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

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Page 10

Secondary Scholarship | 2002
Transcription and darkness until Christmas day dawns, The Golden Christmas conveys gaiety
and lightness from beginning to end.
To appreciate fully the impish mood Simms was in when he wrote The
Golden Christmas, we should review what had by then thanks to the press
become common knowledge about what inspired Dickens to write A Christmas
Carol.
According to Dickens, the idea came to him on an early October evening
in 1843, when the cool air was a relief from the day's unseasonable humidity, as
he started his nightly walk through what he called the "black streets of London."
The established author was facing some serious financial problems. Memories of
his childhood poverty mingled with an awareness of his present need to support a
large, extended family. He needed an idea that would sell, and he needed the idea
quickly. His walk took him beyond the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen of his
own neighborhood out among streetwalkers, pickpockets, footpads and beggars
on streets strewn with litter and lined with open sewers. On his walk back home,
he felt a flash of inspiration. He would write a Christmas story for the very
people he had passed on the gloomy streets of London, people who struggled with
the same poverty he had known as a child. It would be a story of hope and cheer.
But he had only three months to get it done. He came up with what he termed "a
little scheme." For speed he would adapt a Christmas-goblin story from a chapter
in his already well-received book The Pickwick Papers. Over the next few
months, writing the story became a labor of love. Today language is enriched by
the results, because we gained "Bah Humbug" as an utterance of irritation or
disbelief, and "Scrooge" as a description of a miser.
Simms created his Christmas story, a la Dickens, not from A Christmas
Carol itself, but from the situation behind its creation. Considering Simms's full
title, The Golden Christmas: A Chronicle of St. John 's, Berkeley. Compiled
From The Notes of a Briefless Barrister, the reader in Simms's Charleston would
be prepared to find some borrowing going on in the story. Sir Walter Scott was
one of Simms's favorite authors, and Scott had used "The broad shoulders of a
briefless barrister," in his 1824 work St. Roman 's. Scott had also penned the
lines:

England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
`Twas Christmas broach'd the mightiest ale;
`Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.




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