Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 2) >> John Esten Cooke's Sketch of Simms >> Page 36

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Page 36

Reviews/Essays | 1858 - 1859
Transcription 36
capacity for the law. His mind is emi-
nently judicial, his career at the bar, or in
politics, would, in all probability, have
outshone his present fame as an author.
It was the desire, we believe, of a large
portion of his fellow-citizens, some years
since, that he should be one of the repre-
sentatives of South Carolina in the United
States Senate; and had he filled that post,
we have no doubt that the opinion above
expressed of his forensic abilities would
have received ample confirmation. But
we are better satisfied that the test should
not be applied : Mr. Simms the author, is
a more important citizen than Mr. Simms
the senator ; his volumes are more to
South Carolina, and to the whole Repub-
lic, than his speeches could have been,
however admirable.
This tendency toward the pursuits of
the student and writer, rather than the
lawyer, early betrayed itself in Mr. Simms.
He approached his " chosen field," how-
ever, by degrees. Embarking his limited
means in a daily newspaper, the Charleston
City Gazette, he became, through the col-
umns of that journal, an active opponent
of the prevailing nullification doctrines of
the time. The result was unfortunate.
The paper failed, and Mr. Simms was
thrown upon other resources for a liveli-
hood. He had already written much upon
miscellaneous and literary topics, and from
this time, literature became his profession.
In 1825, he published a " Monody on Gen.
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney ;" in 1827,
" Lyrical and other Poems ;" and, in the
same year, "Early Lays." In 1829, ap-
peared his " Vision of Cortes, Cain, and
other Poems ;" and in 1830, " The Tricolor :
or Three Days of Blood in Paris." These
were all local publications, written, print-
ed, and sold in Charleston. Their success
must have been encouraging, for soon af-
terward Mr. Simms produced his finest
imaginative poem : " Atalantis : a Story of
the Sea." He chose, for the publication
of this poem, the wider field of New-York,
to which place he went in 1832. " Ata-
lantis" not only brought fame to the young
author, but what was at that time most
unusual, profit to the publishers. Literary
circles of New-York made a lion of the
young Southerner. As the work of a young
man of twenty-five, "Atalantis" is very re-
markable. But for want of space, we should
endeavor to point out the singular origin-
ality of this poem, and present such pas-
sages as we conceive would fully sustain
our opinion. We can only add, that the
author here enters the land of poesy and
dreams, with the assured and confident
step of the " Shepherd of the Ocean," Ed-
mund Spenser ; and that his blank verse
has the ring, the balanced music, and the
sinewy strength, which make the charm
of Tennyson's " Idvls of the King."
In 1833, the Messrs. Harper published
Martin Faber, the Story of a Criminal,"
in which Mr. Simms made his debut as a
novelist. This work, which is written in
the passionate, melodramatic style, then,
we believe, greatly in vogue, betrayed very
unusual powers of description in the young
author, and speedily became a favorite
with the public. Its success seems to have
fortified Mr. Simms in his determination to
adopt literature as a profession. His at-
tention was called to his native soil, and
the stirring events of Revolutionary times.
The result was that series of historical ro-
mances, which will always remain the
pride and honor of South Carolina. Two
years after the appearance of " Martin Faber,'
was published " The Partisan."
It was succeeded by " Mellichampe" and
Katherine Walton," the three forming a