Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 14: No 2) >> Remembering the Father of Southern Literature >> Page 24

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Page 24

Secondary Scholarship | 2006
Transcription are created equal." Nor do we talk about Jefferson's America today as much
as we talk about the Affirmative Action, political correctness,
multiculturalism, and the assertion,, of cultural elites that America is a
"racist, sexist, classist, homophobic society". requiring a revolutionary
transformation. But Jefferson's view of America is just as American, even
though we may not talk about it. But Simms did, because Simms was
committed to Jeffersonian America.
It has been suggested that Simms harbored a deep desire to be a
gentleman planter. It has been further suggested that Woodlands Plantation
gave him his first taste of the planter's life as well as an opportunity to test
his skills in running a plantation. But we must not forget the time Simms
spent in his teens on his own father's plantation in Mississippi. Simms's
father begged young Simms to stay in Mississippi and take his rightful place
as the legitimate and only son of a plantation owner. But Simms returned to
South Carolina, to his study of law and his growing desire to become a
successful author. And, yes, he returned to marry his childhood sweetheart
Anna Malcolm Giles, who became the mother of his first child, a daughter,
whose home on Society Street in Charleston Simms would die in -- in 1870.
Simms was a devoted parent to his daughter Augusta both before
and after Anna's death. It is unlikely he would have left this motherless
child on a plantation he was not himself familiar with when he traveled.
From Charleston, he wrote his New York friend James Lawson in May 1836
that Augusta was already in the country, "where she will probably spend the
summer with my friend Charles Carroll, whose family has removed to
Barnwell." Actually, Simms himself also spent much of the summer at
Carroll's Clear Pond Plantation in the Barnwell District.
On 5 December 1836, Simms was again at Clear Pond and in love
with Chevillette Eliza Roach who was then living nearby at Oak Grove
Plantation in the Orangeburg District.
By January, Simms was residing in Midway in the Barnwell
District, but he was depressed because of a debt he owed to friends, a debt he
felt honor bound to pay before he married again. As he wrote to Lawson, he
was determined "to marry no woman, and to seek none in marriage, until I
am perfectly independent of her resources and friends." Had Simms been
motivated primarily to become a gentleman planter, he could have easily
justified marrying the woman soon to inherit two plantations, on the grounds.
that he was already very much in love with her. Instead, he continued to
follow his calling as an author even though he ran the risk of losing
Chevillette to another suitor.
Almost a year would pass before Simms married for love a second
time, and made Woodlands the home of his heart for the rest of his life.
We could easily spend time here talking about Simms's literary
accomplishments. Some thirty novels — Revolutionary War novels, Border