Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> A New Simms Essay of 1835 and Evidence of His Earliest Trip to the Southwest >> Page 32

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 32

Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription A New Simms Essay of 1835 and Evidence of His Earliest Trip to
the Southwest

John Caldwell Guilds

Simms scholars have determined that Simms made at least four visits to the
Southwest-in 1824-25, 1826, 1831, and 1842. The possibility exists, however, that
he made a previously unrecorded trip west earlier. This note discusses the evidence
for such a journey.
In October 1835 the Southern Literary Journal published "Sketches of Indian
Character. No. 1," signed "A Traveller." I have always believed (along with James
Kibler)' that Simms was the author of this essay, but belief became firm when a
collation of the texts of "Sketches of Indian Character. No. 1" and "Notes of a Small
Tourist" (which Simms wrote for the Charleston City Gazette in 1831) revealed that
details in four passages in "Sketches" are almost identical to those in passages
published earlier in "Small Tourist." The striking parallels establish beyond reasonable
doubt Simms's authorship of "Sketches of Indian Character. No. 1"-a validation that
posits the prospect of an earlier Southwest visit by Simms than 1824-25.
The opening sentence of "Sketches of Indian Character. No. 1" reads: "It is
now sixteen years since the writer left Charleston on an excursion of recreation in the
then wilderness of the South-West" (SLJ 1 [October 1835]:101). Note Simms's
specific designation of "sixteen years" - not "fifteen" or "twenty," for instance, the
more likely figures if the author were unsure of his memory. The problem, if this
declaration is accepted as accurate, is that in 1819 Simms would have been only
thirteen years old. Is it possible that young Simms (accompanied by "a gentleman of
fine sense and many accomplishments") could have undertaken such a journey? It is
at least within the realm of possibility: Simms's father, comfortably settled in
Mississippi, had tried as early as 1816 to make provisions for the return of his son to
him.
There is yet another bit of evidence that Simms's earliest visit to the
Southwest came before 1824-25. I am indebted to the late Professor Jay B. Hubbell
for years ago calling to my attention Simms's statement in December 1842 of
"traveling in Alabama twenty years ago" (Guardian, Columbia, Tennessee, 3 [15
February 1843]: 30-31) - more specific a statement than the one in the opening
paragraph of The Social Principle, delivered in Tuscaloosa on 13 December 1842.
The passage quoted from the Guardian, however, is sufficiently general to suggest


1 James E. Kibler, Jr., Pseudonymous Publications of William Gilmore Simms (Athens:
University of Georgia Press [1976D, 96, lists "A Traveller" among possible pseudonyms of
Simms, and states that Simms is "the likely author" of "Sketches of Indian Character. No. 1."


32