ABOUT THIS BOOK
The writings of William Gilmore Simms (1806–1870) provide a sweeping fictional portrait of the colonial and antebellum South in all of its regional diversity. Simms's account of the region is more comprehensive than that of any other author of his time; he treats the major intellectual and social issues of the South and depicts the bonds and tensions among all of its inhabitants. By the mid-1840s Simms's novels were so well known that Edgar Allan Poe could call him "the best novelist which this country has, on the whole, produced." Perhaps the darkest of Simms's novel-length works, Vasconselos (1853) presents a fictionalized account of one of the first European efforts to settle the land that would become the United States, the Hernando de Soto expedition of 1539. Set largely in Havana, Cuba, as the explorers prepare to embark, the work explores such themes as the marginalization of racial and national minorities, the historical abuse of women, and the tendency of absolute power to corrupt absolutely. In addition, Simms anticipates in this colonial romance the works of renowned scholars who would follow him, including the historian Frederick Jackson Turner and the entire formal scholarly field of psychology, which would take shape only long after the author's death.