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Memorable Lines from Simms

Recently, I’ve been reading a little [DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!] fiction, and old fiction at that. Few people today recall the author or his book, but it’s proving to be quite a read for me.


The author is William Gilmore Simms, who (after Poe) was “the most important Southern literary figure of the 19th century.” In fact, Poe himself called Simms one of the best writers of the time whose name, had he had “the self-promotion machinery of the New England literati, . . . would be a household word.”


Simms was born and died in Charleston, S.C. (a monument to him is located there) and spent most of his life in that state. He did, however, travel to the North every year and developed close friendships with several prominent writers of the time–until the War Between the States.

Simms delved into various genres, from poetry to fiction to biography. Yet, in all of his writing, he was an instructor in history. He is perhaps most famous for his biography of the “Swamp Fox,” The Life of Francis Marion. That work is on my “to-read” list, but I’ve been indulging in one of his works of fiction, Charlemont, a novel set in the frontier of western Kentucky.

Here, without commentary, are a few brief selections from the book that attracted my attention. I thought you might enjoy them, too. If so, perhaps you would be interested in looking into this and other works by Simms.


  1. “The height of self-control is the only habit which makes mental power truly effective. The man who cannot compel himself to do or to forbear, can never be much of a student.”

  2. “[T]here is no heart so accessible to the tempter as the proud and willful heart.”

  3. “Learning, like love, like money, derives its true value from its circulation.”

  4. “Too much stable makes a saucy nag.”

  5. “. . . head work–the noblest kind of work.”

  6. “I would not have you presumptuous, but there is a courage, short of presumption, which is only a just confidence in one’s energies and moral determination.”

  7. “A man knowing his own weakness, and working to be strong, can not fail. He must achieve something more than he strives for.”

  8. “Ask not what your fame requires . . . ask only what is due to the task which you have assumed, and labor to do that.”

  9. “Scandal travels down the highways, seen by all but the victim.”

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