Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 1) >> Simms and Major Henry >> Page 4

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Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription Magnolia, responding to the comment of a correspondent, who referred to himself
as "A Puritan" and who viewed as somewhat morally objectionable Henry's
Epistle Dedicatory to Tales of the Packolette and Simms's story "The Loves of
the Driver," both of which appeared in the May 1841 number. In his response,
Henry discloses some information about his literary interests and some of the
impediments that prevented him from pursuing them more fully:
. . . in truth. I am but a truant in those fields into which I
occasionally stray, more as an idler than as a reaper of its honors
and rewards. The stern duties of practical life leave me little
leisure to do more than sip at the fountain of letters; I have sought
only to vindicate my intentions from the plainly indicated charge
of your correspondent, that I am inclined to scoff at virtue and jest
upon inexcusable vices. I am not disposed to do either, I would
much prefer that you should throw my whole manuscript into the
fire instead of giving it to the public than that one whose "exalted
station and character, whose precept and example are calculated to
exalt the standard of taste and virtue;" should find an evil tendency
in the Tales of the Packolette. (334)
Unlike "A Puritan," a notable and less negatively biased contemporary of
Henry's observed that Tales of the Packolette were " full of humor, and calculated
to please the readers of light literature" (O'Neall 525).2 And at least one Simms
scholar believes that the Major Henry, whom the authorial narrator in the second
section of "Bald-Head Bill Bauldy" identifies as the teller of tall tales about an
African flatboatman and former prince who boasted he could cross the Congaree
by riding on the back of an alligator, may have been intended by Simms to be
James Edward Henry.3 And he is probably correct in thinking this, since
sufficient evidence, I have discovered, exists to substantiate the validity of thi
speculation. Yet whether or not Henry wrote a tale such as the one Simms
ascribes to the fictitious Major Henry in "Bill Bauldy" remains a mystery. Even
so, we do know that in his 1847 journal Simms's did not mention Henry as being
among the friends who accompanied him on a hunting trip to the Balsam Range in


2 An obituary on James Edward Henry, which acknowledges his political but not
his literary accomplishments, appeared in the Spartanburg newspaper, The
Spartan, 31 Jan. 1850: 2.
3 The scholar is James Everett Kibler, who first shared with me his hunch that
Major Henry may be James Edward Henry.

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