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In a recent study of William Gilmore Simms's editorship of the Southern Literary Gazette I speculated whether the twelfth number of the "new" series had been published as announced; whether (as was generally believed) the number had simply failed to materialize; or whether it was issued, on November 7, 1829, under the new title, the Pleiades, and Southern


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Literary Gazette.[1] From the evidence at hand I concluded that the twelfth number for November 1, 1829, probably had been issued and that it probably did include the "Confessions of a Murderer," as Simms himself had claimed. The happy discovery of the long lost November 1, 1829, Southern Literary Gazette [2] proves both of these guesses to have been correct. The present note concludes my study of Simms and the Southern Literary Gazette by briefly examining the contents of the twelfth number, ascribing to Simms those contributions for which evidence of authorship exists, and commenting upon the new light thrown upon the Martin Faber controversy by the discovery of the "Confessions of a Murderer."

Like earlier numbers of SLG, the final number was largely filled with Simms's own writings. In its twenty-four pages the November 1 issue contains twenty items (none signed by name): ten poems, three stories or sketches, four essays, an editorial, and an index (called "Table of Contents") to the entire second volume.[3] Of the nineteen contributions ten (the three stories, six of the poems, and the editorial) can safely be ascribed to Simms: two are signed by pseudonyms Simms used elsewhere in SLG, "On the Death of an Infant," a poem signed "E.," and "The Opportunity," a story or sketch signed "G."; five other poems, "To Thee," "EPIGRAM, On a Young Lady who looked Witty Things, but never spoke them," "Epitaph" (beginning "We rear o'er thee no splendid tomb"), "Stanzas" (beginning "Sweet be the laughing skies around"), and "Stanzas" (beginning "Well may my friendships all decline—") were later republished in collections of Simms's poetry (as was "On the Death of an Infant"); "Chronicles of Ashley River—No 6" is the final installment of the series Simms had begun with the July 15, 1829, number; "L'ENVOY" identifies itself as the work of the "Editor"; and of course the other piece of fiction known to have been written by Simms is the long sought, much speculated upon forerunner of Martin Faber, the "Confessions of a Murderer." In addition, on the basis of internal evidence, "Prospects of a National Literature" and "Epitaph" (beginning "His was the heart that passionate feeling warm'd") can also be assigned to the young editor. (These twelve titles bring the total number of contributions by Simms to the full run of SLG to 113, ninety-eight of which are certain, fifteen probable.)[4]


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Although insufficient evidence exists to establish the authorship of the other seven contributions to the November 1, 1829, number, it seems safe to assume that at least some of them are also the work of the over-taxed editor. Three of the seven are poems: "The Charter Oak," signed "H."; "Rain not Wanted," unsigned; and "On Reading the Works of an American Poet, who died of Want," unsigned. The four prose contributions of undesignated authorship are "Capt. Hall on his Tour," unsigned; "Bacon's 'Novum Organon Scientiarium,'" unsigned; "Glances at Adam Smith," signed "W."; and "Excerpts," unsigned. The most ambitious of the "authorless" selections is the long (144-line) "On Reading the Work of an American Poet, who died of Want," which for two reasons could possibly be attributed to Simms: its rude bombast seems characteristic of his poetry; and the bracketed note which introduces it perhaps suggests the editor's authorship: "[The following Poem, made its appearance in one of our city papers, some time since, in a very imperfect state. It is now, after undergoing many alterations, (we hope for the better,) submitted to the public. —Ed.]" (n.s., I, 284). In truth, however, "On Reading the Works of an American Poet, who died of Want" does small credit to its author, whoever he be.

Of the contributions attributed to Simms the "Confessions of a Murderer" is by far the most interesting. Its discovery makes possible, for the first time, the unequivocal validation of the claim by Simms (in indignantly denying having plagiarized F. M. Reynolds's "Miserrimus") that the origin of Martin Faber lay in one of his own early published writings:

In conclusion, and to refer again to the supposed resemblance of "Martin Faber" to "Miserrimus," we may add, that the chief incidents of the former work were first published in the Southern Literary Gazette, a periodical put forth in Charleston, South Carolina, about seven years ago. It filled some eight or ten pages in the second volume of that journal, where the reader, if curious, will find it. From the paper entitled, "Confessions of a Murderer," the work was subsequently elaborated—partly in 1829, partly in 1832, and finally revised for publication in 1833, when it appeared in its present form. In the process of elaboration, new persons and new events received their existence. Thus, the character of William Harding, which does not appear in the original production, was introduced, and all the softening and gentler features of the work were the fruit of an after labour. The sterner, darker features of the story—those in their nature most resembling "Miserrimus," were all conceived in the first instance, and nearly all of them appear in the story as it was first given to the public, in the shape of a contribution to a monthly magazine.[5]


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Indeed, one is struck by the accuracy of most of the statements in the paragraph: (1) if Simms wrote the "Advertisement" for the second edition of Martin Faber in 1836, as seems probable, "about seven years ago" pinpoints the 1829 publication of the "Confessions of a Murderer"; (2) the statement that the "Confessions" filled "some eight or ten pages" is erroneous in its estimate of pages, but Simms may have confused columns with pages (the "Confessions" occupies eight columns on four two-column pages); (3) the dates given for the "elaboration" of the sketchy "Confessions" into a full-length Martin Faber are confirmed in Simms's Letters [6]; and (4) Simms is right in saying that the "sterner, darker features . . . nearly all appear in the story as it was first given to the public"—that is, the character William Harding and "the softening and gentler features" were added as "the fruit of an after labour." In brief, although differences between the "Confessions of a Murderer" and Martin Faber are great enough that they should be considered separate stories, there can be no doubt that Simms used the early SLG sketch as the germ for his first book of fiction.

This genesis is apparent in language as well as in plot, as a comparison of the opening paragraph in the "Confessions" with a similar early paragraph in Martin Faber reveals:

  • "Confessions of Murderer" I was born in an obscure country village in D___; the place had not more than ten or twelve families, and that of my parents was one of the most intelligent and respectable. The village was one of that class which is never known to vary its position; it neither increased nor diminished, and my father was one of the principal, if not the only principal man in it. Would he had been less so. Had he thought more of his own and the business of his own family and less of those around, I should not this day recount the history of my own disgrace. But my father was the great man, the lion of the village, and I became no less so of my mama's fireside. I was a spoiled boy even before I could read—so early are the principles of the human mind subject to misdirection. I was perverse, unruly and puerile, and my father mended the matter very considerably by damning at me on all warrantable occasions. To him and to my mother, I charge my crime and its punishment, and while they are wondering how so bad a scion should spring from so good a stock, they have been weaving the rope about my neck. I shall render amends to the laws of the land; they are accountable to God, and to his mercies I leave them (n.s., I, 266).
  • Martin Faber (1833) My name is Martin Faber. I am of good family—of German extraction— the only son. I was born in M___ village, and my parents were recognized as among the first in respectability and fortune of the place. The village was small—numbering some sixty families; and with a naturally strong and shrewd, and a somewhat improved mind, my father, Nicholas Faber, became the first man in it. The village of M___, was one of those that always keep stationary. The prospect was slight, therefore, of our family declining in influence. My father, on the contrary, grew every day stronger in the estimation of the people. He was their oracle—their counsellor—his word was law, and there were no rival pretensions set up in opposition to his supremacy. Would this had been less the case! Had Nicholas Faber been more his own, than the creature of others, Martin, his son, had not now obliterated all the good impressions of his family, and been called upon, not only to recount his disgrace and crime, but to pay its penalties. Had he bestowed more of his time in the regulation of his household, and less upon public affairs, the numberless vicious propensities, strikingly marked in me from childhood up, had, most probably been sufficiently restrained. But why speak of this? As I have already said—it was written! (pp. 7-9)


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Though in rewriting, Simms has altered his phrasing to such an extent that a collation list for the two paragraphs is not possible, they both employ language recognizably Simmsian in tone and character. Masculinity and verve are earmarks of Simms's style as much as verbosity and artificiality; and perhaps one of the appeals of the "Confessions of a Murderer" is its straightforward narrative style relatively unmarred by redundancies and cumbersome rhetorical padding. The brief story is of interest for literary as well as bibliographical reasons in that it clearly suggests its author's skill and power of narration.

If the "Confessions of a Murderer" furnished the germ for Martin Faber, is it in turn possible that the inspiration for the "Confessions" is to be found in earlier pages of SLG itself? Nine months before the publication of the "Confessions," "The Criminal, from the German of Schiller" appeared in SLG for February, 1829, and was concluded in a second installment in March. There are striking resemblances in the "Confessions of a Murderer" and "The Criminal"[7]: both are set in German country villages identified only by letter (D___) or by blank (___), not by full name; both trace the development of a young son through a childhood of petty crime to a manhood in which he commits murder; at the end of both the protagonists have been apprehended and await execution; and, perhaps most significant of all, both stories consist largely of the "confessions" of a murderer, narrated in first person. Then, too, the prefatory comments in "The Criminal, from the German of Schiller" emphasizing the importance


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of psychology in the story of crime are equally applicable to Simms's method and purpose:
The hero must become as cold as the reader, or what is the same, he [the reader] must become acquainted with him before he acts; he must see him not only performing, but thinking his exploits. His thoughts concern us more than his actions, and the sources of those thoughts more than the effects of those actions (I, 288).

In light of the scholarly attention focused on Simms's sources for Martin Faber, it is interesting to speculate whether Schiller's Der Verbrecher (via the translation in SLG and, ultimately perhaps, the "Confessions of a Murderer") is not a more logical candidate than, say, Godwin's Caleb Williams, which also has resemblances to Martin Faber and has been pointed to as the probable inspiration.[8] In carefully comparing the "Confessions" with the translated version of "The Criminal" in SLG, I find substantial support for the conclusion I had drawn before the recent discovery of the November 1, 1829, number: "the accumulated evidence leads one to believe that Simms had Schiller's story in mind and perhaps in hand when he sat down to write the 'Confessions of a Murderer.'"[9]

In summary, then, it has now been confirmed that the twelfth number of the new or second series of SLG was issued on November 1, 1829, as scheduled; that the number does contain the "Confessions of a Murderer" as announced; that the "Confessions of a Murderer" is the genesis of Martin Faber as Simms had claimed; and that in turn "The Criminal, from the German of Schiller" very likely directly inspired Simms's undertaking the "Confessions." What yet remains a mystery is the Pleiades, and Southern Literary Gazette: was it indeed issued in early November, 1829, as the brief notice in the Charleston Courier of November 9 implies? I now believe that it was, and that some day a copy of it may also turn up. Simms's final editorial in SLG, entitled "L'ENVOY," clearly indicates that plans had been made for publishing the new journal:

With our patrons we are about to part. We are about to lose our present character, good, bad, or (what is worse, perhaps,) indifferent, and assume one which may be considered partially, if not entirely new. Are there any regrets between us, gentle reader. Do we separate as those who have been long united.— As those who have been friends. Have we mutually benefitted or interested each other. Have we given you a moments pleasure or relief, and have you paid us in kind. These are questions which neither must answer. It may not be altogether proper, certainly not altogether delicate, to answer them. Let them remain.

The present proprietor of the 'Southern Literary Gazette' having transferred his right in the publication in future to the Editor, and the latter having received


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proposals from Mr. Burges for an union of that work with 'The Pleiades,' lately projected by the latter gentleman, we now announce their formal betrothal under the longer title of 'The Pleiades' and Southern Literary Gazette.' The arrangements made for the publication of the work, from the encouragement afforded by a handsome and increasing list of subscribers, are of the most liberal kind. The paper will be of the most superior quality—the type new and handsome, the contents, in the selection of which, we shall have recourse to the most approved miscellanies, foreign and domestic will, of course, be highly admirable and interesting. A page will be devoted to music, selected and original, and by the devotion to whatever may interest, improve and delight them, we necessarily expect to win the ladies over to our support and interest. Here we conclude—we do not like to make promises and shall say no more.


The Editor begs leave, while he announces himself as the conductor of the work above projected, to acknowledge the kind indulgence of his patrons towards his previous labors. He feels grateful to those friends who have contributed occasionally to its pages hitherto, and solicits a continuance of their favors.

Charleston. November 1, 1829. (n.s., I, 286).