Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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Other versions Edition: 1, Printing: 1 (1851)

Katharine Walton; or, The Rebel of Dorchester

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854

          Set in September of 1780, Katharine Walton is the third installment of a trilogy that follows The Partisan and Mellichampein covering the Revolution in South Carolina.[1]  While The Partisan and Mellichampe are set in the interior of the Santee and Wateree rivers, Katharine Walton  takes the reader to the city of Charleston in 1780-81 to trace the social world of South Carolina under British occupation.[2]  The city functions narratively as a “unifying center,” according to John C. Guilds, to free Katharine Walton of the “awkward shifts in action and setting that plague much of Simms’s work.[3]  By focusing exclusively on Charleston and its social and political intrigues, Guilds contends that Katharine Walton “possesses greater unity and cohesiveness than the other novels in the trilogy.  Simms’s powers of description are at their apex in his portrayal of the manners, morals, and mores—as well as the charm and sensuous beauty—of his native city.”[4]

          Katharine Walton was initially published in serial version inGodey’s Lady’s Book in eleven installments between February and December 1850.  In a September 1849 letter to James Lawson, Simms mentioned an agreement with Godey to publish a novel in a series[5]; his agreement allowed him to later procure the publication of the work.[6]  After Godey rejected his initial proposal to haveVasconselos published in serial form, Simms submitted Katharine Walton successfully, having ten chapters already completed.[7] Katharine Walton became the first full-length novel published inGodey’s, which at the time boasted a circulation that doubled any other American cultural journal.[8]  Using the printed version inGodey’s, Simms secured full book publication in 1851 through A. Hart of Philadelphia and later revised it in June 1854 for the Redfield edition.[9] 

          Katharine Walton was received favorably with positive reviews and sales.  Early reviews praised Simms’s verisimilitude and knowledge of regional history and traditions.[10]  The Charleston Courier predicted “extensive popularity,” which proved true, as the “whole edition sold off in ten days.”[11]  In a November 1851 letter to publisher Abraham Hart, Simms called Katherine Walton the “most symmetrical & truthful of all my Revolutionary novels.”[12]  The sense of structure, wholeness of purpose, and a fully realized female title character make Katharine Walton one of Simms’s greatest achievements.[13]

          The copies of both the 1851 and 1854 editions ofKatharine Walton are housed in the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina.  The title page of the 1851 text features: KATHARINE WALTON: | OR, | THE REBEL OF DORCHESTER. | [script] An Historical Romance of the Revolution [end script] | IN CAROLINA. | BY THE AUTHOR OF | ''RICHARD HURDIS,'' BORDER BEAGLES,'' ''THE YEMASSEE,'' ''THE PARTISAN,'' | ''MELLICHAMPE,'' ETC. | [wavy rule] | ''Every minute now | Should be the father of some strategem.'' | KING HENRY IV. | [wavy rule] | PHILADELPHIA: | A. HART, LATE  CARY AND HART. | 1851.  The title page of the 1854 edition of the work from Redfield features: KATHARINE WALTON | OR | THE REBEL OF DORCESTER | BY W. GILMORE SIMMS, ESQ. | AUTHOR OF ''THE YEMASSEE,'' ''THE PARTISAN,'' ''MELLICHAMPE,'' THE | SCOUT,'' ''WOODCRAFT,'' ''GUY RIVERS,'' ETC. | ''Every minute now | Should be the father of some stratagem.'' | KING HENRY IV. |  NEW AND REVISED EDITION | [Circle formed of snake biting its own tail with burning lamp in the center] | REDFIELD | 34 BEEKMAN STREET, NEW YORK | 1854.

Michael Odom

[1] The book is also part of an eight volume series of the Revolutionary War that Simms wrote as an American epic.  See Letters, 3:19.

[2] Simms, “Introduction,” Katharine WaltonRevolutionary War Novels 4, Published for the Southern Studies Program, University of South Carolina, eds. James B. Meriwether and Stephen Meats (Spartanburg: The Reprint Company Publishers, 1976), 3. 

[3] John C. Guilds, Simms: A Literary Life (Fayetteville: U of Arkansas P), 198.

[4] Ibid., 197.

[5] Letters, 2:551.

[6] Letters, 3:104.

[7] Letters, 2:561.

[8] Letters, 2:cix, 177.

[9] Guilds, Simms, 195.  The Panic of 1837 devastated the book market by 1843—particularly the two volume novel that Simms employed.  Between the publication of Mellichampe in 1836 to the 1851 publication of Katharine Walton, Simms suspended his “American prose epic,” the Revolutionary Romance series (195).

[10] See review in Literary World IX, September 27, 1851, 244-45.  Review can also be found in a note in Letters 3:104.

[11] See Letters, 3:145.  Simms seemed unaware of the Charleston press’s warm reception

[12] Letters, 6:120.

[13] Guilds, Simms, 198.