Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 14: No 2) >> Remembering the Father of Southern Literature >> Page 22

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Page 22

Secondary Scholarship | 2006
Transcription Remembering the Father of
Southern Literature

David Aiken

I never cease to be honored and privileged to participate in any
event celebrating the life and genius of William Gilmore Simms, but I must
confess this particular occasion is one I have looked forward. to for over
seven years. As early as 2000 when I asked Betty Jane Miller to make some
remarks at the' business meeting of Simms 2000 in Charleston, and then
again at Furman University in 2004 when I asked Jennings Owens to address
the Simms Society about a Simms conference in Barnwell, I have been doing
what I could to bring Simms home. Yes, even though Simms belongs to all
of South Carolina, indeed to the whole of the South, Barnwell is the place
where the Simms spirit especially hovers. Of all the places Simms could
have lived, he chose here. That's right, the Barnwell District became
Simms's home by choice.
When Simms's first biographer, William P. Trent, published his life
of William Gilmore Simms in 1892, he argued that Simms would have been
a great writer, if he had left the Barnwell area, if he had left Charleston, if he
had left the South and move North to New York or Boston. Everything I say
this morning should be taken as a rebuttal of Trent's claim. Indeed, I would
feel more comfortable arguing that Simms's development from good author,
to great author, to Father of Southern Literature, is because of the Barnwell
District. If Simms had been simply an urban author, he would not have
become the writer we celebrate today.

1 Presented as a speech at the unveiling of the bust of Simms in Barnwell, South Carolina, 10
June 2006.