Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Margaret Stevenson, [1763?]

From Margaret Stevenson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

This is the earliest surviving letter to Franklin from his London land-lady. The handwriting and spelling explain why she said in a later letter that “writing to me is an oddieus taske,” and why relatively few letters from her exist. Comparing her letters and Deborah Franklin’s on the one hand with those of their daughters on the other suggests that a considerable advance in female education may have taken place within a single generation in both English and American cities. The editors have done what they could to clarify many of her words but confess to uncertainty in some instances.


[First part missing] I hop you wont send for Morr but Come whar the light is,1 doe my Dear Sir Bring your Beter half and your Dear girle and let her shine in this Country you cant doute. I doe not I am Shur She has Merits and her name is Franklin.

I have write to your Poor Pensioner2 and exprist your Love in the kin[dest] Maner I am capeable. I expecit to have a letter of [theirs?] for you, I sent a Frank to Inclows it to me that I may forward It to you—as to the afair of Moneys.

[Dear] Sir you shall see I have of yours, Cash remaining in my hands and if I hade not your bills or orders shall be excusid. I have not sint In your forty Pound yeat to Messrs. Brown3 Nor has Finlow4 cald to be Paid but I will goe to him as soon as I am able, for I am verey ounwell, according to your Frass [Phrase]: but my Mood of Exprission is, I am verey Bade. My Disorder is in my head; for six weeks Past; I have a Constant Slow Pain and Hissing noass [noise] in my head, that warrs [worries] me extreemley, I am shur you wod not know your old Landlady. Mr. Small5 adveiss [advises] me to have the Opinion off the Docters. But Mr. Mead6 says they will draw a Bill of health own me, so I belive I shall take the Barke and call in Dr. Pations [Patience] if he can atend me. I hop he will, for I have woorket hard in Reaparing my Furniture, got Cold in and at the same time my House was Painting for I assur you my Pations has not binn much wasted at Fifteen too know verey littell Cribbag and when I have plad not with out Sucksis Mrs. Gambirr7 says with her youshal [usual] Quicknsse it is to much; yeas Madam noe Madam.

Now I shall ask if you will send amrca [American] Lodgers to my House if thay Love you thay shall Be well treeted, I have not wanted for Lodgers Nor good wons. As soon as my House was ready Sir Jams was threetin [thirteen] Weeks at 2 gienes [guineas] and ½ per week and only the furst Floor; and affter he Left me, a Gentle Man of Kent and his 2 Neiss [Nieces] 3 Men Servant a Housekeeper and Cook and my Naney [or Nancy?]8 is hous Maid. I dine with Mr. Brockman &ct. whin I Pleas I have a litell Bead [Bed] in the Back pallor and five gieneas per week: but the Season will Be soon over. I have this day dined with them Drank your health and Eate a Tarte maid of the Cranberris, which Pleasd Much. Thay dede not know of it tell the Sarvant seat it one the Table. Pray Sir thank your Dear good Woman for them and her kind letter not in the common Mood of thanks, but what truly flows from a gratful harit, I hope one day to tell Mrs. Franklin I Love her Dearly and truly.

My Letter or reather my writing Opliges [apologizes], for my neglecting to Corrspond with my Best freinds.

Pray Sir how Pritly you can flater. You tell me I need Escusse for not writing at all[.] well: I have an excuss, that my head akes and i will Excuss you if you will Excuss the Length of this and so litel you can make of it, and all that [I] desire is to be able to writte for you to read that I am Dear Sir Your Sincer Friend and Moste obliged humble Servant

Margt Stevenson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9This letter obviously falls in the period between Franklin’s two English missions, but it is impossible to date it precisely. Mention here of Mrs. Stevenson’s housemaid Naney (or Nancy) suggests that it was written before Aug. 30, 1763, for on that date Polly referred to the “poor girl” who was going to America (above, p. 334), and later references suggest that she was a former servant of Mrs. Stevenson. On Nov. 25, 1763, Polly told BF that “sometime before” her mother had written him “a long Letter” (above, p. 378), and this may be it. Hence it is printed here.

1Perhaps Mrs. Stevenson is alluding to some candles which BF sent her and which Polly mentioned in her letter of Nov. 25, 1763; see above, p. 378.

2Perhaps BF’s first cousin, Anne Farrow (A. or her daughter, Hannah Farrow Walker (A.

3For these orders on Henton Brown & Son which BF sent Mrs. Stevenson and for some of the articles which he commissioned her to buy, see above, pp. 377 n, 379. The editors have not discovered an order for £40 in her favor, although two orders of £20 each are recorded in BF’s accounts with Henton Brown, Nov. 26, 1763. See above, p. 381.

4Not identified.

5Probably BF’s friend, Alexander Small, see above, IX, 110 n.

6Probably Samuel Mead, see above, p. 60 n.

7Mrs. Gambier was either Mrs. James Gambier, Samuel Mead’s sister and the mother of John and Samuel Gambier, public officials in the Bahamas to whom BF sent goods in 1759, or the wife of John or Samuel. See above, VIII, 424 n, and this volume, pp. 60 n, 84–5 n.

8For Mrs. Stevenson’s servant, Ann Hardy, who spent several years in America, see above, p. 334 n. It seems impossible to determine here or in other letters whether the fourth letter in the name is intended as “e” or “c”. Both “Naney” (or “Nancy”) and “Nancy” are nicknames for “Ann.”

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