One midnight in the spring of 1814, Miles King, a pious former sea captain in Mathews, Va., woke up thinking about Thomas Jefferson's soul.
When it happened again a month later, King took it as a sign. So he put quill to parchment and wrote a letter to the former president, who had retired to Monticello, his estate in Virginia.
In the grip of what he considered divine inspiration, King let it rip. His letter is something like 8,000 words — equivalent to about 32 typed pages. But the basic message is simple: All your accomplishments mean nothing if you don't adopt Christian zeal before you die.