Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 2) >> Simms's Least Known Separate Publication: A First Examination >> Page 7

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Page 7

Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription should emphasize that published it was, for copies were clearly made
available to those who wanted them–though alas, obviously none of those
ladies on those piazzas and at those windows were sufficiently impressed to
preserve them. (I still hope that someday a copy will turn up in some
Charleston girl's scrapbook or memory book of that time–along with locks of
hair, passionate love letters, and the like.)
But the publication of this poem caused a stir in Charleston that day,
enough of a stir that it was included in the descriptions of the parade in most
of the local newspapers. I have mentioned the Courier account that is quoted
from in the Letters. Another account, in the Mercury (August 1, 1848),
reports additional ceremonies, along with those of the Typographical Society:
'The Military and Firemen were out in great strength.... A large number of
banners were carried in the procession, while the Marine Society had a full
rigged ship manned by her compliment of youthful seamen . . . who again and
again during the march of the procession made the welken ring with the
report of their miniature cannon."
The poem itself consists of five stanzas, each of 12 lines or three
quatrains in A-B-A-B rhyme. As its title implies, it is a paean to the printing
press and to the printers themselves, and also to the whole young field of
journalistic writers at that time–an interesting enough point in itself,
considering how vexed Simms could become with printers off and on
throughout his lifetime.
For we must be reminded of the other side of the coin for a moment:
in an 1841 letter to the editor and publisher of the Boston Notion Simms
complains loudly about both literal errors and errors of sense made in his
manuscripts. "You will find, [he writes] by referring to my errata, how
singularly unfortunate some of these mistakes have been: `scurvey' for `sunny'
for example"(Letters: 5:351-52). And, in a little-known story from the 1837
edition of Martin Faber (2:4-33), aptly entitled 'The Sins of Typography"
(which, by the way, takes place on the banks of the Arkansas River), Simms
likens printers unto the devil himself, and proceeds to cite horrendous errors,
describing his verses in the hands of such devils as "so mangled, so wretchedly
perverted and altered from what they were when composed by me" (18).
And barely a month before this paean to the press was composed, Simms can
be found referring to "the rascally printers who have had [my] copy in their