Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 5: No 1) >> Tom Horsey and Simms's New Orleans Visits >> Page 6

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Secondary Scholarship | 1997
Miriam J. Shillingsburg
Simms's youthful excursions to the Old Southwest brought him to New
Orleans--eventually resulting in a small body of writings stemming from these ver
early travels. On 12 January 1826, when he was just nineteen years old, Simms
began his second Old Southwest trip, sailing from Charleston around the Florida
Keys. A letter written from New Orleans on 3 February 1826 and another from
Mobile on 13 February suggest the humorous way in which this trip would
provide source material for one of his best novels, Border Beagles. The fledgling
author attended a play at the American Theatre, where he found the acting
"disgust[ing]." The "only actor, at all worthy the name, was Mr. Caldwell, the
manager," a figure used fifteen years later in the novel.
In Border Beagles (1840) the rapscallion would-be actor Tom Horsey
reports that he is ruined with the manager:
Understand, [he tells his father] you are at the American Theatre in New
Orleans, Caldwell, manager; and your humble servant doing third and
fourth-rate characters at tenth-rate prices.... The manager had a very strange
notion that he was a tragedian, and was, therefore, continually going out of
his element, to try waters which were quite beyond his depth. He did well
enough as a genteel comedian, but that did not satisfy his ambition; and
among those who knew nothing better, he did monstrous well. I remember
the first time I ever saw him was in tragedy.... Like the rest of the gaping
countrymen around, and the house was full of them, I thought him a
wonderful man, though I soon learned other things when I looked a little
more into the matter." (BB, Redfield edition, 43-44).
Horsey, who owed his tailor a thousand dollars, had asked Caldwell for a loan
against future services; when refused, Horsey got even:
"He [Caldwell] was still ripe for tragedy and nothing else, and was that very
night, ... to play Richard--I [Horsey] Richmond.... We went through the
piece very well, till we got to the death scene.... I had wounded him, and he