Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 16: No 1) >> ''Woodlands'' Essay from 1955 >> Page 34

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Page 34

Reviews/Essays | [1955]
Transcription A visitor at the Christmas season would have been aroused on
Christmas morning by the tuneful songs that naturally flowed from the
mouths of most plantation Negroes, blended with tones from banjos. He
would have beheld the corpulent Mr. Simms, who did not ordinarily rise
early because he was a late worker or entertainer, distributing numerous
Christmas gifts to the delighted, grinning darkeys. One northerner went
back home and wrote a letter in which he asserted his conviction that slavery was
was after all not such a bad institution.
Among the notables who visited "Woodlands" was William Cullen
Bryant. Simms had formed a friendship with Bryant in 1832 while in New
York overseeing the publication of his first important volume of verse,
Atalantis: A Story of the Sea. Other northern friends who visited
"Woodlands" were G. P. R. James, the novelist, and James Lawson, a
pleasant Scotsman and editor of The Mercantile Advertiser, for whom
Simms named a daughter, Mary Lawson, afterwards Mrs. John M. Kinloch.
In his immediate neighborhood were several kindred spirits and fast
friends. These were A. P. Aldridge, of Barnwell, subsequently a circuit
judge; James H. Hammond, a noted engineer and a contributor to magazines
of the day; and General David F. Jamison, the author of Bertrand du
Guesclin, one of the ablest works on the Hundred Years War ever written,
and of numerous essays and criticisms. Night after night two or more of
these choice spirits gathered at "Woodlands," discussed the best sellers or
the worse of politicians, and played whist or brewed punch. Other
Southerners who at times enjoyed the hospitality of "Woodlands" were Paul
Hamilton Hayne, John R. Thompson, Beverly Tucker, and Dr. F. Peyre
Porcher, physician and botanist. Professor William P. Trent has labored
vainly to make it appear that the Southern people, especially those of
Charleston, neglected or slighted Simms; that they showed no appreciation
of his attainments or successes; that his whole career was made by northern
publishers and northern readers. As a student of Simms's life and writings
for more than forty years I have been able to find no justification for that
claim. On the other hand, I can appreciate the appropriateness of the editor
of Life, who, after reading all that Trent had written of the charming life at
"Woodlands," wrote: "If that is the way the South neglected its literary men
we know some northern writers who would like to similarly be neglected."
The end comes all too soon to all the joyous things of life and to life
itself. In February 1858, Mr. Roach died and "Woodlands" passed, under
the terms of his will, to Mrs. Simms and her husband for their respective
lives, to go at the death of the survivor to the eldest son, William Gilmore.
His children own it now.
About the first of April 1862, the main house at "Woodlands" took
fire from some unknown cause and burned. If its owner had not some
months previously built a wing to accommodate his overflowing library, the