Lengthy 3-page autograph letter signed to Paul Allen. William Sheldon.
Lengthy 3-page autograph letter signed to Paul Allen

Written to the editor of Lewis & Clark

Lengthy 3-page autograph letter signed to Paul Allen

North Providence: April 21, 1805. Bifolium (approx. 12½" x 7½"), in ink, on integral leaves, addressed on the verso of the integral leaf to "John Carter, Esq. for Paul Allen, Esq., Providence." Very good. William Sheldon writes "in haste" a letter offering criticism of Paul Allen's writings on the arts and various Greek and Roman gods. The letter is addressed to Allen in care of John Carter the editor of the Providence Gazette. Sheldon was a critic for the Gazette at the time and it is likely that he is critiquing a literary submission to the paper from Paul Allen. Allen had recently given "An Oration on the Principles of Taste" at the Baptist Meeting House, in Providence and had also recently published Original Poems, Serious and Entertaining, printed in Salem by Joshua Cushing, 1801. We do not have the manuscript Allen submitted to the Gazette but the tenor and subject matter of the piece as understood from Sheldon's criticism is consistent with Allen's classical education from Brown University (then Rhode Island College). Sheldon writes in part, "Your first argument from the statues of the heathen divinities is vulnerable because the artists took their ideas from the description of the poets, not the poets from the statues of the artists. . . The heathen mythologies often made the subject for the chisel and the pencil -- but you will not contend that our Christian sculptors or painters believe that system. The day of judgement is not yet arrived ... and regard to the multiplicity of Gods among the Greeks and the Romans, 'a man of your intelligence' need not be told that all the nations of antiquity believed in one Supreme God, and a number of inferior or subordinate divinities." Sheldon goes on to give examples and quotes in Latin. He adds: "If you will take the trouble to look into the travels of Anarchse LeJeune par Bartheleme, (probably a reference to Travels of Anacharsis the younger in Greece by Jean Jacques Barthélemy, 1799) you will see the opinions of the Greeks about religion and morality detailed at length. This is the conclusion of the whole matter." Paul Allen, Jr. (1775 – 1826) was a graduate of Brown University and an author and editor. Born in Providence, Allen was admitted as a lawyer in Rhode Island in 1795, and in 1798 was a Clerk of the Rhode Island Superior Court.  In May 1801 he became a Justice of the Peace for Providence. In 1796 he delivered and published an Oration on the 20th Anniversary of American Independence. Sometime after 1801 he moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and was an editor of the [Baltimore] Morning Chronicle. He famously edited the two-volume history of the Lewis and Clark expedition that was published in 1814 in Philadelphia, and in 1819 he wrote History of the Revolution, one of the first comprehensive books on the subject.  He died in Baltimore in 1826. [ref: Gaspee Virtual Archives]. Englishman William Sheldon came to this country in 1795 and resided for a time in Norwich, Connecticut. After suffering a serious financial loss, due to ignorance of the operation of the usury law of the state, he published, in 1798, a pamphlet entitled, ''Cursory remarks on the laws concerning Usury," containing a brief history of their origin, thoughts on their connection with religion, their moral tendency and justice, etc. He then lived in North Providence where he was the principal writer for John Carter's Providence Gazette and the author of several of the essays of the "Moralist" and the "Adelphiad," published in that paper. From March 1809 to October 1810, he was the editor of the Massachusetts Spy, and during that time assisted Isaiah Thomas in preparing the History of Printing. In 1809 he published in Worcester a History of the Heathen Gods, and Heroes of Antiquity, to which he added a new translation of the "Battle of the Gods and Giants." Isaiah Thomas wrote that "He (Sheldon) was laborious and indefatigable as a writer, but possessed more learning than taste, and his political prejudices were too strong to be overcome or to make him of great use to his party. He was fond of poetry and wrote with great ease, but little elegance. In 1812 he went to Jamaica, where he was for some time a private instructor, and afterwards returned to England." Sheldon was born in England, on November 17, 1762. He died in, London, England, June 28, 1822. See American Antiquarian Society Transactions and Collections, Volume 9: "Diary of Isaiah Thomas." Item #57056

Price: $850.00

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