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Martin Faber, the story of a criminal: and other tales Inner Front Cover

William Gilmore Simms
University of Nashville Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections

Published in 1833, Simms’s Martin Faber, the Story of a Criminal was considered by Edgar Allen Poe to have a genius of “no common order...”  This popular book, one of the first psychological thrillers, is written from the viewpoint of a murderer who is attempting to gain the reader’s sympathy. It is unsurprising, therefore, to discover that the Erosophian Literary Society, an early all-male rhetorical club of the University of Nashville, would have a copy in their library. As members of the society, students would analyze and debate topics to develop oratorial skills. Membership included access to their society’s library, an important benefit when books were scarce and the school library restricted access to its limited volumes. Later, women formed their own literary societies to improve their rhetorical and reasoning skills.