A Literary Life
John Caldwell Guilds
978-1-55728-378-8 (paper)
July 1995


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Edgar Allan Poe viewed William Gilmore Simms “in invention, in vigor, in movement, in the power of exciting interest, and in the artistical arrangement of his themes,” as surpassing “any of his countrymen.” After the Civil War, long years of neglect tarnished Simms’s reputation as “the central figure in the literature of the Old South,” as Jay B. Hubbell described him. However, as John Caldwell Guilds fully demonstrates here, the magnitude of Simms’s achievement cannot be denied. Simms produced seventy-two book-length works, including novels, short story collections, poetry, drama, literary criticism, essays, history and biography, encompassing ante-colonial America, the English colonies, the Revolutionary War, and the rampaging frontier. In the first full-length biography since 1892, Guilds restores Simms to his proper place as a major figure in American letters and reintroduces the reading public to this at once endearing and insufferable man, a husband, father, planter, and author.

“This excellent study is bound to change the way we look at Simms and make it impossible for scholars of American literature to deny him status as a major literary figure. Guilds provides indisputable proof of Simms’s significance as an artist—and of his artistry in poetry, novel, and short story. It is high time such a book appeared!”
—James E. Kibler, editor of Selected Poems of William Gilmore Simms

1993 “Best Book” of South Carolina History, SCHA

1993 SCMLA Book Award

Choice’s 1993 Outstanding Academic Book List

The Simms Series

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.

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