Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 10: No 2) >> Simms: Speaking English with a Charleston Accent >> Page 9

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Page 9

Secondary Scholarship | 2002
Transcription When Simms wrote The Golden Christmas, eight years had passed since
the 1843 publication of A Christmas Carol. Almost ten years had passed since
Charles Dickens had come to America on a four month visit and returned to
England to poke fun at Americans in the serialized version of Martin Chuzzlewit
after the 1842 publication of his American Notes for General Circulation.
Charleston was experiencing the exact opposite of what London had faced
in 1843. Charleston was a place of prosperity and peace, where poverty was all
but nonexistent. It was time to produce a Christmas story that was truly fun to
write and to read, one that reflected the lighter side of the season. It would allude
to Dickens, yet portray a place and a people enjoying many of the things London
lacked.
Dickens and Simms shared a fondness for puns, a passion for the theatre,
an appreciation of comedy, and a desire to bring reading pleasure to large
numbers of people, even when doing so sometimes caused the high and mighty to
tremble with ill-concealed rage. Each author had been criticized for being too
realistic, though neither changed his style or content to conform to the wishes of
readers too prudish and too sectional to value literary realism. Of the two authors,
Dickens was the flashier dresser. His flamboyant wardrobe had scandalized three
fourths of the population of Boston when he visited America. Although New
Englanders flocked to hear him speak, they also left complaining loudly that he
spoke too rapidly to be understood.
While New Englanders never bothered to criticize Simms for rapidity of
speech or flamboyance of wardrobe, they did find fault with his colorful language
which they labeled crude and his more colorful Carolina characters who were
described as low and crude. Complaints aside, New Englanders continued to buy
and to read the works of Dickens and of Simms.
As Dickens had his London readers in mind when he wrote A Christmas
Carol, Simms had his Charleston readers in mind when he wrote The Golden
Christmas. And so it is that the two Christmas stories part ways at the very
outset.
Where Dickens writes for people caught up in an industrialized city's
polluted atmosphere, Simms writes for people in an agrarian society who travel
from city to country and find no pollution in either place. Where Dickens writes
of poverty, Simms writes of abundance. Where Dickens writes of people pressed
for time, watching the clock and laboring long hours, Simms writes of people who
leisurely pursue lives of pleasure, good deeds and immense variety lives where
money is a servant, not a master.
Where Dickens focuses on Christmas as a day of joy, Simms focuses on
the Christmas season, and the days before Christmas which are filled with
pleasant anticipation and preparation. Where A Christmas Carol conveys gloom



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