Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms's Unpublished Rhymes >> Page 38

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 38

Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 38 THE SIMMS REVIEW

publisher, as among the first to reprint for American readers an edition
of the British Mother Goose's Melody around 1787 (Opie 35).4 Even at
that early stage, however, new rhymes such as "Yankee Doodle" were
emerging in the American colonies and would later find their way into
the Mother Goose canon.
While it has not been properly acknowledged, Simms was
among the first American writers to propose a collection of uniquely
American and Southern children's rhymes in the tradition of the British
Mother Goose.5 In a letter from March 1867, Simms mentions that Hurd
and Houghton of New York were publishing in the Riverside Magazine
"some of the old editions of Mother Goose and Illustrating them" and
then goes on to mention his "original" work (5:36). Eventually, Simms
learns that the publisher was unwilling to "substitute American for British
characteristics in such a book" (5:54). This exchange, however, reveals
just how innovative and ambitious Simms's plans for the collection were,
with his invention of new rhymes and refashioning of older British ones
to more accurately address American and Southern geography, folklore,
culture, and history.
By the following year, Simms's plans for the edition had under-
gone a noticeable change. While he continued to solicit publishers in the
North, he turned his focus more toward the South. In a letter to his friend
and fellow South Carolina poet, Paul Hamilton Hayne, written from
Woodlands in February 1867, Simms states:
I am engaged ... in writing for Southern boys and girls,
a new version of the English Mother Goose. I am mak-
ing it as original as possible—that is to say, adapting
it to Southern life, peculiarities, characteristics, etc. If
you have ever manufactured any doggerel rhymes for
your little boy, or can descend to the effort, please send
me some. Burns [John Dickson Burns, Professor at the
New Orleans School of Medicine] has done so, and sent
me some very clever ones, and I write to Timrod to do
some also in anticipation of the boy forthcoming. Your
reward will be a copy of the new book for your little
boy. (5:11)
Two things are significant here: First, in light of his failure to secure a
publisher in the North, Simms seems to have made a conscious decision