Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Life of Captain John Smith. The Founder of Virginia. >> The Life of Captain John Smith. The Founder of Virginia. >> Front Matter

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Front Matter

Biography | Geo. F. Cooledge & Brother | 1847


           The Life of Captain John Smith was published by George F. Cooledge & Brother in March 1847 as part of The Illustrated Library series intended for school libraries and general reading.[1]  Simms’s letters indicate that he began the biography as early as November 1844 when he wrote to George Frederick Holmes: “I have half contracted to prepare a Life of Sumter, one of Paul Jones, and a third of John Smith, with a new edition of his history of Virginia.”[2]  By the middle of the month Simms informed James Lawson he had already “written a chapter.”  The process of getting the biography completed and published, however, proved to be a challenge.  Throughout the composition of the biography, Simms sent drafts of manuscripts to New York publisher, J. and H.G. Langley, with the goal to have it printed by the first of August 1846.  Letters exchanged with Evert Augustus Duyckinck, who was serving as a literary editor for Langley at the time, revealed the beginning of a publication crisis.[3]  In a 14 September letter, Simms lamented the failure of two Langley newspapers, The New York Morning News and The New York Weekly News, both of which “perished” in early September 1846—an ominous sign for Simms, who complained he had still not received the sheets for The Life of Captain John Smith.[4]  It was not until December that the biography had been revised and printed, but publication release would continue to elude Simms, who was only starting to understand the extent of Langley’s financial issue.