The Yemassee

By William Gilmore Simms; Alexander Cowie | Go to book overview
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TO PROFESSOR
SAMUEL HENRY DICKSON, M.D.,
OF SOUTH CAROLINA

MY DEAR DICKSON,

It is now nearly twenty years since I first inscribed the Romance of "The Yemassee " with your name. The great good fortune which attended the publication in the favor of the public, the repeated editions which have been called for, and the favourable opinions of most of the critics, who, from time to time, have sat in judgment upon it, seem to justify me in endeavouring to retouch and perpetuate the old inscription in the new and improved edition of my various writings which it is meant to herald. You will see, if you do me the honour again to glance over the pages of this story, that I have done something towards making it more acceptable to the reader. I could not change the plan of the story in any wise. That is beyond my control. I could make no material alterations of any kind; since such a labor is always undertaken with pain, and implies a minuteness of examination which would be excessively tedious to a writer who has long since dismissed the book from his thoughts, in the more grateful occupation of fresh imaginings and new inventions. It is my great regret that I can now do so little towards rendering the story more worthy of the favor it has found. I am now fully conscious of its defects and crudities. No one can be more so than myself. In reading it over, for the small revision which I have made, I am absolutely angry with myself, as Scott is reported to have been with Hogg while reading one of the stories of the Shepherd, at having spoiled and botched so much excellent material. I see now a thousand passages, through which had I the leisure, and could I muster courage for the effort, I should draw the pen, with the hope to substitute better thoughts, and improved situations, in a more appropriate and graceful style. But I need not say to you how coldly and reluctantly would such a task be undertaken, by one who has survived his youth, and who must economize all his enthusiasm for the new creations of his fancy. I can only bestow a touch of the pruning knife here and there,

-3-

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