Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Unpublished Rhymes >> Page 35

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 35

Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription Simms's Unpublished Rhymes

David W. Newton


As a poet, novelist, essayist, biographer, and historian, William
Gilmore Simms produced a wealth of publications that is virtually unri-
valed among nineteenth-century American writers. Given this prolific
record of publications, it may surprise some readers to discover that
Simms left behind at his death a significant number of unpublished
works.l Some of these are poems; others are prose works in process or
simply abandoned, for lack of a publisher or other reasons. Scholars con-
tinue to locate heretofore unpublished letters, poems, and essays, many
of which have filled in missing information about Simms's life and added
to our understanding of Simms as a writer. Unpublished manuscripts in
the Charles Carroll Simms Collection at the South Caroliniana Library
have also been published in recent years, and other publication projects
related to manuscripts in the collection currently are underway.2
One such project involves Simms's unpublished children's
rhymes. Collectively, these rhymes comprise one of the largest remain-
ing unpublished manuscripts in the Charles Carroll Simms Collection.
Given Simms's stature and output, it is not surprising that his collection
of children's rhymes has remained unpublished. After all, children's
rhymes certainly do not possess the same kind of literary complexity and
technical qualities as his poetry. Simms sometimes referred to them in his
letters as "doggerel," and they are collectively what one would imagine
rhymes to be: imaginative wordplay created not for adults but for chil-
dren. Examining Simms's children's rhymes is not meant to diminish in
any way his stature as one of the most accomplished American poets of
the nineteenth century. While he is best known for his prose works, it
was as a poet that Simms felt his most authentic calling. As James Kibler
and Matthew Brennan have noted in their books, articles, and presenta-
tions on Simms's poetry, few other American poets from the nineteenth
century can equal Simms's technical achievement with verse and meter,
his use of different poetic forms, and his range of subject matter. His
poetic canon is an extraordinary accomplishment, one that deserves
more general appreciation and critical assessment than it has received so
far. Simms's rhymes are not of the same stature or quality as his formal
35