Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> Annual Address Before the South Caroliniana Society, 3 April 1943 >> Page 31

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Page 31

Speech | 2007
Transcription lived through the British occupation of Charleston which en-
meshed the entire state with its spider-like threads. She sub-
stituted first-hand historical accounts for nursery rhymes. so
effectively that the pattern was early cut for his lifework.
Simms tells us how as a lonely child he had wandered miles
along the seashore, lying for hours in the sands, gazing into
space; his mind seething with speculations about the Spaniards,
the French, the pirates, the first explorers; the first settlers along
these coasts. Even as 'a child he had a passion for locating
the exact scenes of historical events. In one of his prefaces he
tells us that as a young boy he had wandered over the country
around Dorchester where he could see, in his mind's eye, the
British flag over the old fort, could reconstruct the church from
a glimpse of its ruined steeple, could hear the shout of Marion's
men as they rushed into charge from a thicket near by.
Simms's personal account of his childhood tells us of the verse
he was publishing in the newspapers at sixteen. At seventeen
he was editing a juvenile periodical. At nineteen he edited a
magazine called The Album and published the Monody on Gen-
eral Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Before he became of age
he studied law and married. On the day he was twenty-one
he was admitted to the bar and before the year was out had
published two more volumes of verse and was getting ready to
conduct a new monthly magazine. From this time on his pro-
digious work in various fields---short story, novel, essay, drama,
poetry, biography, periodicals and history is too familiar to need
One of the first characteristics Dr. Odell and I noted in our
work an the Simms letters was Simms' feeling for words-old
words, new words, coined words, foreign words, obsolete words
and expressions, along with a eery nicely tuned ear for a well-
turned phrase, greatly at variance with his hasty and sometimes
slouchy framing of sentences. He had a particular liking for
eighteenth century words. He loved to speak of Charleston as
"this ancient ilk" and of the "venerable eld of Savannah, de-
lightful beyond description." He liked the old word "provand"
for prisions. He spoke of the first dawn of cheap literature
flooding the country with as aria, meaning a storm, of whitey
brown paper worse than that of the sage. To Poe he wrote
in no uncertain terms: "Stop squabbling. No southern gentle-
man wishes to be mixed up in broils with people one does not
care to know. I often submit to misrepresentations, content,
though annoyed with the slaver, that the viper shall amuse him-
self at the expense of his own teeth." It was a long time before
we decided that we were correct in reading the word (in Simms's
handwriting) as slaver and found the word In the dictionary
meaning, very appropriately "a dripping at the mouth".