Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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The Remains of Maynard Davis Richardson with a Memoir of His Life

Documents | O. A. Roorback | 1833

                One of Simms’s most personal works, The Remains of Maynard Davis Richardson is an editorial project the writer undertook after his good friend Richardson’s premature death at the age of 20 on 12 October 1832.  While details about their friendship remain scarce, it is known that Richardson accompanied Simms on the writer’s first trip to the North,[1] and Simms dedicated his long 1832 narrative poem Atalantis to him, referring to the younger man’s “high moral and intellectual worth” in his dedicatory note.  The families of the two men had been long acquainted with each other, as Richardson’s father, Judge John S. Richardson, served as Simms’s grandmother’s attorney during a custody suit between the grandmother and Simms’s father when the writer was ten years old.[2]  Simms’s feelings for Richardson are most clearly stated in his letters.  Writing to Lawson on 25 October 1832, Simms commented on the “melancholy intelligence of the death of a very near & dear friend, Maynard Richardson.”[3]   A few months later, he told Lawson he was thinking of “procuring material for a memoir of my friend M.D. Richardson, whose Remains I shall probably collect and publish.”[4]  Published by O.A. Roorbach and printed by J.S. Burges, both of Charleston, in 1833, The Remains, which Simms signed as collected by “His Friend,” consists of a sizeable biographical sketch of Richardson, along with over two hundred pages of literary, critical, and political writings by Davis edited and annotated by Simms.

In writing to Evert Augustus Duyckinck several years later, Simms called Richardson “a promising youth cut off in the very beginning of his career.”[5]  The contents of The Remains, and the care the writer put into their organization and editing, evidence how sincerely he held this belief.  Included are poetry and aphorisms; essays on John C. Calhoun, tariffs, and other political and philosophical subjects; as well as critical writings on subjects as varied as the value of Classical education and the possibilities of a distinctly American literature.  Further proof of Simms’s high regard of Richardson’s literary talents is evidenced by his republication of two of Richardson’s poems, “Power of Beauty” and “The Winter Scene,” and an essay, “Pursuit of Happiness,” in The Charleston Book, an 1845 miscellany of exemplary literary efforts by Charlestonians that Simms edited.

Keen Butterworth and James E. Kibler, Jr.’s William Gilmore Simms: A Reference Guide lists no reviews of The Remains, and John C. Guilds’s authoritative biography of Simms neither mentions this work nor lists it in the bibliography of Simms’s writings appearing in book form.[6]  William P. Trent’s 1892 biography of Simms makes only passing reference to Richardson and The Remains, remarking that Simms “probably did” edit the book, and that it, along with Simms’s inclusion of Richardson in The Charleston Book, “show that Simms’s friend was not the least gifted of the ignes minores that lighted Charleston during the first quarter” of the nineteenth century.[7]  While the reception history is thus unclear, Simms’s careful work on The Remains reveals this to be a deeply personal work for him.  Perhaps this work is best understood less as a work Simms was concerned would sell and be well-received, and more as an act of preservation and memorial of friend and literary talent gone too quickly.

The South Caroliniana Library copy of The Remains of Maynard Davis Richardson features plain, drab olive boards with brown leather inside edge and spine.  Spine features gilt stamp: [double rule] | [double rule] | [double rule] | MEMOIR & | REMAINS | OF | RICHARDSON | [double rule] | [double rule] | [double rule].  Its title page reads: HE | REMAINS | OF | MAYNARD DAVIS RICHARDSON, | WITH A | MEMOIR OF HIS LIFE. | [rule] | BY HIS FRIEND. | [rule] | Charleston, S.C. | PUBLISHED BY O.A. ROORBACK. | [rule] | PRINTED BY J. S. BURGES. | 1833.

 

W. Matthew J. Simmons



[1] Letters, 1:40n.  A 3 July 1858 notice in the Charleston Mercury provides a few more details, noting that Richardson accompanied Simms to Washington in 1832, and that after this trip the two men resolved to establish a monthly magazine together.  This same notice also suggests that Richardson’s essay “On the Imagination” was published by Simms in the Charleston Gazette.

[2] Ibid., 1:lxi

[3] Ibid., 1:42

[4] Ibid., 1:50

[5] Ibid., 3:322

[6] John C. Guilds, Simms: A Literary Life (Fayetteville, The University of Arkansas Press, 1992), 359-365.

[7] William Peterfield Trent, William Gilmore Simms (Boston, Houghton, Mifflin and Company), 73.