A Sober Desire for History: William Gilmore Simms as Historian
By: Sean R. Busick (author)Hardback
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Widely regarded as the antebellum South's foremost man of letters, William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) wrote novels and poetry that recently have enjoyed a remarkable resurgence of interest. While scholars have previously considered Simms as primarily a poet, editor, and writer of fiction, Sean R. Busick contends that the author is more fully understood as a historian. In this fresh look at Simms and his contributions, Busick brings to light the lasting impact of the South Carolinian's efforts to comprehend American history and to preserve important pieces of the historical record. In A Sober Desire for History, Busick argues that Simms made five significant contributions to American historiography. Simms's achievements include his work as an archivist, preserving a wealth of primary source materials that probably would not exist today if not for his efforts; as a champion of accessible and well-wrought historical writing; and as an advocate for what he considered democratic history - history that recognizes individuals rather than impersonal forces as the impetus for historical events.
Busick also credits Simms for focusing attention on groups, including Loyalists and women, traditionally neglected in the telling of American history. Finally, although Busick shows that Simms published historical romances, biographies, and a state history, he also made an important, lasting contribution to the writing of American history through his support and encouragement of other historians. Busick addresses, among other topics, Simms's ideas on the relationship between history and fiction, his work as a biographer, his writing of the text that would be used to teach history to generations of South Carolina schoolchildren, and his controversial 1856 Northern lecture series on South Carolina's role in the American Revolution.
Sean R. Busick is an assistant professor of history at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, Kentucky. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina and has published articles and reviews in such journals as Simms Review and Southern Historian. Busick lives in Owensboro.
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