Novelists And Humorists
IV. NOVELISTS AND HUMORISTS.
Writers of fiction were numerous during the first half of the century, in the South as well as in the North.
While Cooper and Poe were the only ones who attained eminence in this field, there was no lack of
story-telling, and in several instances a wide local reputation was built upon the success of a single
book. The influence of Cooper is strongly felt in the work of three Southern novelists, Kennedy, Bird,
and Simms, of whom the last-named deserves a wider fame. John P. Kennedy (1795-1870), a native
of Baltimore and a successful lawyer who represented his state in Congress and was also Secretary
of the Navy under President Fillmore, is chiefly remembered as the author of Horse-Shoe Robinson
(1835), his best work; a capital romance of the Revolution in the South. The Indian novel, Nick of the
Woods (1837), constitutes the principal claim of Dr. Robert M. Bird (1803-1854) to recognition in this
group. He was, however, the author of several romances dealing with the Spanish Conquest of Mexico,
and also of two or three plays, among which The Gladiator holds the principal place.
William Gilmore Simms is, next to Poe, the most representative and most talented among the writers of
the South previous to the Civil War. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina. As his family belonged
to the poorer class, he received little in the way of formal education, but exhibited unusual energy in
literary pursuits. At twenty-three, Simms had already published three volumes of youthful verse. His
first novel, Martin Faber (1833), reflects the influence of Charles Brockden Browne; but Guy Rivers
(1834) was the first of a series of border romances in which the influence of Cooper is plainly seen. In
1835, Simms published The Partisan, one of his best stories, a vivid and entertaining narrative of the
partisan warfare conducted in the South during the Revolutionary struggle. In Mellichampe (1836), The
Kinsmen (1841), and Katharine Walton (1851), he continued the story of the characters thus introduced.
His historical tales were as numerous as those of Cooper, and continued to appear down to the period
of the Civil War. Although defective in technical construction and by no means comparable to Cooper's
best novels, they nevertheless constitute a remarkable collection and are not unworthy the attention of
the modern reader. A voluminous writer, Simms was the author of biographies, plays, and poems, in
addition to the long list of romances, only the most important of which have been named.
A follower of Simms was John Esten Cooke (1830-1886), whose novels, The Virginia Comedians (1854),
and Fairfax (1868), are representative of this author's work in the same historical field.
Fiction in the North.
Rev. William Ware (1797-1852), a Massachusetts clergyman, was the author of three sober narratives
dealing with the persecution of the Christians at Rome. To some extent Zenobia (1837), Aurelian (1838),
and Julian (1841) still maintain their place among popular religious romances. Rev. Sylvester Judd
(1813-1853) is more dimly remembered as the author of a transcendental romance, Margaret (1845),
which was admired by Lowell for its description of humble rural life. The fiction of adventure is represented
at its best in the novels of Herman Melville (1819-1891), a native of New York City. His own experiences
on land and sea supplied the material of his most successful books, Typee (1846), Omoo (1847), and
Moby Dick, or the White Whale (1851). This last, a masterpiece, is one of the greatest sea stories ever
written, a real epic. The tales of Catherine M. Sedgwick (1789-1867) employed an historical background; of
these Hope Leslie, or Early Times in Massachusetts (1827), and The Linwoods, or Sixty Years Since
in America (1835), were especially admired. Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880), whose philanthropic spirit
brought her prominently into the anti-slavery agitation, began her modest literary career with the publication
of two historical novels: Hobomok (1824), which depicted life in the colony at Salem, and The Rebels
(1825), the scene of which is laid in Boston just previous to the Revolution.