Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Unpublished Rhymes >> Page 37

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Page 37

Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 37 THE SIMMS REVIEW

Simms understood that rhymes are not simply innocent jingles
created to entertain children, even though that is certainly one of their
values, and an important one; rather, they are repositories of language,
education, cultural values, and history as well. While one of Simms's pri-
mary goals in compiling the collection was remunerative, he frequently
wrote about the potential educational and cultural value of the proposed
edition as well. While most of the rhymes that Simms compiled have
a distinctively Southern flavor, he on occasion expressed interest in
expanding the collection so that it could be marketed to a national reader-
ship. In a letter written to Duyckinck in February 1866, Simms says:
I find that I have with me here (in Charleston) several of
the ballads and jingles of Mother Goose, and cannot say
whether copies of them are also to be found in the col-
lection left with you. Of course, all shall be provided in
the event of a publisher being found, and I shall also be
glad if you will indicate to me those peculiarly Northern
topics which I should be pleased to illustrate, in order
that the Book be most thoroughly national. (4:539)
Later that year, in July 1866, Simms writes about the collection again
in connection with a possible publication proposal at Appletons in New
York: "It appears to me, indeed, that the Appletons are the very parties
to make a magnificent book of it, having permanent and long continued
circulation, as the only work of its class that has ever been designed in
this country, and one that should be specially acceptable, as being the
only thing that contemplates what is peculiar to the country, dealing also
with topics which are also of especial interest to the young" (4:584). As
interest in the collection among publishing houses in the North waned,
however, Simms appears to have returned to his original idea of creating
an edition of rhymes for Southern children.
The origins of many children's rhymes go back at least to the
medieval era in Europe, if not earlier, and they have a connection to
oral traditions in many European cultures, even through Mother Goose
eventually emerged as a distinctly British cultural phenomenon.3 The
origins of Mother Goose rhymes in America are equally complex and
often shrouded in myth and folklore. What we do know is that versions
of rhymes that we would associate today with Mother Goose existed in
oral and printed form in the American colonies prior to the American
Revolution. Many historians credit Isaiah Thomas, a Massachusetts