previous next

Wm. G. Simms and G, D. Prentice.

There is no better evidence of the fact that the present existence is but a period of trial and probation, than that which seems often most unequal and unjust in it, the frequent afflictions and misfortunes which overtake the good, and the prosperity and power which evil men often obtain.--Upon the theory that this life is the only world in which man exists, that death is an eternal sleep of soul and body, it would be impossible to reconcile such a state of things with the existence of a just and good God.--The only solution is that which the Records of Inspiration offer: i. e., that the life we now live is but the ante-chamber of the grand temple of Eternity, and that its rewards and penalties are not always allotted in the present state. This thought may console us when we grieve over the temporary triumph of both national and individual injustice, when we see the wicked flourishing like a green bay tree and the just passing through great tribulations, when we see Lazarus in rags and Dives clothed in purple and faring sumptuously every day. There is a future reckoning, when all inequalities will be rectified, and the justice of Heaven vindicated.

No man can look around among his neighbors and acquaintances without discovering by his observation that real merit, whether intellectual or moral, is not always successful in its own generation, whilst humbug and imposture flout along in a wreath of ephemeral flowers, and vice and a bad heart are no barrier to the highest distinctions. If we were called upon to select two names familiar to the public, which illustrate this truth, it would be those which head this article. The Southern friends of Wm. Gilmore Simms, of South Carolina, have been deeply grieved to learn the succession of calamities with which this first of Southern authors, and pure and high-minded man, has been visited. A late number of the Charleston Mercury says:

‘ "Bereaved of his children, driven from his native city by the burning of his dwelling some two years ago and robbed of the hard earned fruits of a long life of authorship by Northern publishers, whom his pen had helped to enrich, it really seemed as if the means for further affliction were exhausted. But fate has added another and bitter drop to his already overflowing cup, and to-day he stands by the ashes of the old homestead, where his children were born and have died, by whose generous hearth his friends were ever welcomed with a hospitality as liberal as it was unostentatious, and from whose doors have gone forth, year after year, the songs and stories that make Carolina's name as familiar in the country's annals as a household word.

"Patient of labor, and strong to endure, Mr. Simms has borne poverty, misfortune, exile and neglect, with a manly fortitude that never asked condolence, nor stooped for aid But the people of our State owe him a debt which they have thus far feebly acknowledged, and can never wholly pay; and at such a time as this, it is eminently fitting that he should receive their universal and unstinted sympathy. We propose, however, that this shall be exhibited now in something more substantial than words. Let every Carolinian who has had his State knowledge enlarged, or his State love stimulated and strengthened by Mr. Simms's labors, come forward to raise from the dust the generous home of the poet-novelist of Woodland — Let him bring, and bring at once, his contribution, not as a charity doled out — which the object of it would spurn — but as a spontaneous and hearty tribute to the first of Southern authors an acknowledgment of the great services he has done the State, and as encouragement for him hereafter to shape into some worthy and enduring form the glorious history of our second revolutionary struggle. Let his mansion be reared again, as a monument to his and our children, that honors no less the bard who immortalizes her deeds in history, than him who illustrates her wisdom in council, or her valor in the field"

’ In contrast to the sad fate of Wm. Gilmore Simms, is the career of George D. Prentice, famous in the United States as a poet and wit, and infamous as a man for his degrading vices and bad habits. Without a tenth of the originality and talent of Simms, and without the capacity to imitate or even to believe in the virtue of such a man, he has waxed fat like Jeshurun and roams in green pastures, and, if not beside still waters, by rivers of whiskey, up to his muzzle in clover, like an ex-preparing for the slaughter. The only apparent affliction which visits his household is that which he himself brings upon his own family. Col. Blanton Duncan, who lately wrote a scathing letter to the wretch, which no doubt glanced off from his hide like the balls from the sheathing of the Merrimac, describes him as a reptile, who is not only malignant to his enemies, but false to his friends, and in whose guardianship a friend could no more trust a daughter than an enemy a reputation. It is not alone that the man has wallowed so long in intemperance, that his features have become swollen and disfigured, and his whole appearance that of one who never permits water to approach his person; but intemperance, if we may judge from Colonel Duncan's portraiture, is one of the most inconsiderable of his vices, an insignificant stream, compared with some others which flow out of a corrupt and debased heart. His political conduct is just what might be expected from his personal character.--Coming to Kentucky a poor Yankee, he has grown fat upon her bounty and repaid her for the patronage of a long life by plunging her in a sea of blood. Nothing gives him more delight than to dip his mendacious pen in gall and wormwood, and traduce the best men of Kentucky--men of his own party — men who have fought side by side with him under the flag of Henry Clay all their lives, because they have dared to differ from him, for the first time, on the right of freemen to resist despotism. Nothing gives him more pleasure than this, except to see their houses burned, their wives and children beggared and the life-blood ebbing from their own true and gallant hearts upon the battle field. The shouts of triumph which he raises over scenes like these, as his Yankee brethren convert Kentucky once more into a bloody land, and turn that garden of the West into a wilderness, could only come from a fiend. Yet this man prospers; he receives from successful power the reward of villainy; he grows sleak and pampered as he grows old. There is nothing in his inward reflections any more than in his outward circumstances, to give him trouble. He is so much enamored of himself that, like some vain old woman, whose ugliness has become a proverb among all who know her, he sees not a single feature which he does not consider admirable. Conscience is a thing which never disturbed his slumbers, and the only remorse he ever felt was on account of opportunities for evil that he had not been able to avail himself of and his physical incapacity to carouse and gormandize every moment of his life. Old age, which generally brings sober reflections, becoming the evening twilight of life, has not affected his evil passions, except in physical impotency; for his inclinations are as perverse, and his malignity as strong, as when, redolent of codfish and whiskey, he first left his native country for his country's good. A horrid twilight, indeed, that follows such a day ! What hooting owls and obscene birds flap their wings in the darkness, and what serpents of retribution are lying in the path.

Not for all the ill-gotten gains of George D. Prentice would the honest patriot of the South live his life and incur his reward. The bitterest cup of misfortune which poor Simms has drained would be a goblet of-nectar in comparison with a such a fate. The people of the South honor and admire virtue in its most forlorn estate more than vice, however successful and strong. We trust that this admiration and this honor will be permitted, in the case of Mr. Simms, to assume a form more substantial than words, and that Virginia and other Southern States will be permitted to share with Carolina the honor of sending such a tribute as ought to be laid upon such a shrine.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Carolina City (North Carolina, United States) (2)
United States (United States) (1)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William Gilmore Simms (8)
George D. Prentice (2)
Blanton Duncan (2)
D. Prentice (1)
Lazarus (1)
Dives (1)
Henry Clay (1)
Carolinian (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: