Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 10: No 2) >> Simms: Speaking English with a Charleston Accent >> Page 13

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 13

Secondary Scholarship | 2002
Transcription Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge,
what there is particularly dead about a doornail. I might have been
inclined, myself, to regard a coffin nail as the deadest piece of iron
mongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the
simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the
country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat,
emphatically, that Marley was dead as a doornail.

Note the difference in the way that Simms and Dickens express
themselves. Dickens seems to be speaking at, rather than to, his readers. He uses
I and me and my in a way that focuses more attention on the narrator than on the
story he is telling.
Simms, on the other hand, starts a typically Charleston inclusiveness. His
first sentence rambles leisurely, allowing the reader to get the picture. Before we
even notice the narrator's use of the word 1, we know it is October and the
weather is cold as winter usually gets only in November or early December. We
also know the cotton crop has been affected by the cold and the amount to be
harvested will fall short of what is hoped for. We know the people involved in
the story are looking for winter clothing at the time they would normally have
ready access to the lighter clothing they are accustomed to wearing most of the
year. We know they wear tailor-made clothes, made to order, made to fit, not
ready-made duplicates. We also know it is morning.
All this before we read the word I. The writer has done us the courtesy of
leaving a great deal to the imagination before introducing himself into the picture.
We expect courtesy throughout the story, and we receive it right from the first.
Four pages short of the actual end of The Golden Christmas, Simms
inserts a little something extra. He has neatly tied together the tale of his
bachelors and their lady loves, when he surprisingly begins another story,

Here ends our story. "Story quotha!" The reader is half inclined to
blaze out at the presumption which dignifies, with the name of
story, a narrative which has neither duel, nor robbery, nor
murder neither crime nor criminal. Yet, not too fast. It so
happens that there was a criminal that Christmas, and a crime, at
the Barony, and I may as well give the affair, as it concerns two of
the persons employed in our chronicle.

Before we know what is happening, Simms is off and running once more.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of spending time in the company of a
Charleston raconteur knows this play for the delight that it is. They do love to tell