Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> Annual Address Before the South Caroliniana Society, 3 April 1943 >> Page 33

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Page 33

Speech | 2007
Transcription "It's short enough", he growls, "written in large characters,
big" as a barn door, the lines as wide apart as a church door."
Writing whimsically to a Virginia friend he would promise
"Next summer I shall bestraddle a short cob and make my
way to you over the mountains of Buncombe, taking all the swart
ranges by the shout, as Faust and Mephistopheles might have
done along the Brockden." Or, in warmly complimenting Ham-
mond's very occasional poetry.: "Your verses to Caroline are
as smoothly turned as if you had frequently practiced at the
lathe." or this piece de resistance written wryly to a north-
ern friend during Reconstruction : "Our free negroes move
to work like elephants with the gout."
Raven I. McDavid's careful linguistic studies of Simms' use
of dialect show the odd handling of prepositions, the scientific
accuracy of his Indian and gullah and negro dialect, his use
of foreign names and phrases. He notes more than thirty char
acters in Simms' novels speaking various forms of the sub
standard from Cape Hatteras to Missouri, from the mountains
to the canebrakes of the Mississippi, all redolent with apt di-
alect. Mr. A. Allen Morris confirms the scientific accuracy
of Simms' use of dialect as a major characteristic of his method,
of work, often at variance, as we have noted, with his hurried,
careless composition. It was as though Simms gloried in the
pannstaking necessity for meticulously careful preparation of
the historical material, which he used as the frame work of his
Action, reveled in the artistry of his use of words, but once
down to actual writing, lost himself in the dash of telling a good
We have Simms' own comments on his methods of work. In
the preface to Katharine Walton, for example, after telling us
that he had wandered over the scene of action as a boy, he says
he went back for a careful study preparatory to writing the
novel. He hunted up all the old men and women around Dor
chester and took notes on their reminiscences, located all the
available letters and documents in the neighborhood, among
them a collection of Marion letters, hunted up the surviving
soldiers who had served under the Swamp Fox, and then went
to Belle Isle to see Marion's grave. He goes on to state that
for the portion of the novel dealing with the occupations of
Charleston by the British he had ear-witness accounts for even
the repartee he put into the mouths of his characters. As one
of the very salty characters of the novel he used his own ma-
ternal great-grandfather, Thomas Singleton, one of the sixty
prominent Charlestonians imprisoned in the Castle at St. Au-
gustine by the British for their subversive activities. Living
witnesses had told Simms who were the conspirators meeting
in the library of the Singleton house on Church Street. Among
them was the witty widow of Miles Brewton, and Simms says