An Early and Strong Sympathy: The Indian Writings of William Gilmore Simms

Literary writings that reveal nineteenth-century perceptions of Native Americans; Novelist William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) and the Indians who lived in the southeast United States during the nineteenth century have shared a similar and unfortunate fate - both have been largely neglected in mainstream scholarship of literature and ethnohistory. In a volume that remedies this oversight, John Caldwell Guilds, an authority on Simms, and Charles Hudson, an authority on Southeastern Indians, collaborate to reveal fresh perspectives on both. They offer an anthology of Simms's writings that establishes him as a knowledgeable, prolific, and sympathetic portrayer of Native Americans in fiction and poetry. This groundbreaking anthology identifies more than one hundred works by Simms on Indians, including his best and most representative writings, some of which have never before been published. The passages range from romantic, poetic fantasies to attentive descriptions that are valuable primary resources for historians and anthropologists. Written from Simms's youth in the 1820s until his death in 1870, the selections document the transformation of the South from a frontier where Indians, African Americans, and white southerners confronted each other as strangers, to a prosperous agricultural society built on the exploitation of subservient peoples, and finally, to an impoverished tri-racial community that labored to meet a post-Civil War world. In their commentary Guilds and Hudson make the case for the literary, if not always the ethnological, value of Simms's life-long efforts to dramatize the character, culture, and artistry of the American Indian. The editors emphasize the significance of Simms's depictions of Native Americans not only as an integral part of American history but also as an added dimension to the literature of the south and the nation.