Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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CLIFTON, William, poet, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1772; died in December, 1799. His father was a wealthy Quaker. Owing to his delicate health, all ideas of an active life were abandoned, and he found consolation and employment in literature, and became proficient in music and drawing. He was fond of field sports, and soon relinquished the Quaker garb. During the excitement produced by Jay's treaty, Clifton used his pen in support of the administration, contributing to the newspapers many satires in prose and verse. The longest of these productions was entitled " The Group," in which various mechanics and tradesmen are represented as meeting for a discussion upon topics beyond their depth respecting politics and the state. The coarse material of Jacobinism, which is not disguised, is occasionally elevated by the polish of the verse. "The Rhapsody on the Times" is another production of the same character, but written to the measure of " Hudibras." In his poem, the "Chimeriad," which was left unfinished, he boldly personifies, in the character of the witch Chimera, the false philosophy then reigning in France. He also wrote an epistle to Gifford, which was published anonymously in the first American edition of Gifford's poems. One of his best papers is a pretended French manuscript, in prose and verse, describing the descent of Talleyrand into hell. His poems were collected and published after his death, with " Introductory Notes of his Life and Character" (New York, 1800).
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