Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 16: No 2) >> Words Upon a Monument: The Liberalism of Simms' Public Theology >> Page 29

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Secondary Scholarship | 2008
Transcription Walton Williams states that: "Though Miles never knew who was
responsible for the purchase of his library, it is generally thought now that
William Gilmore Simms, a close friend, was one of those most interested in
the matter."8 We are keen to allow Williams' suggestion that Miles' library
became that of Simms because our possession of a full catalogue of this
library can compensate for the fact that the depredations of the Civil War
deprived us of the precise details about Simms' own "apparatus." 9 So what
do we find in this catalogue that sheds light on Simms' theology?

There are 606 items listed in the Miles' (Simms') catalogue.
Amongst these were "orthodox" writings from the likes of Cyprian,
Tertullian, Augustine, Chrysostom, Calvin, Eusebius as well as various
Scriptural commentaries, expositions of the creed, works on liturgy and
church practice and so on. But under the list of writers in the German or
"Romantic" tradition there is a translation of the 4th German edition of David
Strauss's Life of Jesus (1846) which for some deserves to be called the
lodestar of nineteenth century Christian liberal theology. And under the very
heading "Theological and Philosophical" we find Miles (Simms) possessed
Locke's Works (1759), Bacon's Works (1825), Molesworth's Hobbes
(1839), Berkeley's Works (1838), Hume's' Philosophical Works (1826),
Mill's System of Logic (1846) Hamilton's Discussions (1852), Cousin's
History of Modern Philosophy (1852) and Dugald Stewart's Philosophy
(1853). Under works in French under the sub-heading "Philosophique" we
find Miles (Simms) possessed the Oeuvres Philosophiques of Descartes
(1835), Spinoza (1842), and Leibniz (1842) as well as Pierre Bayle's famous
Dictionnaire (1820-24) in which the case for an explicitly atheist society is
made for the first time. We also find in the appendix that Miles (Simms)
owned works by such "liberal" historians as Gibbon, DeLolme, Hallam,
Milman, Froude, Grote as well as the Works of Machiavelli (1720).
What can we conclude from this wonderful reading list? I think it
is that Simms was profoundly influenced by what can be generally called
philosophical and theological "liberalism." The mere mention of names such
as Bacon, Locke, Descartes, Spinoza, Bayle, Leibniz, Hume, Cousin, Strauss
and Mill connotes western rationalism if not in some cases even
"skepticism." These are the greatest conceivable names in the history of
liberal thought going back to the seventeenth century. If we allow that

8 Cataicigue of the Library etc., p.32. "The collection is marked with a
simple bookplate and is still maintained as a unit in the Library, of the
College." p.33.

9 Of course we can certainly deduce what Simms was reading to a greater or
lesser extent " pia his many reviews and allusions up and down the Western