William Gilmore Simms - Encyclopedia

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WILLIAM GILMORE SIMMS (1806-1870), American poet, novelist and historian, was born at Charleston, S.C., on the 17th of April 1806 of Scoto-Irish descent. His mother died during his infancy, and his father having failed in business and joined Coffee's Indian fighters, young Simms was brought up by his grandmother. He was clerk in a drug store for some years, and afterwards studied law, the bar of Charleston admitting him to practice in 1827, but he soon abandoned his profession for literature. At the age of eight he wrote verses, and in his 19th year he produced a Monody on Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (Charleston, 1825). Two years later, in 1827, Lyrical and Other Poems and Early Lays appeared; and in 1828 he began journalism, editing and partly owning the City Gazette. The enterprise failed, and the editor devoted his attention entirely to letters, and in rapid succession published The Vision of Cortes, Cain, and other Poems (1829), The Tricolor, or Three Days of Blood in Paris (1830),(1830), and his strongest poem, Atalantis, a story of the sea (1832). Atalantis established his fame as an author, and Martin Faber, the Story of a Criminal, was warmly received. During the American Civil War Simms espoused the side of the Secessionists in a weekly newspaper, and suffered damage at the hands of the Federal troops when they entered Charleston. He served in the state House of Representatives in 1844-1846, and the university of Alabama conferred on him the degree of LL.D. He died at Charleston on the 11th of June 1870.

In addition to the works mentioned above, Simms published the following poetry: - Southern Passages and Pictures, lyrical, sentimental and descriptive poems (New York, 1839); Donna Florida, a tale (Charleston, 1843); Grouped Thoughts and Scattered Fancies, sonnets (Richmond, 1845); Areytos, or Songs of the South (1846); Lays of the Palmetto: a Tribute to the South Carolina Regiment in the War with Mexico (Charleston, 1848);; The Eye and the Wing, poems, (New York, 1848) The City of the Silent (1850). To dramatic literature he contributed Norman Maurice, or the Man of the People (Richmond, 1851); and Michael Bonham, or the Fall of the Alamo (Richmond, 1852). His romances of the American Revolution - The, Partisan (1835); Mellichampe (1836); Katherine Walton, or the Rebel of Dorchester (1851); and others - describe social life at Charleston, and the action covers the whole period, with portraits of the political and military leaders of the time. Of border tales the list includes Guy Rivers, a Tale of Georgia (1834);; Richard Hurdis (1838); Border Beagles (1840) Beauchampe (1842); Helen Halsey (1845); The Golden Christmas (1852); and Charlemont (1856). The historical romances are The Yemassee (1835), dealing largely with Indian character and nature; Pelayo (1838); Count Julien (1845); The Damsel of Darien (1845); The Lily and the Totem; Vasconselos (1857), which he wrote under the assumed name of "Frank Cooper"; and The Cassique of Kiawah (1860). Other novels are Carl Werner (183&); Confession of the Blind Heart (1842); The Wigwam and the Cabin, a collection of short tales (1845-1846); Castle Dismal (1845) and Marie de Berniere (1853). Simms's other writings comprise a History of S. Carolina (Charleston, 1840); South Carolina in the Revolution (Charleston, 1853); A Geography of South Carolina (1843); lives of Francis Marion (New York, 1844); Capt. John Smith (1846) The Chevalier Bayard (1848) and Nathanael Green (1849); The Ghost of my Husband (1866); and War Poetry of the South - an edited volume - (1867). Simms was also a frequent contributor to the magazines and literary papers, six of which he founded and conducted. In the discussion on slavery he upheld the views of the pro-slavery party. He edited the seven dramas doubtfully ascribed to Shakespeare, with notes and an introduction to each play. Simms' works in 10 vols. were published at New York in 1882; his Poems (2 vols., New York) in 1853.

See his biography (Boston, 1892), by Professor William P. Trent. A bibliographical List of the Separate Writings of W. G. Simms of South Carolina (New York, 1906) was compiled by O. Wegelin.

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