Byrd, William, 1841. The Westover manuscripts: containing the history of the dividing line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina; A journey to the land of Eden, A.D. 1736: and A progress to the mines. Petersburg [Va.] Edmund Ruffin, Editor. Printed by E. and J.C. Ruffin.
This work was written between 1728 and 1736, published posthumously in 1841 by E and JC Ruffin. Their introduction reads:
The manuscripts of Col. William Byrd, of Westover, the father of the last proprietor of the same name, of different dates from 1728 to 1736, are contained in a large folio volume bound in parchment, which has been carefully preserved in his family, until recently placed in the hands of the editor. The whole is in the hand-writing of a copyist, but written evidently under the immediate direction of its author, as there are numerous corrections, interlineations, and more considerable additions, in his own hand-writing. The book was doubtless copied exactly from the author's earliest draught on loose sheets, which were afterwards destroyed, as useless. At any rate, this old volume is the only copy in existence. The Historical Society of Virginia obtained the consent of the proprietor of the manuscripts to have them copied, with a view to publication. But the operations of that society ceased before the publication had been commenced, and when only one of the several manuscripts had been copied. It was one of the latest acts of the last proprietor, George E. Harrison, Esq., of Brandon, to place at our disposal this highly valued work of his distinguished and talented ancestor, with permission to publish any portion, or the whole of the contents, provided the manuscript volume itself should be preserved uninjured, and afterwards restored to the owner: The better to secure the latter object, the copy of the part made for the use of the Historical Society, has also been placed in our hands by the directors.
The manuscripts offer abundant internal evidence that they were written merely for the amusement of the author, and for the perusal of his family and friends, and not with any view to their being printed. This adds much to their other and important value. For there prevails throughout, as in the private letters of an acdomplished writer, a carelessness in the mode of expression, and a manifest freedom from all restraint, which together serve to render subjects pleasing and interesting, that, however worthy of consideration, would be dry and tedious if the writer had sought for the applause, or feared the censure, of the reading public. The author was a man "too proud to be vain," and who neither cared for, nor thought of seeking, public applause for his writings. The influence of that first feeling, and its results, naturally operated on his children and later descendants, to deter them also from publishing the manuscripts ; and this course, besides being in conformity with the writer's intention, was perhaps deemed the more proper, because of his great freedom of expression, and of censure, often tinctured by his strong " church and state" principles and prejudices, and which might have given offence to some of the individuals or classes who were the subjects of his free remarks. But at this late time, there no longer remains, if there existed before, any reason for withholding these interesting writings from the public. And there is no free expression of even the prejudiced and erroneous opinions of the writer, which, to an intelligent and liberal-minded reader, would now give offence. Col. Byrd was a true and worthy inheritor of the opinions and feelings of the old cavaliers of Virginia ; and it is because from such a source, as well as being designed at first as private and confidential, that his writings should be now considered.
Col. William Byrd died where he had long lived, at his then beautifully decorated and princely mansion, Westover, on the north bank of James river; and which even at this late day exhibits admirable remains of his taste, and his magnificent scale of expenditure for its gratification. His body was buried in the garden, and his grave is covered by a monument of white marble, on which is the following inscription :