Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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Stories and Tales

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974

           Stories and Tales is Volume V of the University of South Carolina’s Centennial Edition of the writings of William Gilmore Simms[1].  This volume contains fifteen stories and tales, chronologically presented, collecting writings from all phases of Simms’s career. [2]  Simms wrote short fiction, often of wildly inconsistent quality, throughout his long career; his best fiction was praised by Poe, while his poorer fiction was often self-consciously born out of economic necessity[3].  Simms published his short fiction widely both in a variety of periodicals and multiple book-length collections[4].  Stories collected in the Centennial Edition of Stories and Tales are drawn from several magazines, journals, and even one-off printings, as well as from four of Simms’s published collections of short fiction.[5]  Importantly, none of the stories collected here were included in The Wigwam and the Cabin, “the one well-known group of his tales which Simms himself collected.”  Thus, John Caldwell Guilds, the editor of this volume, gathers together many of Simms’s lesser-known works in order to call attention to their real significance.[6]  Further, Stories and Tales samples from the two broad divisions into which Simms placed his stories:  “domestic tales” or “tales of the South,” those that have a strong realism and impulse towards specificity in subject matter, and “tales of the imagination,” more philosophical or fantastical stories, often influenced by European, and particularly German, romanticism[7].  Of particular note are the final three stories in this volume, “How Sharp Snaffles Got His Capital and Wife,” “Bald-Head Bill Bauldy,” and “The Humours of the Manager,” all of which reveal Simms’s talents as a writer of humor.   

            Several of the pieces published in this collection are noteworthy for their interesting textual history.  Included in Stories and Tales is “Confessions of a Murderer,” a story first published in 1829 in the Southern Literary Gazette, and later expanded into Martin Faber.  This novella was published in book form in 1833, and then again, in a revised version, as the title story in 1837’s Martin Faber, the Story of a Criminal; and Other TalesStories and Tales presents the 1833 edition of Martin Faber, with extensive explanatory notes showing the differences between it and the 1837 version.  Thus, the reader is here presented with the complete textual history of one of Simms’s seminal early works.  The Prima Donna was originally published in pamphlet form in 1844 by Louis A. Godey of Philadelphia and is republished for the first time in Stories and Tales.  “The Bride of Hate,” originally published under the title “The Passage of the Night,” in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1841, was reworked and retitled for inclusion in Southward, Ho!  The latter version is presented here, with explanatory notes that thoroughly illustrate the differences between the two versions. Of special interest are two of Simms’s last stories, both of which are published for the first time here.  ‘’Bald-Head Bill Bauldy” is a companion piece to the posthumously-published masterpiece “How Sharp Snaffles Got His Capital and Wife,” also included in this collection.  Guilds’s textual introduction to “Bald-Head Bill Bauldy” states that “Simms makes no mention of the story in his correspondence or notebooks,” thus making it impossible to accurately date its composition, other than it being sometime “probably between 1865 and 1870.”[8]  In this same introduction, Guilds suggests that “ ‘Bald-Head Bill Bauldy,’ like ‘Sharp Snaffles,’ appears to have germinated from Simms’s 1847 visit to hunters’ camps in the North Carolina mountains…[and an 1867 return trip] may have acted as catalyst” for composition.[9]  Stories and Tales also publishes “The Humours of the Manager” for the first time. Of this story’s genesis, Guilds notes that during an 1866 trip to New York, Simms “must have conceived the idea of doing a fictionalized account of some humorous episodes in the life of Charles Gilfert,” a theatrical manager working in both Charleston and the Bowery.[10]  Simms made multiple attempts to get this story published, though none were successful.

           The Centennial Edition of Stories and Tales features plain blue boards.  Blue spine with gilt and green stamping:  [Grecian key-type rule] | [thick double rule] | CENTENNIAL | SIMMS | V | [thick double rule] | STORIES | AND | TALES | [rule] | [U of SC P logo] | SOUTH | CAROLINA | [rule] | [Grecian key-type rule].  Its title page features THE WRITINGS OF | William Gilmore Simms | CENTENNIAL EDITION | [wavy rule] | VOLUME V | Stories and Tales | Introductions and Explanatory Notes | and Texts Established by | John Caldwell Guilds | [U of SC P logo] | UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA PRESS | COLUMBIA.

W. Matthew J. Simmons

[1] While labeled according to the original plan for the series as Volume V, Stories and Tales is actually the third volume to appear in the series.

[2] The selections collected here are “Indian Sketch” (1829); “Confessions of a Murderer” (1829); Martin Faber (1833, 1837); “Carl Werner” (1838); “The Bride of Hate” (1841); The Prima Donna (1844); “The Unknown Masque” (1845); “Mesmerides in a Stage-Coach” (1845); “The Maroon” (1847); “Maize in Milk” (1847); Flirtation at the Moultrie House (1850); “Ephraim Bartlett” (1852); “How Sharp Snaffles Got His Capital and Wife” (posthumous publication in 1870); “Bald-Head Bill Bauldy” (previously unpublished); and “The Humours of the Manager” (previously unpublished).

[3] In the general introduction to Stories and Tales, John Caldwell Guilds quotes Poe as noting that, when considering Simms’s best stories, “in invention, in vigor, in movement, in the power of exciting interest, and in the artistical [sic] management of his themes, he has surpassed, we think, any of his countrymen” (xii).  As to Simms’s recognition of the weakness in some of his short fiction, Guilds, in the same introduction, notes that the author’s “own recognition that he wrote too much too hurriedly is revealed in his apology to readers of the Southern Literary Gazette:  ‘As long as the Editor is compelled, as we have frequently been, to write one half of his book himself, one half of what he writes, must be trash.’” (xiv)

[4] These collections are The Book of My Lady (1833); Martin Faber (1837); Carl Werner (1838); two series of The Wigwam and the Cabin (1845); The Lily and the Totem (1850); Marie de Berniere (1853), later republished as The Maroon (1855); and Southward Ho! (1854), a collection of tales joined together by a Decameron-like frame narrative, and thus often considered a novel as well as a short-fiction collection.

[5] Martin Faber and “Carl Werner” both appeared in their eponymous collections.  “The Bride of Hate” appeared in Southward, Ho!  “The Maroon” and “Maize in Milk” both appeared in Marie de Berniere/The Maroon.

[6] Stories and Tales, v.

[7] For a brief discussion of these differences, as well as Simms’s theoretical understandings of the short story vis-à-vis longer fiction, see Guilds’s general introduction to Stories and Tales, pgs. xv-xxi.

[8] See Stories and Tales, 807.

[9] Ibid., 809.

[10] Ibid., 832.