The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 11. His Devotion to South Carolina
Unlike Poe, he had not the art or patience to make himself independent of general approval. Born in Charleston, 17 April, 1806, son of a merchant of Irish birth who lost both his wife and his fortune during the winter of 1807–8, Simms got but a bare schooling and was early apprenticed to a druggist. He seems, during his youth, to have been as bookish as Brockden Brown, but it was romantic poetry and history which claimed his attention, not romantic speculation. From his grandmother, with whom he lived as a boy, he heard innumerable legends of the Revolution, South Carolina’s heroic age, and cherished them with a poetic and patriotic devotion. When he was eighteen he went to visit his father, who had left Charleston for the West, become friend and follower of Andrew Jackson, and finally settled on a plantation in Mississippi. The young poet was thus shown the manners of frontier which corresponded, in many ways, to that of Cooper, and he seems, during extended travels, to have observed its rough comedy and violent melodrama with sharp eyes. But the border was not, for Simms, his first love, and he went back, against his father’s advice, to the traditions and dreams of Charleston. There he was married in 1826, was admitted to the bar the next year, published the first of his many volumes of verse, and suffered the death of his young wife. Thence, in 1832, he set out to the North on a career of authorship in which necessity confirmed his training and temper by urging him to immense industry and careless work.