Published: Apr 9 2013
Size: 6 x 9
Projects of the Simms Initiatives
Castle Dismal; Or, The Bachelor's Christmas
William Gilmore Simms
A gothic tale of ghosts, infidelity, murder, and love, Castle Dismal follows the protagonist Ned Clifton, a "veteran bachelor" who fears the bonds of marriage, in his holiday visit to the home of married friends. Set during the Christmas season in South Carolina, Simms's story illustrates the southern custom of bringing together family around a table to feast; and while Clifton eventually marries Elizabeth Singleton—freeing him from the "melancholy dependencies of bachelorism"—Simms subverts naïve nineteenth-century notions of marriage and domesticity. Marked "by the characteristics of passion & imagination," Simms believed that Castle Dismal constituted one of the "best specimens of [his] powers of creating & combining, to say nothing of a certain intensifying egotism, which marks all [his] writings written in the first person." Edgar Allen Poe considered it "one of the most original fictions ever penned," confirming the genius of Simms; Evert A. Duyckinck, close friend and contemporary critic of Simms, called it "one of the best ghost stories we have ever read." As recent as 1992, John C. Guilds considered the work to be excellent in "establishing atmosphere, tone, and mood."