From Sir Alexander Dick
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Prestonfield, July 5th. 65.
It was not till the other day I had the pleasure of receiving your Letter of June the 2d1 by our freind Mr. Alexander, who had traversd England in his way here. So soon as he arrivd, I communicated the contents to my freind Mr. Swinton, who as well as I have reason to own ourselves extremly oblidgd to you, for the Information you are pleasd to give. He bids me again Inform you, that he will take it as a very great addition to the favor already done him, if you will please transmit the Letter and Memorandum to your Son, for his answer which will probably clear up the whole affair. I find by Mr. Swinton, that he suspects Nevil has acted without any manner of Rights. At the same time I beg you will transmit my own and all my familys best Respects to the Governor your son. You may depend on my very best offices to serve the young gentleman your freind, Mr. Bard.2 I shall certainly endeavor to find him out the first time I go to town, and when you have any of your young freinds to come to this University, I can with great pleasure recommend them to board with that excellent man Mr. Blacklock,3 who is married to a motherly Carefull, neat woman and can entertain Eight young gentlemen. He is the wonderfull blind Poet of our Country who has wrote so surprisingly well, he takes care to improve their Morals, by his Admonitions, also their Languages and their turn for society by his agreeable Lively conversation,. In the Evening after their Studies. His Lodgings and Board I hear are extremly proper and he has fixd his allowance of Ten pounds a quarter for each. Doctor Robertson4 is mightily pleasd with him. As are all our bretheren of the Colledge of Physicians. They will be extremly lucky who can get in before he is filld up. There were two, he tells me fixd last week with him—one of which is the Governor of St. Christophers only son,5 who you are perhaps acquainted with, an excellent young man. (he is extremly attentive to him) so that he has now only six places empty, which I wish it may [be the] good fortune of some of your young frein[ds to] get before the Colleges begin next winter.
I ever am Dear Sir upon every occasion (with Lady Dick and my Eldest Daughters6 Compliments to your self and family) Your most affectionate freind and most obedient humble Servant.
Addressed: To / Doctor Benjamin Franklin / at his House in Craven street / London
[Also on the address page in Franklin’s hand:]
Aut Cesar aut nullus
Ou bien, ou rièn.
Win the Horse or lose the Saddle
Neck or nothing
A golden Chain or a wooden Leg.
1. See above, pp. 156–8. John Swinton’s claim to lands in New Jersey, alluded to in the present letter, is fully discussed there.
2. For Samuel Bard, later a successful physician at New York, see above, p. 158 n.
3. Thomas Blacklock (1721–1791) was a blind poet who was patronized by David Hume and other prominent Scotchmen. He attended the University of Edinburgh (from which he received a D.D. in 1767) and in 1759 was licensed to preach. He took a pulpit at Kirkcudbright, but soon retired after a controversy with his parishioners. In 1764 he moved to Edinburgh, where he and his wife began boarding students. Blacklock’s poetry, though popular at the time, has since been judged undistinguished. DNB. Benjamin Rush, while a student in Edinburgh, 1766–68, was often made happy by Blacklock’s company. George W. Corner, ed., The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush (Princeton, 1948), p. 50.
4. BF’s friend, William Robertson, the historian and principal of Edinburgh University; above, IX, 220 n.
5. The governor of St. Christophers in the Leeward Islands was, at this time, George Thomas, governor of Pa., 1737–47; see above, II, 186 n. Dick was probably mistaken in believing that Thomas’ son was one of Blacklock’s boarders, because the governor’s only son, William, was 44 years old and married in 1765. It is much more likely that he meant one of Thomas’ grandsons: William’s only son, George (b. c. 1743), or George White, son of the governor’s daughter Lydia. A genealogy of the Thomas family is in Vere Langford Oliver, The History of Antigua (London, 1894–99), III, 129–35.
6. Lady Dick was Sir Alexander’s second wife, Mary, whom he had married in 1762; his eldest daughter, Janet, was named after her mother, Sir Alexander’s first wife. See above, VIII, 440 n; X, 385 n.
7. The children Dick speaks of were evidently William (b. 1763), Anne (b. 1759), Elizabeth (b. 1764), and Mary (b. 1765). Scots Mag., XXIV (1762), 678; XXI (1759), 272; XXVI (1764), 166; XXVII (1765), 167.
8. For the distinguished physician, Conte Giovanni Baptista Carburi, see above, p. 96 n.