About this book
“All students of Southern literature owe a huge debt to Jack Guilds and the University of Arkansas Press for providing us with the elegant and useful new editions of the work of William Gilmore Simms.”
—Noel Polk, editor, Mississippi Quarterly
The writings of William Gilmore Simms (1806–1870) provide a sweeping fictional portrait of the colonial and antebellum South in all of its regional diversity. Simms’s account of the region is more comprehensive than that of any other author of his time; he treats the major intellectual and social issues of the South and depicts the bonds and tensions among all of its inhabitants. By the mid-1840s Simms’s novels were so well known that Edgar Allan Poe could call him “the best novelist which this country has, on the whole, produced.”
Perhaps the darkest of Simms’s novel-length works, Vasconselos (1853) presents a fictionalized account of one of the first European efforts to settle the land that would become the United States, the Hernando de Soto expedition of 1539. Set largely in Havana, Cuba, as the explorers prepare to embark, the work explores such themes as the marginalization of racial and national minorities, the historical abuse of women, and the tendency of absolute power to corrupt absolutely. In addition, Simms anticipates in this colonial romance the works of renowned scholars who would follow him, including the historian Frederick Jackson Turner and the entire formal scholarly field of psychology, which would take shape only long after the author’s death.
About the editors
Kevin Collins is associate professor of literature at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and president of the William Gilmore Simms Society.
James L. W. West III is Sparks Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University.
The University of Arkansas Press edition of the Selected Fiction of William Gilmore Simms has as its aim to publish the major novels and short fiction in reliable texts, together with scholarly introductions, annotations, and other matter useful to scholars, critics, and teachers of Simms’s work. Though not full-dress editions in the strictest sense, the volumes of the Arkansas Simms follow the conventions of scholarly editing by reprinting the last edition revised by Simms during his lifetime. Orthography, capitalization, and word division follow nineteenth-century practices, with no effort to modernize spelling or punctuation. Earlier volumes in the series have included both an introduction by Professor John C. Guilds, now the general editor emeritus, and a historical note and afterword by the editor of that particular volume. In the recent volumes the introduction, historical note, and afterword will be combined into a single introduction prepared by the volume editor.