Woodcraft; or, Hawks About the Dovecote
A Story of the South at the Close of the Revolution
William Gilmore Simms
Published: Jul 19 2012
The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of
Woodcraft; or, Hawks About the Dovecote: A Story of the South at the Close of the Revolution is the fifth novel composed in William Gilmore Simms' saga of the American Revolution. As the work opens, the British are evacuating Charleston in December 1782. Then the novel shifts to a ruined rice plantation, Glen-Eberley, on the Ashepoo River south of Charleston, where the plantation community is striving to reestablish civil order and consideration. Primarily through Porgy, Simms' intriguing protagonist, the novel works as a soldier's pay story, a domestic drama, a comedy of manners, a work of political suspense, and, as Simms famously noted to his friend James Henry Hammond, an implicit answer to Harriet Beecher Stowe's portrait of slave life in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The initial publication was in serial form in the Southern Literary Gazette, with the first installment appearing in the February 1852 issue and the last in November. Its title was The Sword and the Distaff; or, "Fair, Fat and Forty," A Story of the South, At the Close of the Revolution. Before the last section of the serialized version was printed in the gazette, the complete novel appeared as a separately published work in Charleston from Walker and Richards (publisher of the SLG) in September 1852. It was still entitled The Sword and the Distaff, and bore on its title page "Second Edition," which is actually the first book edition, created from the typesettings for the SLG. The Redfield editions, beginning in 1854, featured the new title, Woodcraft. Simms writes with humor and verisimilitude, and Woodcraft; or, Hawks About the Dovecote has been regarded by contemporary reviewers as Simms' highest achievement, as well as the first Realistic novel in America.