Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> Annual Address Before the South Caroliniana Society, 3 April 1943 >> Page 27

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Speech | 2007
Transcription ANNUAL ADDRESS*

MRS. A. D. OLIPHANT

G reenvj.11e, South .Carolina

WmLLIAt GILMOR SIMMS HISTORICAL ARTIST

It is peculiarly fitting that in coming to address a ,society de-
voted to the preservation. of antiquities' I should. choose. for my,
subject a self : ' portrait .of r William Gilmore Simms. Perhaps
no South Carolinian has done more than Si.nims toward bring-
ing our people to a realization of the importance- of our source
material, ,his whole literary credo expressing itself in' his dic-
tum': "A State never arrives at" her true dignity until; she is
in possession .of her own facts."
Rarely does. it .happen that 'it is possible_ to -reconstruct a
man's life in his own words . so adequately—Ms methods of
work, his purpose, his ideals, his attitude toward his actual ,ac-
complishments—as we are able to do -with Simms. Beginning
the' reconstruction as a girlhood. hobby -by sticking into. bureau
drawers numberless scraps of paper .on which I had jotted down
all sorts of odds and ends of information, I garnered such items
as impromptu poems of Simms' father (handed down by word
..of mouth from father to son and *son to daughter). family anec-
dotes, ,tombstone inscriptions,- Bible records, all available let-
ters and papers, pictures--everything from. wedding rings to
christening caps and. robes. There were even gruesome Jocks of
hair from those .who. long. since shuffled off_ this mortal coil.
As time went on, scores of people over the country became in-
terested in my hobby. Mr. A. S. Salley has been a coadjutor
of almost a lifetime, acquiring letters, clippings, books, even
.Simms' ivory chess men which he has given me. Mrs. Salley
has been sending me notes. for years.. When my. first, little his-
tory came from. the- press, Mrs. R. L. Meriwether brought me
from her father, the beloved. Dr. Babcock, the. small mahogany
desk ' upon which Simms had corrected the proof sheets of the
first Simms History in 1839 .at the home of the Babcock pubes
lishers..on Green. Street; opposite Charleston College. Mrs. Meri-
wether has been helping .me ever since. Mr. J. M. Lesesne is
one who never forgets my ,hobby in his .historical wanderings.
Every family connection over the country keeps .me in mind,
contributing occasionally. an astonishing Simms items_ for my
bureau drawers. .
So it went until some three years ago Furman University
invited Dr. A. T.. Odell and: me to write a biography of Simms.
Dr. Odell got a sabbatical year which he and Mrs. Odell spent
'in New York and New England hunting Sinnims material. After

*On the occasion of the seventh annual meeting of the University South Caroliniana So
ciety, the South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, April 3, 1943.



Note: This address was sent to The Simms Review by John G. Simms, Jr., of
Miami. The corrections and underlinings have been retained from the original
copy in the Simms family.
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