Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> Simms and The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry >> Page 7

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Page 7

Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription Certainly these quick jottings can help place us in the mind of the artist and give
us a glimpse at how his art was made. Like his extant 1847 journal kept on his
trip to the North Carolina mountains in which he jotted folktales, dialect, and
scraps of dialogue, names of characters, descriptions of scenery, etc., (3) here
Simms was using Herder in the same manner as a sourcebook or notebook for
later art. This apparently had been a habit of his from the very start of his career
In his first letters---epistles he sent back to Charleston from the west in 1826
when he was but nineteen years-old and beginning his career as a writer—he
reports that he is keeping a "note book" on his journey, which he will put to later
use. (4) Herder's The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry was another of these impulses
to art. As such, it is thus one more significant indicator of how Simms began
the creative process, and of what initial impulses triggered it. We may safely
conclude that Simms's work was a product of both first-hand experience and
inspiration from the written word.


1. For a listing of these poems, see James E. Kibler, The Poetry of William
Gilmore Simms: An Introduction and Bibliography (Columbia, South Carolina:
Southern Studies Program, 1979).

2. For a selection of these epigrams, see The Selected Poems of William Gilmore
Simms, ed. James E. Kibler (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990), pp.

3. For example, Simms wrote in his 1847 journal, "remember anecdote" or "Do
not forget the encounter of JFi with the bear," some of which stories and
remembrances were later incorporated as central events in the story "Sharp
Snaffles," not written and published until 1870, 23 years after he heard them.
Indeed, Simms did not forget because he had his mountain journal with him to
trigger his memory as he wrote his tale. Many of the events and details of this
story thus come from the journal---which he obviously kept as a source book for
later art. See James E. Kibler, "Simms's Indebtedness to Folk Tradition in
'Sharp Snaffles," Southern Literary Journal, 4 (Spring 1972), pp. 55-68.

4. James E. Kibler, "The Album (1826): The Significance of the Recently
Discovered Second Volume," Studies in Bibliography, 39 (1986), pp. 62-78,
particularly pp. 70-71, and Kibler, "The First Simms Letters: 'Letters from the
West '(1826)," Southern Literary Journal, 19 (Spring 1987), pp. 81-91.