Monday, February 25, 2013

William Gilmore Simms and The Cosmopolitan

Considered by Edgar Allan Poe as "the best novelist which this country has, on the whole, produced," many people know of William Gilmore Simms primarily as a novelist, but did you know he also spent a large part of his career as an editor to newspapers and magazines? He also contributed to collaborative projects, sometimes under such anonymity that we are lucky to know his involvement.  One such project is The Cosmopolitan: An Occasional, which is housed by only three libraries in the entire United States, and the Charleston Library Society is one of them!

Published in May of 1833, just eight years after Simms made his editorial debut as part of the "Society of Young Gentlemen," The Cosmopolitan is a 2 volume publication that includes an introduction and four short stories in the first volume and a brief introduction and six short stories in the second volume.  It is believed that most of the short stories in the second volume are entirely by Simms. Diverging themselves from their gentlemanly obligations, the two volumes represent a small literary coterie participating in "the outpouring of a gentleman's leisure" with whimsical, thoughtful, and sometimes surreal story telling of everything from Revolutionary War tales to fairies.

Originally, the Cosmopolitan was published anonymously, by "Three Bachelors," and just who deserves credit for contributing has been a subject of some debate. According to John C. Guilds, Jr., Simms published the Cosmopolitan with the Carroll brothers from Charleston and it was the second time he had used this type of "club mechanism" , the first being eight years before when he was just coming into the publishing business.

The William Gilmore Simms Initiative based out of the University of South Carolina, is making massive headway into digitizing all things William Gilmore Simms, and making them accessible for researchers and educators. The Cosmopolitan has now made its way to this largest single author online archive and can be viewed here.

So if you feel inclined to escape the tediousness of the day and "assert the value and charms of the science and letters," then please browse through Simms and his fellows' "little melange."

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