Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Letters of William Gilmore Simms. Vol. 6, Supplement >> Front Matter >> Introduction

image of pageExplore Inside


Correspondence | U of South Carolina P | 2012
Transcription Introduction x l i

longer controllable by their politicians." For the war years them-selves the letters are few in number (as indeed they are in Volume IV), but several letters to George William Bagby, editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, and letters to John Reuben Thompson, Richard Yeadon, and a few others add to our knowledge of Simms' reaction to this trying time.
Simms was still fighting his own battle for southern literature. He sent John Reuben Thompson poems for his proposed collection of "patriotic poetry inspired by the Independence of Dixie," and on January 16, 1862, told him of his own grand project: "My plan is to commence the publication of a 'Library of the Confederate States', publishing a volume monthly, and, seriatim, representing the states severally. Thus I propose a collection of the writings of old Beverley Tucker, of Virginia, of Hammond, of S. C. &c. ... New works to be interspersed as prepared, and a wholesome variety to be sought in History, Biography, Statesmanship, Poetry & Fiction. I see that you have publishers in Richmond, disposed to make a beginning. Consult with them on the subject, & you & I may, perhaps better than any body else, put the machine in motion." The "machine" never moved, but when Columbia was burned by Sherman's army in 1865 Simms had in the press of Evans and Cogswell of that city his own "Southern Mother Goose." It is perhaps, then, not surprising to find him in a letter to Theophilus Hunter Hill of November 22, 1864, devoting considerable space to a criticism of Hill's poem "Narcissus" and at the same time giving a clear expression of his poetic creed.
The letters written after the war show, as do those in the earlier volumes, Simms renewing his old northern friendships, making trips to the North, and attempting to repair his broken fortunes through the frantic use of his pen. They help to complete the picture of the strength Simms showed as a financially ruined man, broken in health and sick at heart, yet still determined to do what he could for himself and for his family and friends. Simms was, as always, eager to help younger writers, and in his review of John Esten Cooke's Wearing of the Gray, quoted in part in a footnote to a letter to Cooke of June 4, 1867, he gives excellent advice to the novelist who hopes his characters will become living people.