Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 2) >> Echoes of the ''Sleepy Hollow'' Courtship in Simms's ''Sharp Snaffles'' >> Page 22

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Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription southwestern North Carolina to hunt. Simms's 1847 journal suggests that he may have used this
hunting excursion to gather subject matter he would subsequently incorporate into "Sharp
Snaffles" (Kibler 55-68; Guilds, The Writings 798-99).

A much better indication of Simms's familiarity with Washington Irving and his work may
be found in several references in his letters, his review of the G. P. Putnam 1851 edition of
Irving's works, and, as Mary Ann Wimsatt has ably demonstrated, in assimilated influences of
Irving in The Book of My Lady, Martin Faber, The Damsel of Darien, Count Julian, and
Charlemont (Wimsatt, "Simms and Irving" 25-37). In a letter to J. J. French, 2 July 1855, Simms
acknowledged having met Irving but had never corresponded with him (Letters, 3: 390); and in an
earlier letter to Evert A. Duyckinck, 15 July 1845, Simms's assessed Irving as "little more than a
writer of delicate taste, a pleasant unobtrusive humour, and agreeable talent" (Letters, 2: 90).
Finally, in a letter (17 March 1860) to the committee planning a commemorative birthday dinner
for Irving to which Simms had been invited but which he had to decline because of failing health,
Simms graciously praised Irving as a multi-talented artist, calling him the "earliest & most
successful of our Literary Pioneers, as an Historian of large research; a Biographer of rare
truthfulness; an Essayist of exquisite simplicity; a Romancer of equal freshness, fancy and purity; a
writer whose style recals [sic) the freedom & grace of Goldsmith, his archness and sweetness,
with the classic propriety and delicacy of Addison;--the claims of Washington Irving, simply as a
Literary man, are beyond dispute, & should commend the veneration of his people" (Letters, 5:
429).

Concerning The Sketch Book, which includes "Sleepy Hollow," Simms, in a brief,
laudatory review in the Southern Quarterly Review of G. P. Putnam's 1851 revised edition of
Irving's works, commented that The Sketch Book exhibits "the quiet grace of his style, the
delicacy and simplicity of his tastes, his happy sense of propriety; and his view of fancy, at once
pleasing and yet unobtrusive, all combine to render the essay his most favourite province" (571).

Because of these numerous references to Irving, it is conceivable that Simms may have
had "Sleepy Hollow", if not consciously, then unconsciously, in mind when he composed "Sharp
Snaffles." The probable connections between "Sleepy Hollow" and "Sharp Snaffles," as I see
them, lie in Simms's unflattering portrayal of John Grimstead, a somewhat refined, financially well
established, and consequently respected bachelor farmer, who, in manner and demeanor, seems to
resemble generally lrving's juiceless, effete Ichabod Crane, and of Sam Snaffles, a poor hunter-
backwoodsman, a modified gritty, masculine Southern counterpart of Brom Bones; and in his use
of the corresponding subtheme of the conflict of cultures.

As in "Sleepy Hollow," Simms adopts in "Sharp Snaffles" both a humorous tone and a
conflict as a structuring device. From Sam's retrospective narrative, told in the best tall-tale
fashion, it becomes clear that Sam regards Bachelor Grimstead as a despicable foil, much as Brom
Bones regards Ichabod Crane. Echoing "Sleepy Hollow" in developing the plot of his tale, Simms
shows that both the backwoodsman and Grimstead seek to marry Merry Ann Hopson, a farmer's
daughter. Although in "Sleepy Hollow" it is not overtly clear who Baltus Van Tassel prefers as a
husband for his daughter Katrina, in "Sharp Snaffles" Squire Hopson, Merry Ann's father, who
Meriwether rightly observes is a "local farmer of some substance and standing" (68), definitely
prefers the older, more settled, more financially secure Grimstead as a potential husband for his
daughter.' Unlike Brom Bones, Sam does not resort to humiliating pranks in his attempt to oust
his adversary and competitor, nor does he have to since Merry Ann clearly desires him over
Grimstead. He does manage, however, so he would have those listening to his tale believe, to
secure, through the help of a woman who appears to him in a dream, the essential "capital," which
he uses to his advantage. Rich and economically secure, Sam returns to Squire Hopson, and
having cleverly purchased the mortgage remaining on the Squire's farm, proceeds, as he says, "to
give him a mighty grand skeer" (Simms, "Sharp Snaffles" 451). Sam's well-timed vengeful ploy
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