Interested in literary pursuits since girlhood, Simons began writing seriously while in college. Her primary love was poetry, with a focus on lyrical verse, sonnets, and nature poems.
Poet, novelist, playwright, historian. Simons was born on January 21, 1890, in Charleston, the daughter of Sedgewick Lewis Simons and Katherine Drayton Mayrant. She spent her early years in and around Summerville in Dorchester County. She was educated at local schools and at Converse College in Spartanburg, where she earned a bachelor of letters degree in 1909. Converse awarded her an honorary doctor of literature degree in 1952 for “brilliant contributions” to the literary traditions of her state and nation.
Interested in literary pursuits since girlhood, Simons began writing seriously while in college. Her primary love was poetry, with a focus on lyrical verse, sonnets, and nature poems. The first of her three books of poetry, Shadow Songs, appeared in 1912 under the pen name “Kadra Maysi” (created from the first few letters of each unit of her full name). A decade later she became a charter member of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. She would go on to win every award given by the Poetry Society, and at the time of her death she was the only woman ever to have been elected its president. Her other books of poetry were The Patteran (1925) and White Horse Leaping, which the University of South Carolina Press published in 1951.
Simons later created a national reputation for herself in the field of fiction. Her serious interests in travel, the equestrian arts, and South Carolina history are reflected in the eight historical (sometimes labeled “romantic” or “dramatic”) novels she published under the pseudonym “Drayton Mayrant” between 1948 and 1960: A Sword from Galway (1948), The Running Thread (1949), First the Blade (1950), Courage Is Not Given (1952), The Red Doe (1953), Always a River (1956), Lamp in Jerusalem (1957), and The Land beyond the Tempest (1960). Seven of these were chosen as book club selections. Critics alluded to her “genius for description” and described her work as “superlatively well written” and “warmly imaginative.” “Perhaps because she was first a poet,” one reviewer wrote, Simons “created sentences and paragraphs one returns to again and again for their beauty.”
The author of numerous short stories, Simons also wrote or cowrote five plays and a sketch for the ballet The Lost Atlantis, which was presented by the Charleston Civic Ballet Company in 1964. Furthermore, she wrote many articles or essays for newspapers and magazines. Between 1955 and 1967 she contributed regularly to the popular onomastic journal Names in South Carolina. Two small non-fiction books attest to her love for Charleston and the Summerville area: Roads of Romance and Historic Spots near Summerville (1925) and Stories of Charleston Harbor (1930).
Simons died on March 31, 1969, and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. In 1997 she was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors.
LaBorde, Rene. “In Memoriam: Katherine Drayton Mayrant Simons (1890–1969).” Names in South Carolina 16 (winter 1969): 4.
Pinckney, Elise. “A Huguenot Writer.” Columbia State Magazine, September 28, 1952, p. 10.
Simons, Katherine Drayton Mayrant. Papers. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Telfair, Nancy. “Katherine Drayton Mayrant Simons.” South Carolina Magazine 12 (November 1949): 8, 34.