The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (190721).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
VII. Fiction II.
§ 10. William Gilmore Simms.
|William Gilmore Simms has been, to a pathetic degree, the victim of attachment to his native state. It was one of his strongest passions. He loved every foot of South Carolina, he honoured its traditions and defended its institutions even when they hurt his own fame. His best work was largely devoted to an heroic account of the Revolution in the Carolinas. But, whether his birth did not admit him to the aristocracy of Charleston, or because of a traditional disrespect for native books, South Carolina refused Simms the honour certainly due his powers. In this the whole South was negligent; Simms had to depend too largely upon the North for publishers and a public. Unfortunately, Northern readers, though hospitable to his tales from the first, were not as familiar with Southern manners and traditions as with those nearer home, and Simms had not the mastery of illusion which might have overcome this disadvantage. The solid grounds, therefore, of his romance were partly wasted upon an audience not competent to recognize them. Time must have taught South Carolina more cordiality to her best writer had not the Civil War forced all literary matters into the background for a generation. When, later, the South became eager to establish its claims to a literature, the vogue of historical romance had passed, and Simms, not yet having found the public he deserved, never has found it.