X.c.50: Letter from William Byrd, Lincoln's Inn, London, to Dr. John Woodward, 1697 August 14: autograph manuscript signed

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Preferred Citation:Letter from William Byrd, Lincoln's Inn, London, to Dr. John Woodward, 1697 August 14: autograph manuscript signed. Transcription by Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO). MS X.c.50, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.
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No. 52.
Mr B[y]rd 14 Aug 97.
To Dr Woodward

Mr Byrd. Aug. 14. 97
About the Notions of the Americans in
Virginia Concerning the universal
Deluge, Dissolution of the Earth. &c.

Dr Woodward
According to your desire I have here sent you the Indian
account of the manner how shells & other marine bodys came to be reposited
in the bowels of the Earth, and at great distance from their originall habitation.
And indeed if your quarrelsome adversarys did but know it, they might with
equal probability assert that you pillag'd some part of your Book from the
Indians as well as from the Ancients. Their notions conc[er]ning that matter are
not very disagreeable, as appears by the following Instance. An Indian priest
came one day to an Englishmans house, that happend at that time bto be sinking
of a well, & amongst other things he threw up several shels which seemd to be
the Spolia of some fish, & askt the Indian how it came about that they shou'd
straggle so far from their proper Element, and be lodg'd so deep in the Earth?
I admire says the Indian that you shou'd be an English man & not know that,
I'll tell you presently how it came to pass. And so takeing a Paile, and haveing
put into it a little dirt, he fill'd it up with water, now you must know a
multitude of years ago (says he) there happen'd a terrible Deluge that drowned
all the world except an old man & his wife, (& then with a stick stirring the dirt
and water together) thus says he by the means of some violent convulsion wase
the Earth and the water jumbled together, and when that ceas'd the Earth presently
subsided and all shells & other heavy Bodys sunk down along with it, & each
took its place according to their its gravity. And these shells which you dug up, have
lain where you found ^em out of harms way, ever since. This remarquable story
I had from a minister who was told it by the man himself that was digging the
well, so that theres a great deale of reason to believe 'tis true. And so much I
can say upon my own knowledge that many of 'em have a tradition of a Deluge.
but I must confess I neuer recieud from any of em such extraordinary Instance
of Indian Philosophy as this I haue here mentiond. I am very truly
Dr Your humble Servant
William Byrd
Lincoln In the 14th of August 97

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