To Mary Stevenson
ALS: Henry N. Haiken, New York City (1957)
Portsmouth,4 Augt. 11. 1762
My Dear Polly
This is the best Paper I can get at this wretched Inn, but it will convey what is intrusted to it as faithfully as the finest. It will tell my Polly, how much her Friend is afflicted, that he must, perhaps never again, see one for whom he has so sincere an Affection, join’d to so perfect an Esteem; whom he once flatter’d himself might become his own in the tender Relation of a Child; but can now entertain such pleasing hopes no more;5 Will it tell how much he is afflicted? No, it cannot.
Adieu, my dearest Child: I will call you so; Why should I not call you so, since I love you with all the Tenderness, all the Fondness of a Father? Adieu. May the God of all Goodness shower down his choicest Blessings upon you, and make you infinitely Happier than that Event could have made you. Adieu. And wherever I am, believe me to be, with unalterable Affection, my Dear Polly, Your sincere Friend
4. London Chron., Aug. 19–21, 1762, reported that “Last Week Benjamin Franklin, Esq; Postmaster-General of North America, set out from his house in Craven-Street, for Portsmouth, in order to embark for Philadelphia.” The “Last Week” was that of August 8–14; BF must therefore have left London between the 8th and 10th to have been in Portsmouth in time to write Polly from there on the 11th.
5. That is, BF’s wish that Polly might have married WF, whose marriage to Elizabeth Downes, Sept. 4, 1762, must by this time have certainly been arranged; see below, p. 146 n. There is no evidence that WF and Polly were ever seriously interested in each other, and it is not known whether she or her mother was as yet aware that WF had fathered an illegitimate son (William Temple Franklin) during his English residence. There does seem to have been a degree of coolness toward him on the part of the Stevensons; in the correspondence between them and BF during the following years there are no greetings to or from him, no news about him, and no inquiries, however conventional, as to his health and welfare.