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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Gothic Undercurrents

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Henry Ward
- Ambrose
- Charles
Brockden Brown
- Emily Dickenson
- Charlotte
Perkins Gilman
- Nathaniel
- Washington
- Herman
- Edgar
Allen Poe
- William
Gilmore Simms
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870)

The International Magazine of Literature, Art and Science, William Gilmore Simms
[7245] The International Magazine of Literature, Art and Science, William Gilmore Simms (1852),
courtesy of the Making of America Project, Cornell University Library.

William Gilmore Simms Activities
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Born in Charleston, South Carolina, and remaining near his birthplace throughout his life, Simms was well-known as the author of romances such as The Yemassee (1835), The Lily and the Totem (1850), and The Forayers (1855). Some of the raw material for these works no doubt came from Simms's father, who was a soldier of fortune, wandering the South for years (leaving Simms in the care of a grandmother), eventually growing rich, and collecting stories and observations. Simms's novels represent the history of the American South and are influenced by Simms's knowledge of and affection for the region, including his respect for its landscape, institutions, and social structures. Perhaps his view of his homeland is best embodied in one of his protagonists (in Voltmeier [1869]), who at one point cries out, "I have the strength to endure, I have endured!" Capturing a vision of a defiant and exotic South, Simms's novels are frequently macabre, displaying characters living in harsh but strangely glamorous conditions.

Simms was politically active, helped develop the proslavery argument (he believed firmly that humans were part of a great chain of being, with whites in a superior position to blacks), and submitted elaborate battle plans to the Confederacy during the Civil War. Like Charles Brockden Brown, he pursued literature rather than the law, with which he had flirted in his early adulthood. A prolific author, he wrote poetry, plays, histories of the South, novellas, biographies, magazine essays, medleys, and literary criticism. In an attempt to support his impoverished family late in life, he worked feverishly at various writing projects, eventually destroying his own health.

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