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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 65

the epic for Simms lay decidedly nearer to Froissart than to Homer. If he is more sanguinary, he is also more sentimental than Cooper. His women, though Nelly Floyd in Eutaw is pathetic and mysterious, and Matiwan in The Yemassee is nearly as tragic as romance can make her, are almost all fragile and colorless things. Even more than Cooper, Simms suffered from the pseudo-chivalrous in his Carolina tradition: tediously old-school toward his women, he is also undemocratically “condescending” toward his common men. His comedy is successful only, and then not always, in the words and deeds of the gourmand Porgy. In this respect he clearly surpasses Cooper, whom he equals if not surpasses in the description of landscapes, which in Simms range from the sterile wastes of Georgia to the luxuriant Carolina swamps in which the partizans found a refuge—descriptions full of reality and gusto, but with little emphasis on the “poetry” or “philosophy” of nature.
  It was in dealing with the matters of the Revolution and the Settlement, not Cooper’s forte, that Simms succeeded best; he was inferior when he dealt with the Frontier. Perhaps the earlier frontier had been intrinsically more dignified than that which Simms had observed; perhaps the difference is that Cooper’s had lain deeper under the softening shadow of the past. At any rate, Simms grew more melodramatic, as Cooper grew more poetic, the farther he ventured from regions of law and order. Richard Hurdis (1838), Border Beagles (1840), Beauchampe (1842), and its sequel Charlemont (1856) are amazingly sensational—bloody and tearful and barbarously ornate. Nor was Simms happier when he abandoned native for foreign



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