Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> Annual Address Before the South Caroliniana Society, 3 April 1943 >> Page 38

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Page 38

Speech | 2007
Transcription I do begrudge, however, the papers Simms sold to the North.
at what he considered heart-breaking prices. A Francis Marion
letter was one of the first things he sold after the war. By grad-
ual states he came to the resolution to part with his collection of
Washington letters for $250.00. The Laurens letters were bought
by the Long Island Historical Society . for. what he. considered
a meager sum, piece by piece the les important documents
went Simms steadfastly refusing to part with what he called
his major collection.
To make a long story bitterly short, Simms reached the point
on May 1, 1807 when the wrote Duyckinck that with great re-
luctance he must sell his collection. His children were sleeping
in outhouses in the yard around the ruins of his spacious. home.
In the summer of 1865 in Columbia he had slept on a mattress
laid on the floor of an attic, under the leads, he said, in :
tropic heat. In Charleston he shared a tiny room with two
of his boys, working and sleeping in these small quarters, he
who had been accustomed to such ample space. He was so liar-
rassed that he could scarcely work. The documents, he went
on, represented thirty years of great and painstaking research,
endeared by a variety of precious associations. All his life he
had looked forward to the grave labours of the historian, build-
ing largely on the material which had already served him in
fiction. He went on to explain that it was in the saving of these
papers that he lost "Woodlands", his plantation home, with its
magnificent library. At the approach of the enemy he had hur-
ried to Columbia to get the documents to safety material for fif-
ty printed volumes of source material--and that while he was ab-
sent, as so often happens in the ease of the absentee owner, the en-
einy. burned the house. He concluded by urging that the collection
be sold quickly, for as much as possible, with little publicity;
and that when he came to New York please not to talk about it.
As Simms often said : "I'm at the bottom of my sheet", and
there has been no chance to stress those human attributes which
made Simms a great man, no matter how history may cast the
dice as. to his place in literature. His life mirrors all our images
for nearly three-quarters of the stirring nineteenth century,
truly as Mr. John Higham says, the "voice of the Changing
South." I would like to speak of him as the agriculturalist;
working for a balanced manufacturing and farming, who, as
early as 1839 was introducing resolutions for such institutions.
as Winthrop and Clemson, with demonstration and experimental
features such as we have today. I would like to report his re-
markable views on religion. Something surely should have been
said as to the judicial quality of his critical judgments, valid
for the most part after the lapse of a century, the man who as'
early as 1850 was proclaiming Robert Browning one of the geni-
uses of all time. I would like to tell of the almost Rabelaisian


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