Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 3: No 2) >> Simms's Death House Discovered >> Page 6

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Page 6

Secondary Scholarship | 1995
Transcription 6
[Edward Brickell] White was to add in 1850." In 1945 the building, designed by
White, had become The American Legion Hall shown on page 199 of Ravenel's
book. Of further interest : is Ravenel's mention of the last works of E. B. White:
"By 1879, he had moved to New York, whence he sent the plan for the granite
pedestal of the bust of William Gilmore Simms on the Battery. "s
Only two months before he died, Simms said in a letter to William Cullen
Bryant, "It is my great consolation that our young men come and minister to me"
(V, 308). In A Zigzag Journey in the Sunny South, Hayne remembers passing
through Charleston "a few months previous" to Simms's death: "I called to see
him at his daughter's home, and was shocked by the great change in his
appearance. His once ruddy cheeks were emaciated and pale, his limbs gaunt and
wasted, his hair white as snow; but he still stood erect, like some storm-smitten
pine which the elements might break, but could not bend! There was muscular
force still in the hearty grasp, although it quivered slightly; and from the sunken
eyes would dart now and again a flash of the old enthusiasm."
Hayne spent the evening with Simms, and as he left the house he knew
that he would not see his mentor and friend again: "The old man had insisted
upon accompanying me to the door; and my last glimpse of him rested upon his
gray but stately head, somewhat elevated, his mournful eyes gazing forth into the
misty night, and the long patriarchal beard glittering in the lamplight! ' 6
In the week before his death, Simms toured Charleston harbor one last
time.' As late as 9 June 1870, the day Dr. Gedding declared Simms's death was
fast approaching, Simms was still mustering enough strength to move about, even
to descend -- by Augusta's account -- from his upstairs bedroom to the first floor.
One friend known to be with him when he died two days later did not have far
to walk. Sallie Chapin lived on Wentworth, one street south of Augusta's home
on Society. Sallie's husband, Leonard, was the wholesale druggist from whom
Simms obtained his medicines. Because Leonard was also a carriage
manufacturer, Simms humorously said of him, "He has both drugged me and
harnessed me" (V, 204).
The Chapins were a neighborly couple: quick to be of service and
generous to friends. Sallie shared home baked goodies; Leonard shared fine
cigars. Simms had Leonard select harness leather at C. D. Brahe and Co. to be
sent to William Gilmore Simms, Jr., and he praised Sallie for her successful
direction of an entertainment given for women at the Confederate Widow's
Home. Although both these neighbors were busy serving the public and
parenting, they made special efforts to attend to Simms's needs in the last years
of his life. Simms, in his turn, did what he could to reciprocate. He adivised
and encouraged Sallie in the writing of her satirical romance, Fitz-Hugh St. Clair,
the South Carolina Rebel Boy; or, It Is No Crime to Be a Gentleman.
To Sallie, who at age 46 was only three years older than Augusta, Simms
wrote on 19 March 1870: "Do not contract yourself. It is one of the mistakes
of young writers, that they do not sufficiently unfold themselves" (VI, 278).
Although her romance was not published until 1872, Sallie Chapin was writer
enough to note that after Simms died, his fingers were still drawn up as if to
write. She was the weaver of the white immortelles cross his hands held in