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11.01.03 Simms, William Gilmore, The Cassique of Kiawah, published in 1859, and other Pre-colonial and Colonial “Romances.”

Notes Concerning the Author

William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870), a native of Charleston, SC, was more than just “the father of Southern literature.”  He was a prominent and prolific source in the whole of American letters, regardless of region.  Indeed Edgar Allan Poe called him the “best American novelist.”  In some sense Simms was the American Balzac, for like the great French author, a near contemporary, Simms incredible work ethic resulted in a prodigious output of works ranging over a number of settings in the South and beyond and delineating American life in its various social strata.  Unlike Balzac, Simms was an accomplished poet and frequent reviewer for a various number of prestigious nineteenth century literary journals.  He was also a historian, writing a history of South Carolina as well as a biography of Francis Marion.  He was not, however, an artiste staring down at society from a vaunted garret but an active participant in the life of his city and state, including serving two terms in the South Carolina legislature.  As valuable as his creative work is his non-fiction and his own correspondence are also highly regarded.  One piece of non-fiction, The Sack and Destruction of Columbia, details Sherman’s march through and wasting of South Carolina’s capital city, an event Simms witnessed firsthand and describes in close and shocking detail; his letters were gathered into five volumes in the 1950s with a supplementary volume appearing in 1982.  For years Simms’s reputation experienced a great lull but of late has been revived through the work of the William Gilmore Simms Society. 

The Cassique of Kiawah is considered by many critics to be Simms’s masterpiece of longer fiction.

Simms wrote a number of popular novels between 1830 and 1860, usually focusing on the pre-colonial and colonial periods of Southern history. These included such titles as The Yemassee (1835); The Lily and the Totem, or, The Huguenots in Florida (1850); Vasconselos (1853); and The Cassique of Kiawah (1859).


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Availability of this Book

For many years it was tough to come across a reliable copy of The Cassique of Kiawah.  But in 2005 The History Press issued a most attractive paperback.  Suggest to go to their web-site or to Amazon.