Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 2) >> John Esten Cooke's Sketch of Simms >> Page 40

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Reviews/Essays | 1858 - 1859
Transcription 40
The friendship between Simms and Cooke was never truly personal, in
spite of Simms's overtures. Although Simms reviewed Cooke's newest book
Henry St. John shortly after this sketch was published, little evidence exists to
suggest Cooke ever reached out to Simms in a personal way. Simms, for instance,
never met Cooke's wife and child, and from the beginning to the end of their
correspondence, neither Simms nor Cooke records more than a few brief meetings.
Cooke, intent upon supporting himself as a writer, ever reluctant to fall
back on his practice of law, and feeling a post-war pressure to appease both
Northern and Southern readers, may have been writing too much too quickly to
keep up with what had once been a comfortable amount of correspondence.
Obviously, Simms and Cooke corresponded less frequently after the war, though
Simms reviewed Surry of Eagle's-Nest, Life of Jackson, Wearing of the Gray, and
Mohun. The potential for any sort of friendship beyond the profession declined
after 1867. In a 22 August 1867 letter to Cooke, Simms speaks of his desire "to
clasp hands once more & look into each other's eyes, and hear each other's
voices, after such a dreadful waste of time in such a chaos of conditions, as have elapsed since last we met" (Letters, V, p. 78). In May 1868, Simms writes Cooke
again: "I was unfortunate in not seeing you in New York. Went to the Hotel
(Clarendon) at the time you appointed to be there; but the Proprietor told me he
had not heard from you on the subject. When you did arrive you cleared out
without seeking me or giving me a chance to seek you" (p. 129). And on 26
December 1868, Simms responds to a recent letter from Cooke: "I feared with
new wife, new books, and new babie (Which I had divined, but not heard of) you
had forgotten me among other old friends" (pp. 189-190).
In the last of Simms's letters to Cooke, 5 August 1869, there are numerous
indications the relationship has been all but shut down on Cooke's end:
"Happening to find the enclosed among some old papers, I send it you, not
knowing whether it ever reached you before & thinking it might remind you that
the Mohun which you so much wished me to read, never came to hand." Writing
the letter from New York, Simms expresses disappointment in not having seen
Cooke there. It ends with, "P.S. I write with doubts of your present address" (pp. 241-242). Cooke wrote to Simms a month before Simms died, but it is doubtful
the two authors who knew each other's works so well ever knew much of each
other's lives.