensuality were more to his taste
than what he often perceived to be affected mysticism and extravagant
outbursts of feeling ("Our Literary Docket" 1). Thus he advised aspir-
ing young writers, especially women, to avoid the complex and at times
obscure Brownings and other linguistically extravagant poets such as
Alexander Smith, Owen Meredith, Sydney Dobell, or even Alfred Lord
Tennyson. Instead, they should begin their poetical endeavors by emulat-
ing writers like Wordsworth, Pope, Dryden, Cowper, Burns, Shakespeare,