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 lifelong 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.
The most widely published scholar and editor of Simms, John Caldwell Guilds has devoted more than four decades to the study of Simms and his works. Author of the prize-winning biography Simms: A Literary Life and editor of The Wagwam and the Cabin: Selected Fiction of William Gilmore Simms Guilds holds the Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities at the University of Arkansas. Guilds lives on Cartwright Mountain in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas.
Charles Hudson, retired as the Franklin Professor of Anthropology at the University of Georgia. He is the author of, among other works, The Southeastern Indians and Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun: Hernando de Soto and the South's Ancient Chiefdoms. Hudson is also the editor of The Ethnology of the Southeastern Indians: A Source Book. Hudson resides in Athens, Georgia.
"William Gilmore Simms is unequalled among antebellum American creative writers in his persistent efforts to convey the historical roles of Native Americans from before Columbus to his own day. The editors of this collection of Simms's 'Indian Writings' make possible, for the first time, concerted attention to these contributions by the Old South's preeminent man of letters."—David Moltke-Hansen, president, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
"This excellent collection, responsibly edited and annotated by John Caldwell Guilds and Charles Hudson, brings Simms to the forefront of American authors who were early interested in the Indian and acutely conscious of his dispossession and uncertain future."—James L. W. West III, The Pennsylvania State University