Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Unpublished Rhymes >> Page 36

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 36 THE SIMMS REVIEW

poetry, and Simms created the rhymes with a different purpose in mind.
However, the rhymes do represent an important part of Simms's career,
and they have the potential to reveal much about his interests in folklore,
the education of children, and the preservation of Southern culture.
Simms's rhymes were among his most extensive literary preoc-
cupations during the post-war years. While not definitive, the first refer-
ence I have been able to locate in which Simms mentions a collection of
rhymes he typically refers to them as Mother Goose rhymes appears
in a letter from December 1865 written to Evert A. Duycknick, one of
Simms's closest friends and literary associates in New York. In the let-
ter, Simms implores Duycknick, "Pray try also to sell the Copyright of
the Mother Goose for cash" (Letters 4:529). In addition to the tantaliz-
ing implication that earlier discussions of this collection had taken place
between Simms and Duyckinck, what is evident in this letter is that
Simms had been circulating a manuscript collection of childhood rhymes
or at least a proposal for one. It was a project he would continue to shop
for the next several years without success. The same letter also provides
us with a glimpse as to why Simms might have been so interested in hav-
ing the collection published. He confesses to Duyckinck, "I am greatly
straightened for means, as you may suppose when I tell you that I now
sleep in a chamber which has been shattered by shells, with orifices in
the walls through which the winds stream and the rains beat; sleeping
on a pallet on the floor, and without a single article of chamber furniture
except my trunks" (4:529).
Over the next several years, similar letters were sent to Duycknick
and to other prospective publishers in the Northeast, all of them mention-
ing Simms's proposed edition of rhymes, his dire financial straits, and
the pressure he felt to provide for his family. In one plea for money in
exchange for the collection he laments, "1 have no shelter of my own,
in which I can lay my head" (4:543). The innocence so often associated
with childhood rhymes collides harshly in these letters with the real life
deprivations that Simms's family and so many other Southerners were
experiencing in the months and years after the Civil War. Historically,
however, many rhymes have had similar cultural associations. Hidden
beneath some of the best known Mother Goose rhymes are obscured
references to events like the deadly plagues that devastated medieval
Europe, to religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, and to
witchcraft.