Helen Halsey, or The Swamp State of Conelachita


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In this novelette, William Gilmore Simms records one of the awful realities of America’s early frontier, that of women trapped in ill-fated marriages. Forced into a union with her lover, Helen Halsey is exploited and victimized in a domestic situation from which there is no release. Utilizing the compression of the short novel form, Simms weaves elaborate plot lines of violence, romance, and intrigue to create a fast-moving, action-packed tale of an America just beginning its search for identity, justice, and spiritual truth. Edgar Allan Poe said of Simms that “in invention, in vigor, in movement, in the power of exciting interest, and in the artistical arrangement of his themes,” he surpassed “any of his countrymen.”

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.