Backwoods Tales


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About this book

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.”


The twelfth volume in the ongoing Arkansas Edition of the works of William Gilmore Simms, Backwoods Tales brings together three of the best examples of his comic writing. All were written during the last decade of Simms’s life, when he had become a master of his craft. These three tales belong in the tradition of southern backwoods humor, a genre that flourished before the Civil War and produced classic tales by such authors as George Washington Harris, Johnson Jones Hooper, and Thomas Bangs Thorpe. Paddy McGann, “Sharp Snaffles,” and “Bill Bauldy” are all frame tales, told by rustic narrators in authentic dialect, with frequent pauses for libation and comment. These three pieces of writing, never before published together, stand among the best examples of American humor of the nineteenth century.

About the editors

Keen Butterworth, an emeritus member of the English Department at the University of South Carolina, has published on Simms, William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, and other southern writers. He has recently written about Louis Armstrong for the Southern Review and is currently pursuing projects in fiction and poetry.


James L. W. West III is general editor and John Caldwell Guilds is general editor emeritus of the Arkansas Edition of Simms’s works.


“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 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.