Saturday, April 21, 2018

Happy Birthday William Gilmore Simms


“To write from a people is to write a people—to make them live—to endow them with a life and a name—to preserve them with a history forever.”
–W.G. Simms

The great Southern writer William Gilmore Simms was born on this day in 1806. Unlike the more famous Southern writer, the short-lived Edgar Allen Poe, Simms wrote voluminously and in every literary form: short story, novel, poetry, criticism, essay, history, and biography. Though his work has sometimes been considered uneven in quality, he often wrote superbly. Poe said that Simms was one of the best American writers of the time and that if he had had the self-promotion machinery of the New England literati his name would be a household word. Although he was widely read and admired in his time in Europe and the North, Simms was for a long time after the War between the States dismissed as a mere Southern and second-rate writer; he remains today unrepresented in “mainstream” anthologies of the best American literature. Interestingly, in his own time the Northeastern critics who have dominated American literary discussion considered Simms to be distastefully racy and realistic. Later, when “realism” became the fashion, they labeled him as too romantic and “genteel.” In recent years, a handful of devoted and talented scholars have been forcing out a more just recognition of Simms’s stature and achievements. The ignoring and downplaying of Simms’s stature in American literature has been referred to as “intellectual murder.”

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