Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Romantic Vision as Shown in His Critical Writings >> Page 81

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 81 THE SIMMS REVIEW

admitted that he found Pope's work so witty, tasteful, morally excellent,
and humorous, that he did not miss the spiritual. Simms appreciated Pope
for "his strong common sense" and his knowledgeable and realistic por-
trayal of human beings ("Art. XII" 249), both elements that were basic
to Simms's own understanding of writing by 1854.
In 1850 Simms wrote that Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sir
Henry Taylor were to be considered the best of the English poets since
Wordsworth's death. He found that Tennyson united Shelley's spiritual
endowments and Wordsworth's contemplativeness, showing, however,
more passion and enthusiasm than Wordsworth in his verse. Tennyson
was clearly a disciple of Wordsworth's "noble theory" of verse, having
inherited his mental discipline and philosophy from the earlier poet ("Art.
I" 21). Still, Simms thought that Tennyson's masterpiece In Memoriam
was rather monotonous in meter, structure, and topic, despite containing
"a considerable proportion of excellent verse; sweet fancies and subdued
thoughts" ("Art. XI" 535). The works of the less popular Taylor were
neither dazzling nor intoxicating, but Simms liked them for their correct-
ness, chastity and spiritual elevation.3
Also in 1850, Simms praised Robert Browning's poems for their
thoughtfulness, subtlety, and ingenuity, calling him one of the as-yet-
unacknowledged master minds of Europe. He found that Browning was
an artist with "peculiar and curious powers" whose only barrier to more
popular esteem was his obscure, halting, and rough means of expression
("Art. X" 256-57). He expected Browning to cease experimenting with
rhythm and diction and to refine his powers of expression. However,
when he saw nine years later that Browning had not aspired to become a
more conventional poet, Simms deemed him "a monster of conceit and
affectation" and deplored that his wife Elizabeth followed him in his
"errantries" after they had married ("Our Literary Docket" 1). An equally
"erratic" author was the "changeling" Shelley, whose spiritual qualities
and "vague minstrelsies of foreign births" Simms held in high esteem,
although he found it difficult to identify with him ("Heads of the Poets"
159). He liked Keats better and deplored his untimely death (Parks 51).
Simms's commentaries on various English-speaking authors
makes it possible to extrapolate his stance on what the function and value
of poetry should be. He remarks in one of his letters that he regards poet-
ry "as the profoundest of human philosophies," it being "the mysterious
voice of the deeper nature lying in the heart, or in the depths of the greaT