Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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Southern Passages and Pictures

Poetry | George Adlard | 1839

            Southern Passages and Pictures is a volume of poetry by William Gilmore Simms, although his name is not mentioned directly on the title page. The work announced its author simply as the writer of “Atalantis,” “The Yemassee,” “Guy Rivers,” and “Carl Werner,” perhaps assuming that readers would know Simms in association with his authorship of these well-read works.  The volume was published in December of 1838 by George Adlard, who also published Carl Werner on Simms’s behalf.  Craighead and Allen were the Printers. Although Southern Passages and Pictures was published in December of 1838, the title page lists the publication date as 1839.[1]  It appears that Simms had been planning the publication  for quite some time.  Indeed, a succession of poems with the same title as this work began appearing around 1836.[2]  A small number of the poems were written as early as the 1820s, during Simms’s youth, although the majority appear to have been written around the same time the book was published.[3]

            The theme or focus of his writing was the South, most notably, South Carolina.[4]  Simms dedicated the book to William Cullen Bryant, with the following notation, “Whose song, always pure, graceful, and beautiful, while it receives inspiration from the highest, will not disdain the homage of the humblest, muse.”

            The book appears to have sold relatively well.  There were two printings, although there were no further issues after 1843.[5]  The collection was received well critically. For instance, the New Yorker noted on December 15, 1838 that, if America had more authors of Simms’s quality, “the romantic literature of our country will soon be near that of high standard, to which we long to see it elevated.”[6]   Similarly, the December 22, 1838 issue of the New York Mirror noted that “Mr. Simms is an accomplished writer of blank verse.  His metre affords a good instance of the combination of melody with strength.…No one can read his ‘Eutaw Maid,’ ‘Hunter of Calawassee’ and ‘Fall of the Leaf’ without acknowledging his claim to be admitted to the front rank of American poets.”[7]  Simms himself referred to this work as containing a few of his personal, “best published verses,” all of which he claimed were written in his younger years.[8]  He also judged that “I have expressed myself more fully than in most of my books, & much of the matter…is such as I am by no means ashamed now.”[9]   Simms held this volume of his poetry in high regard for the remainder of his life.  

            This first edition has green bindings with a decorative stamping at the center of the cover.  The title page reads:  SOUTHERN | PASSAGES AND PICTURES. | BY THE AUTHOR OF | ''ATALANTIS,'' ''THE YEMASSEE,'' ''GUY | RIVERS,'' CARL WERNER,'' &c. | NEW YORK: | GEORGE ADLARD, 46 BROADWAY | [rule] | MDCCCXXXIX.

Elizabeth Oswald

[1] John Caldwell Guilds, Simms: A Literary Life (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1992), 92

[2] James Everett Kibler, Jr., The Poetry of William Gilmore Simms: An Introduction and Bibliography (Spartanburg: The Reprint Company, Publishers, 1979), 67

[3] Ibid., 68

[4] Guilds, Simms, 93

[5] Kibler, Poetry, 68

[6] Ibid., 93.

[7] Letters, 1:141

[8] Ibid., 362

[9]Kibler, Poetry, 68