Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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Other versions Volume: A
Volume: B
Volume: C
Volume: D
Volume: G
Volume: E (Part I)
Volume: F (Part I)
Volume: F (Part II)

Scrapbook E (Part II)


          William Gilmore Simms's collection of scrapbooks represents one of the most significant, but least accessible, resources for the study of the writer. Housed as a part of the Charles Carroll Simms collection in the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina, there are nine volumes of scrapbooks, each comprised of works of numerous genres from throughout Simms's career.[1] While the majority of the included works are Simms's own, the scrapbooks also features writings by others, as well as works of uncertain authorship. Prior to digitizing these volumes, access to them and their scholarly possibilities was exceptionally limited. Interested researchers would need to travel to the South Caroliniana Library, and, before the publication of John C. Guild's Simms: A Literary Life in 1992, these volumes, like the Charles Carroll Simms collection generally, were off-limits to all but a select group of scholars. As these works provide a wealth of information for researchers interested both in Simms and nineteenth-century political and literary culture, the work of creating digital surrogates for this significant collection meets an important scholarly need, and adds another level of archival depth to the Simms project.

          While there are a significant number of manuscripts, as well as a small number of illustrations and maps, in the scrapbooks, the vast majority of the items found there are clippings from newspapers and periodicals, many of which Simms was involved in editing. Simms's lifelong habit of supplying anonymous or pseudonymous contributions to the nation’s periodicals is documented throughout the scrapbooks. As a result, the scrapbooks provided one of the chief resources for James E. Kibler's efforts in two of his significant works of Simms scholarship: Pseudonymous Publications of William Gilmore Simms (1976) and The Poetry of William Gilmore Simms: An Introduction and Bibliography (1979). 

         Kibler’s work is one of the few significant scholarly uses of the scrapbooks to this point, and his commentary about these collections, while brief, is useful in orienting new researchers to them.  In the appendix to The Poetry, Kibler states that “Simms did not use the scrapbooks as a record of place of publication but rather as a collection of poems from which he could select pieces for future publication,” and further notes that there is “no firm chronological demarcation between the scrapbooks” (Kibler 461).  What is true for the poems is similarly true for the other works contained in the scrapbooks.  With the exception of Scrapbook F Part 2, there appears to be little effort by Simms to systematically organize the contents of any of these volumes.  There is also evidence of haphazardness in their construction, with items pasted on top of others, works pasted in upside-down, remnants of torn-out items, and whole pages ripped out.  Further, there is no substantial evidence — either internal to the scrapbooks, in biographical accounts of Simms, or in the writer’s copious correspondence — that provides insights into Simms’s process in creating the scrapbooks.  The original covers of some of the scrapbooks feature a large capital letter — A, B, etc. — but seeing these as an ostensible identifier is problematic.  It is difficult to ascertain when Simms put each scrapbook together, or even if he finished one before moving onto another.[2]

          As such, one would be remiss to interpret these volumes as systematic presentations of Simms’s work.  Rather, these works, as a whole, are an essential artifact of the nineteenth-century Anglo-American cultural and intellectual world.  Simms’s contributions to the literary life of this world are well-known, and in these volumes the pattern of his robust imagination shines.  His concerns, aesthetic thinking, and artistic plans are on display.  The scrapbooks reveal the evolution of many of Simms’s significant works, especially poems, as both manuscripts and printed versions, often marked up in the writer’s hand, are present.  Beyond tracing Simms’s artistic thought and development, the scrapbooks are full of book reviews, essays, and various works not by Simms, showing the author’s broad interests and providing researchers with a broad picture of intellectual life on both sides of the Atlantic.  Beyond predictable interests in agriculture and domestic politics, Simms also has collected works about a large range of issues, including European colonial policy, international trade, science, medicine, and many others.  These volumes are, thus, of potential value to a large set of scholars, not just those interested in Simms’s literary efforts. 

          In approaching the scrapbooks, researchers should bear in mind several considerations about the content of the books themselves and their digital processing.  Some very general statements can be made of the organization of the books: Scrapbook A primarily consists of early poetry, while Scrapbook B is full of poems from throughout Simms’s career.  Scrapbook C is a post-Civil War collection, and features poems, editorials, and essays.  Scrapbook D is made up mostly of poems from the 1840s-60s.  The preservation process has resulted in scrapbooks E and F being divided into two parts.  Both parts of Scrapbook E are filled mostly with book reviews, newspaper-published correspondence, travel narratives, and various other prose works.  The two parts of Scrapbook F are significantly different from each other.  Part 1 is mostly poetry, while Part 2 consists almost exclusively of book reviews and editorial sections from periodicals Simms edited, especially The Magnolia and the Southern Literary Journal.[3]  Scrapbook G features a mix of travelogues and other prose pieces, as well as many of Simms’s final poems. 

          Researchers should also be aware of the conventions we utilized in our digital processing of the scrapbooks.  In many cases, items appearing in the scrapbooks have lacked clear titles.  In these cases, we have supplied a title for the sake of clarity and reference.  Supplied titles appear in [brackets].  Further, we have sometimes found it necessary to give extra bibliographic descriptions as a part of an item’s title; these descriptions are given in (parentheses).  In situations where materials are not dated, but where a scholar, like Kibler, has supplied a date, we have listed this date in [brackets].  In situations where clippings are not dated, but where we have been able to locate the source of the clipping’s publication, we have listed the publication date of the clipping’s source.  While some of the materials in the scrapbooks have clearly not been penned by Simms, many unsigned pieces are almost certainly by him.  Nevertheless, we have taken a conservative approach attributing authorship to these unsigned pieces. 

W. Matthew J. Simmons

[1] A tenth volume, identified in the catalog as Scrapbook H, appears to have been assembled by Simms's family after the author's death, as evidenced by the obituaries at the book's opening. As Simms seemingly had no part in assembling this book, it has not been digitized.

[2] With the exception of Scrapbook F Part 2 and Scrapbook G, all other scrapbooks have been through a modern preservation process.  Scrapbooks A, B, and D include the original covers and other errata in an additional file folder inside that volume’s protective clamshell.

[3] Somewhat confusingly, Kibler’s Poetry lists all poems occurring in Scrapbook F Part 1 as being from Scrapbook G.