Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Bryant Borrows from Simms >> Page 39

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Page 39

Secondary Scholarship | 1993

James E. Kibler

When Simms' friend James Lawson noted in a review of Bryant in January
1840 that the New York poet's "To the Evening Wind" was similar to Simms'"The Summer Evening Wind," Simms wrote him that he was "sorry that you
introduce any reference" to the matter, as it might "give B. some annoyance."
Simms had been well aware of the similarity but had never mentioned it. For
Lawson's own personal information, Simms gives the publishing histories of the
two poems, showing his own to be the earlier, and cautioned Lawson to keep the
information strictly to himself, avoiding any possibility of embarrassing Bryant.
Simms' poem first appeared in the Charleston Southern Literary Gazette,
I (December 1828), p. 220. It was collected the following year in his Vision of
Cortes, Cain, and Other Poems (Charleston, 1829), pp. 102-103. This volume
appeared before 6 August 1829; and Bryant reviewed it in his New York Evening
Post on 14 August and 4 September 1829. Here, he considered it harmless, if
possessing no great merit. Bryant's poem appeared in his The Talisman for 1830
(New York: Bliss, 1829), pp. 5-6. Bryant entered this volume for copyright on 21
August, a week after his review of Simms' book appeared. Bryant then collected
the poem in his Poems (New York: Bliss, 1832), pp. 31-32, and later in his new
expanded edition of Poems in 1834.
Bryant had known Simms' poetry by no later than February or March
1827. On 9 March, he wrote to Charles Folsom of the United States Review that
he is sending a notice of Simms' Lyrical and Other Poems (Charleston, 1827).
This review appeared in the United States Review (2 April 1827), pp. 70-71. "The
poems before us," wrote Bryant, "have passages which show the possession of no
ordinary degree of poetical talent." When he reviewed Vision of Cortes in August
1829, he called it Simms'"third volume of poems" and thus shows that he
probably also had knowledge of Simms' collection, Early Lays (1827) as well.
More investigation of the many Simms-Bryant poetic connections should
prove fruitful and very significant to our understanding of early nineteenth centur
poetry and the flowering of Romantic verse in America. More particularly for
Simms, it proves that he had a part in that flowering as a father of Romantic
poetry and as a poet who did have his influence, one that, incidentally, did not en
with Bryant. For example, Simms' influence on Poe's poetry is yet to be charted,
and may prove equally significant,' thus perhaps explaining his statement, "As a
poet, indeed, we like Simms better than as a novelist."2


1 For the influence of Simms' poetry on Poe's, see the notes to Selected
Poems of William Gilmore Simms (1990), particularly pp. 330, 335.
2 Poe, "A Chapter on Autography," Graham's, 18 (November 1841), p. 229.