Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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The Cosmopolitan: An Occasional

Miscellany | Wm. Estill | 1833

                Simms was the primary, anonymous contributor to the Cosmopolitan: An Occasional, and the two numbers of this short-lived publication reveal the state of his talents at the end of his apprenticeship period.  Issued in May and July 1833 by Wm. Estill of Charleston, the two issues of the Cosmopolitan are among the works leading to what John C. Guilds calls Simms’s “flurry of literary efforts that produced four major works of fiction within the next two years.”.[1] As such, Guilds suggests that the Cosmopolitan be considered not so much for the quality of Simms’s inconsistent contributions, but rather “as a literary experiment from which its conductor expected neither pay nor praise—as a testing ground for aspiring young writers,” and, in that context, “one must admit that it served its purpose well.”[2]

                While William P. Trent briefly, and dismissively, mentions the Cosmopolitan as a work totally written by Simms,[3] Guilds convincingly argues that the Cosmopolitan actually was the product of “Three Bachelors,” just as is claimed in the text itself.  In addition to Simms, these men were his longtime friends and fellow Charlestonians, Charles R. and Edward Carroll.  In writing and putting together this “occasional,” Simms and the Carroll brothers were influenced by several other similar projects in which a “club” of literarily-minded gentlemen, whether real or fictitious, met to discuss literature.  Similar projects were E.T.A. Hoffman’s Serapionsbrüder, John Pendleton Kennedy and Peter Hoffman Cruse’s Salmagundi and Red Book, and, perhaps most significantly, Poe’s “Tales of the Folio Club.”  Guilds notes that, like Poe’s work, “the stories in the Cosmopolitan are supposedly related by the members of a small literary coterie who meet to discuss books and authors over glasses of good wine.”  Positioned thusly, literature is a gentleman’s diversion. Simms and the Carroll brothers thereby adopted “the traditional eighteenth-century view of literature” and so “freed themselves from commitments to their public by renouncing any desire for financial gain or literary eminence.”[4]  Guilds notes that this was a cleverly planned strategy on the part of Simms, who was never without concern for his finances or fame: “a professional man of letters was ranked low on the social ladder of the Old South, and probably young Simms realized that his literary efforts would be more warmly welcomed in Charleston if they were regarded as the outpourings of a gentleman’s leisure than if they were considered the means of livelihood of a tradesman.”[5]

                The first number of the Cosmopolitan contains an introductory essay and four short stories; interspersed throughout these are installments from “A Chat in the Symposium,” in which the “three bachelors,” identified only by the initials G., B., and M., discuss the stories and literature generally.  The second number contains a brief introduction and six short stories.  Guilds notes that three of the short stories can be attributed to the Carroll brothers:  “The Outlaw’s Daughter” and “Isabel of St. Augustine” by Edward, and “The White Horse” by Charles.  He also notes that of the remaining seven stories, four can be definitively attributed to Simms:  “An Old Time Story,” “The Poet Chatelard,” “A Fairy Tale,” and “La Pola.”  The remaining stories are presumed to also be written by Simms.[6]  In addition to his content contributions and because of his recent editorial experience, Simms was likely the primary editor of the Cosmopolitan.[7]  It is also interesting to note that the first number was dedicated to Thomas Smith Grimké, an opponent of Nullification; Guilds notes that this suggests that “Simms was still a Unionist, national in his political views—views which if expressed would have again embroiled him in political debate,” and were thus unexpressed in the Cosmopolitan outside of this dedication.  So concerned with the creation of a vibrant national literature, Simms seemed to have “recognized the overemphasis of politics as the greatest threat” to a successful cultivation of such a literature.[8]

                Though short-lived, Simms and the Carroll brothers’ “occasional” publication was seemingly well-received in Charleston; Guilds cites from the Courier of 27 July 1833 as evidence of this.[9]  That the publication was discontinued thus does not suggest that the reading public had little interest in it.  Rather, the work had served its role, especially for Simms.  As Guilds concludes:  “The chief importance of the Cosmopolitan, then, was as a stepping stone in the development of Simms the novelist and short story writer.”[10]

                The South Caroliniana Library's copy of the Cosmopolitan is an unbound photocopy of both numbers, without covers, flyleaves, or the title page for the second number.  The title page of the first number reads: THE | COSMOPOLITAN: | AN OCCASIONAL. | No. 1. | [inscription:  ed. William Gilmore Simms] | [rule] | ''For he doth not only show the way, but giveth so sweet a pros- | pect into the way as will entice any man to enter into it:  nay, he doth, | as if your journey should he through a fair vineyard, at the very first | give you a cluster of grapes, that full of that taste you may long to pass | farther.  He beginneth not with obscure definitions, which must blur | the margin with interpretations, and load the memory with doubtful- | ness, but he cometh to you with words set in delightful proportion, either | accompanied with, or prepared for the well-enchanting skill of music; | and with a tale, forsooth, he cometh unto you, with a tale which holdeth | children from play, and old men from the chimney corner; and, pre- | tending no more, doth intend the winning of the mind from wickedness | to virtue; even as the child is often brought to take most wholesome | things, by hiding them in such other as have a pleasant taste.'' | [rule] | CHARLESTON. | PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY WM. ESTILL | 212 King Street. | [rule] | 1833. The source for the South Caroliniana Library's photocopy is held by the Charleston Library Society; it is this copy that we have digitized.  This book contains both numbers of The Cosmopolitan bound together in a single volume; the title page for the second number is not included.  Book features marbled brown boards with plain leather interior edge.  Front cover features gilt stamp near the spine:  CHARLESTON LIBRARY SOCIETY.  Heavily worn spine features gilt stamp: [rule] | [pasted letter D] | [double rule] | COSMOPOLITAN | [double rule] | [pasted letter e] | C.L.S. | [double rule] | [pasted numeral 4] | [double rule] | [call number].  As this is the source for the South Caroliniana Library's copy, the title page is the same.

 

W. Matthew J. Simmons

Note:  We express significant gratitude to the Charleston Library Society for the use of their copy of The Cosmopolitan.  The CLS, the third-oldest subscription library in America, was founded in 1748.  More information about the CLS may be found at their website, www.charlestonlibrarysociety.org



[1] John C. Guilds, Jr, “William Gilmore Simms and the Cosmopolitan,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 41 (1957):  41.  This essay still remains the most complete source of information about the Cosmopolitan.  The four works mentioned are Martin Faber, Guy Rivers, The Yemassee, and The Partisan.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “In his ‘debut’ Simms professed to be one of a club of three, whose lucubrations were intended to furnish material for the new magazine.  But in all probability he was the sole writer of the stories and chit-chat criticism which made up the contents of what might have been called more properly ‘The Provincial.’”  William Peterfield Trent, William Gilmore Simms (Boston:  Houston, Mifflin and Company, 1892) 83.

[4] Guilds, “William Gilmore Simms,” 32-33.

[5] Ibid., 34.

[6] Ibid., 39.

[7] There is no definitive identification of the editor of the Cosmopolitan; in his biography of Simms, Guilds notes that this is appropriate, as “the Cosmopolitan is not a magazine but a book—a collection of short stories and essays written by three men; no outside contributions were solicited, probably none were submitted, certainly none were accepted.”  Nevertheless, it seems probable that Simms was the primary organizer of the material present in the Cosmopolitan, as evidenced by both his outsized contributions to the work vis-à-vis the Carroll brothers, as well as the book coming to being soon after Simms gave up the editorship of the Charleston City Gazette.  See Guilds, Simms:  A Literary Life (Fayetteville:  University of Arkansas Press, 1992), 50.

[8] Ibid., 36-37.

[9] Ibid., 35.

[10] Ibid., 41.