Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> Annual Address Before the South Caroliniana Society, 3 April 1943 >> Page 30

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Page 30

Speech | 2007
Transcription mother. Simms did not see his father until he was twelve years
old, the passionate Irishman having fled Charleston, that "place
of tombs" he called it, in a wild outburst of grief at the death
of his young wife. He fled though with the promise that the
grandmother would bring his child to him as soon as he had.
established a home in the- west. Among Simms' earliest recol-
lections were the thrilling letters his father wrote back while
on the Greek campaigns with Andrew Jackson, of his race to
New Orleans at the approach of the British when he made the
hundred mile trip on horseback from Baton Rouge to New
Orleans and got there in time to take part in the great battle,
of the Florida campaign with Jackson. One letter that the
child gloried in gave a blood-curdling description of killing
his own horse and of living on its meat for seven days.
Simms tells us in the memorabilia that his father finally set-
tled on a Mississippi plantation and sent his brother to bring
the child with his grandmother to live with him. The grand-
mother refused to come. The boy's uncle tried to seize him
o. the streets of Charleston one night, but the attempt failed
and the case was taken to court. Judge Bay presided. Robert
Y. Bayne represented the grandmother. The father of Wil-
liarn L. Yancey, one of the great lawyers of the day, repre-
sented the father. Hard put to decide between such an array
of legal talent, Judge Bay left the matter to the ten year old
boy, who, greatly to his father's chagrin, said that he would
stay with his grandmother.
Two years later, when he was about twelve, he says that his
father and grandmother patched up their quarrel and that his
father came on a visit to Charleston. The boy sat spellbound,
shivering with delight as he listened to the thrilling raconteur
of Indian warfare, child as he was assimilating the tale for
his own use. Especially fascinating was his father's habit of
breaking into impromptu verse or song. The child remembered
his father telling him that the newsboys one day in New Or-
leans began shouting the false rumor of Jackson's death. "Jack-
son is dead. Jackson is dead," they cried. The elder Simms,
standing on the steps of a coffee house when he heard the shouts,
cried out, instantly, in grandiloquent tones :
Jackson is dead cries noisy fame
But that can never be
Jackson and glory are the same
Both born to immortality!
The child was entranced. The father became one of the two
formative influences of his life. When he was eighteen he vis-
ited his father in Mississippi for the better part of a year dur
ing which, with two later trips, he gathered the material which
was to serve him in his border stories.
Living day by day with his grandmother; however, it was
she who exerted the stronger influence. The grandmother had