Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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Charleston: The Palmetto City. An Essay

Travel Writings | Harper & Brothers; Southern Studies Program, University of South Carolina | 1857, 1976

                Charleston: The Palmetto City is a 1976 pamphlet republication of an essay of the same name, originally published anonymously by Simms in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in June 1857.[1]  The pamphlet edition of this essay is a facsimile of the original Harper’s piece.  In the essay, a rare example of the author’s travel writing, Simms focused on the architecture and geography of his native city, descriptions that are complimented by detailed illustrations of many of the most significant of Charleston’s buildings and memorials.[2]  While a minor work, the essay does contain some significant descriptions of antebellum Charleston and provides an additional, intriguing wrinkle in Simms’s overall cultural project.  Considering the work he does in works like The Geography of South Carolina and Father Abbot, Simms’s commentaries about the physical features of a place seem to be congruent with the general historical and cultural discussions he undertook so often, despite his not being generally known for his geographic writing or architectural criticism.  Thus, Charleston can be understood as continuing Simms’s exploration of the historical and cultural forces that shaped a place and its people through examining the physical features of that place, and the buildings, memorials, cemeteries, and other things the people chose to build. 

                The Southern Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, in conjunction with the College of Charleston, reissued the essay in pamphlet form in 1976 in celebration of the author’s birthday; 300 copies were produced for private distribution.  The South Caroliniana Library’s copy is a plain manila pamphlet, with a blank back cover and a front cover reading: Charleston:  The Palmetto City | an essay | by | William Gilmore Simms.  The title page reads: Charleston:  The Palmetto City | an essay | by | William Gilmore Simms | Columbia | The Southern Studies Program | University of South Carolina | 1976. 


W. Matthew J. Simmons

[1] Corroboration of Simms’s authorship is provided by the editors of the Letters.  See Letters, 3:339n-40n, 373n.

[2] While the illustrations are unsigned, it is likely that they were done by David Hunter Strother.  During the 1850s, Strother was one of the most frequently used illustrators for Harper’s, and much of his work dealt with travel.