William Gilmore Simms was known in his lifetime as a novelist, short-story writer, poet, historian, and journalist; today his reputation rests on his novels. Simms’s childhood was an unusual one. His mother died while he was still an infant, and his father left the baby William in the care of his maternal grandmother. He seems to have had only casual schooling, but he read widely and listened intently to his grandmother’s stories of the American Revolution as it had occurred in the South. When the boy was ten years old, his father, a frontiersman who had gone westward toward the Mississippi River, paid a visit to Charleston, and at eighteen William went to visit his father on his plantation in what is now Mississippi.
During this visit he observed frontier life and American Indian tribes. Upon his return to Charleston, Simms published some poems, most of them with a Byronic flavor. In 1828 he entered upon the editorship of a short-lived magazine titled The Tablet. After its failure he became editor of the Charleston City Gazette, which opposed the election of John C. Calhoun. Because of the political animosity he incurred as a result, plus the deaths of his wife, grandmother, and father, Simms left for the North, where he found friends and a future.
Some early work was published shortly after he left Charleston, but his first important success came with the publication of Guy Rivers in 1834. A story of gold mining in northern Georgia, the novel, packed with action, is a romantic piece of writing with a realistic American theme. His next work was The Partisan, which was...
(The entire section is 667 words.)