In his novels and poetry, William Gilmore Simms illuminated the history of the American South, celebrating the region’s history, conveying a love of its landscape, and reinforcing its class and racial hierarchies. Simms earnestly defended Southern civilization—including the institution of slavery—as patriotic, chivalric, and even humane, especially in contrast to the industrial capitalism of the North. An enslaver, he roundly criticized authors who wrote against slavery, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Simms often adopted a first-person perspective to enhance the immediacy and excitement of his his-torical storytelling. In 1845, Edgar Allan Poe praised him as “the best novelist which this country has, on the whole, ever produced.” By the end of the Civil War, however, Simms’s attacks on the antislavery movement and his support for the Confederacy caused him to lose favor with the publishing and lit-erary establishment, which was based in the North.