Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 10: No 2) >> Simms: Speaking English with a Charleston Accent >> Page 11

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 11

Secondary Scholarship | 2002
Transcription Sir Walter Scott, like Simms, had been an attorney before trading in his
legal brief for the poetry and prose he wrote. Both knew the pathetic reality of
being a briefless barrister, making notes for future reference when they were
between cases and so temporarily unemployed lawyers in their youth.
The concern a briefless barrister might have about his ability to generate
income would be similar to the concern Dickens was feeling when he came up
with his little scheme of a Christmas story in October when the unseasonable
humidity held London in its clammy grip.
Hear the first line of A Christmas Carol, "Marley was dead, to begin
with." Then compare it to the first lines of he Golden Christmas,

It was during that premature spell of cold weather which we so
unseasonably had this year in October, anticipating our usual
winter by a full month or more, cutting off the cotton crop a
fourth, and forcing us into our winter garments long before they
were ordered from the tailor, when, one morning, as I stood
shivering before the glass, and clumsily striving, with numbed
fingers, to adjust my cravat a la noeud Gordien,—my friend, Ned
Bulmer, burst into my room, looking as perfect and exquisite as
Beau Brummel himself.

Although Simms and Dickens shared a language, and were both admirers
of Sir Walter Scott, Simms's Charleston accent gave him a poetic and
philosophical edge Dickens lacked. In certain moods Simms could be as
theatrical and as melodramatic as Dickens, but his sense of the natural beauty of
the Lowcountry always called him back to the deeper train of thought his very
accent encouraged him to pursue. This accent allowed for subtle comedy and dry
wit, though it was not conducive to the steady production of punch lines
demanded of a humorist like Dickens.
Simms who appreciated and enjoyed comedy once said that Dickens
could not write a dull book. He meant it as a compliment. He no doubt
recognized Dickens's ability to see the humorous side of just about anything he
encountered. Humor is a great tool for survival, but without a sense of the
spiritual dimension of life, it can lead to getting by rather than to living fully. It is
difficult to imagine Dickens writing biographies and history books as Simms did
because this kind of writing calls for more than mere observation. It requires
patient research, listening skills, keen judgement and a love for history. It
requires the writer to step outside himself and to look at others, both living and
dead.
Dickens started his story search on an October night. Simms's Dick
Cooper and Ned Bulmer begin their quest for their brides of choice on an October


11