"Long Years of Neglect"


The Work and Reputation of William Gilmore Simms
Edited by John C. Guilds
978-1-55728-028-2 (cloth)
July 1989


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With this collection of essays, the literary record of one of the first and most important men of letters from the South is finally reevaluated from the critical perspective time provides.

William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) was a poet, critic, novelist, and correspondent whose accomplishment has long been overshadowed by the events of history. As a leading writer and advocate of the antebellum south, Simms suffered from the mercurial judgments of the established publishing and literary circles of the North. Since his death he has slipped into relative obscurity with the inability or unwillingness of most of his critics to separate Simms’s artistic achievements from what have been perceived as flaws in his character.

Together witht he collected letters of Simms—coedited by T.C. Duncan Eaves, to whose memory this book is dedicated—the essays included in Long Years of Neglect can now begin to rectify the damage done over time to the reputation of Simms and his writing, to supersede the options of the past with scholarly and critical appraisal of the work itself, and to offer fresh insight into William Gilmore Simms as a significant and intriguing figure in early American letters.

As editor Guilds speculates in his introduction, “It is conceivable that replacing myth with fact will become fashionable in Simms scholarship, and, even more important, that reading the works—instead of reading the reasons they should be avoided—will become standard practice for  Simms as it is for other authors of his stamp.” It was the aim of this book to initiate the realization of that goal.

“. . . Simms’ neglect, if such it is, reflects more than an accidental overlooking of one writer. It reflects a particular partisan heritage of ideological, not literary, judgments which possibly ought to be exposed and reexamined.”

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.