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. Below is an abstract of his 8 Revolutionary War “Romances.”
Simms wanted, through his 8 Revolutionary War “Romances,” to create an accurate but vivid portrayal of the Revolutionary struggle in South Carolina. To that end, he collected a large amount of original manuscript material (much of which was destroyed by Sherman’s army) and plumbed the memories of still living members of the Revolution and their families. The result was eight novels (Simms called them “romances”) telling the story from beginning to end: Joscelyn, The Partisan, Mellichampe, Katherine Walton, The Scout, The Forayers, Eutaw, and Woodcraft. (Listed in story order rather than publication order.) Woodcraft, a sort of “Reconstruction” novel, concerned with the restoration of society after a long civil war, but also interesting because of its insightful portrayal of relations between men and women, is considered by many to be Simms’s best work.
Simms also wrote biographies of Francis Marion and General Nathaniel Greene and published many other writings about the Revolution. You can see reviews of these biographies in the Society’s Biography category.
Availability of these Books.
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