Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 10: No 2) >> Simms: Speaking English with a Charleston Accent >> Page 8

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Secondary Scholarship | 2002
Transcription Simms knew, for example, enough French, Spanish, Italian and German in his
teens to enable him to translate these languages into English. And he did not
travel abroad to Europe in order to receive his education. He acquired all of it in
Charleston. He was, in fact, as largely self-educated as was Charles Dickens, who
shared with Simms a passion for reading everything he could lay his hands on.
Separated by an ocean, Simms and Dickens were fairly close in age.
Simms was born in 1806, Dickens in 1812. Both chose early in life to become
writers. Both were extremely vocal about the need for a stringent enforcement of
international copyright laws, although for different reasons. People Dickens
called "American pirates" routinely traveled to England for the latest books which
they then reproduced cheaply and sold in America at prices well below those paid
for books by American authors. The practice cut into the royalties a British
author could expect to be paid, but it also hurt American authors to have the
country's book market flooded with foreign books which were cheaper to buy
than their own.
When some friends and an editor suggested that Simms write a Christmas
story, a la Dickens, Simms was more than a little annoyed by the tendency to look
to England for inspiration, especially in choosing story and book ideas. When
Simms finally did write The Golden Christmas, he put plenty of English touches
into the book, but he gave everything a truly Charleston twist.
There is an echo of Romeo and Juliet in this 1850 romance. Ned Bulmer
is in love with Paula Bonneau. The English Bulmers and the Huguenot Bonneaus
have been feuding for 100 years when the star-crossed lovers begin the frustrating
task of obtaining the blessings of their elders whose pride and prejudice must be
overcome. Ned enlists the aid of best friend Dick Cooper the story's narrator
who himself is in love with Beatrice Mazyck. The two bachelors begin a merry
chase in pursuit of their true loves during the holiday social season only to find
that Ned Bulmer's father and Beatrice Mazyck's mother are secretly planning an
"arranged marriage" for Ned and Beatrice. The story begins in the city and
moves smoothly into St. John's Berkeley Parish, where the Bulmer, Bonneau, and
Mazyck plantations are all located within an easy horseback ride of one another.
Charles Dickens uses ghosts of Christmas past, present and future to pull
his story A Christmas Carol together. Simms, on the other hand, unites the past
and the present spirit of a South Carolina Christmas by placing at the heart of his
story a grand celebration to be held at the Bulmer plantation, know as the Barony.
The 100-year anniversary of the family's first Christmas at the Barony is the
occasion to be celebrated in much the same way as Christmas at the Barony has
been celebrated during the past ten decades. Characters content with the present
had no need of future Christmas visions to give them hope, or to cheer them on, or
to change the way they celebrated the season.