Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 2) >> John Esten Cooke's Sketch of Simms >> Page 34

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Page 34

Reviews/Essays | 1858 - 1859
Transcription 34
is married and has seven living children, having lost seven others, that he has
traveled extensively, and that he is an avid reader and a diligent student who
keeps late hours. This invitation to Victor to insert personal information into the body of the sketch may well explain why it appears in places contradictory and
In spite of a difference of 24 years in their ages, Cooke and Simms shared
much in common. Both had law backgrounds and became professional writers in
their twenties. Both were popular spokesmen in their respective regions, and were
considered major voices for the South. These similarites perhaps brought out in
Cooke a tendency to project himself upon Simms, portraying the famous Carolina
author as a mature version of himself. Does not Cooke, unmarried, untraveled,
and living a commonplace life engrossed in authoring to the exclusion of other
activities, more nearly fit these comments in the sketch: "The author's existence
is that of the soul, the life of the brain, the imagination, the fancy. He may never travel into foreign countries, but how far he has penetrated into the land of
dreams"? Again, "It is this inner life of wonderful adventure, moving incident--
of passion, poetry, and romance-- which makes the apparently commonplace
existence of the author in reality a strangely varied and eventful one. But it
affords no material for the biographer." The tone of much of Cooke's sketch
reflects an aspiring writer's admiration for a proven author's success.
What follows is the complete text of Cooke's sketch of Simms as it
appears in volume III of The Cosmopolitan Art Journal, A Record of Art
Criticism, Art Intelligence, and Biography and Repository of Belle-Lettres
Literature (New York: Cosmopolitan Art Association, 1858-1859, pp. 212-214).

Twelfth Article.

TIE eminent authors of a nation
are either its glory or its shame
its " guard and honor," or its
degradation in the eyes of the
world. More, almost, than any
other class of citizens—more than
the very statesman who rules
and directs the public councils—they in-
fluence every department of thought, and
leave a lasting impression upon the gen-
eration in which they live, and the genera-
tions succeeding them. Genius is a mighty
engine for good or for evil. When that
genius is "literary"—when it speaks to
hundreds of thousands through the all-
pervading voice of the printing press—its