Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Rudolphe Erich Raspe, 6 July 1767

To Rudolph Erich Raspe1

ALS: Landesbibliothek, Kassel

London, July 6. 1767

Dear Sir,

I received long since your Favours of Feb. 10. and March 3.2 I need not tell you I am the worst Correspondent in the World; you are convinc’d of it, as is every one else that does me the Honour of writing to me. If I were younger, I might hope to mend this Fault; I wish Age, or any thing else could excuse it; I can now only confess, and hope my Friends will forgive it.

I am not yet certain that I shall return to Pensilvania this Summer. It would really be a great Pleasure to me to have your Company thither, if I could assure you of any Employment worthy your Learning and Abilities.3 Sir John Pringle and myself both wish to see you here, and he frequently speaks of you to such as we imagine may have any Influence in facilitating it, but as yet without Effect. We think the Lights you would obtain among our Philosophers here, might be serviceable to your Prince and Country on your Return; and that the Prospect of this, if properly represented to those in Power, might induce them to direct your making the Journey, and provide that it should be without Expence to yourself. We have no doubt that your Merits will in time bring you into a more advantageous Situation than the present, and wish we could any way contribute to accelerate it.

I am much oblig’d to Mr. Andreae and to you for sending me those ingenious Alchemistic Letters.4 Pray present my Compliments to him. I forwarded the other Copy to Dr. Lewis.5 I shall endeavour to get and read the Essay on Lime6 that you mention.

I wish, for their own sakes, as well as for yours, that the Reviewers had behaved more properly.7 If I had had any Influence with them, they would have done so.

The new Edition of my Electric Letters is not yet finish’d, I purpose to send you a Copy as soon as it is ready.8 There is already a Translation in German of the former Edition,9 but there are now great Additions; tho’ the Subject being now less in Vogue, I doubt whether it can be worth your while to translate them.

I shall be glad to see Professor Meister’s Account of my Armonica, as well as yours in the German Bibliotheque of Belles Lettres,1 in which you so kindly defend the Character and Reputation of your Friend. I wish your Artist may succeed in making the Armonica. Mr. Professor Gatzert has heard that Instrument plaid upon here by an excellent Hand, and can give you some Account of the great Sweetness of its Tones, and the fine Harmony it produces.2

With this I send you a Copy that has been printed here of my Examination before the House of Commons upon the Affair of the Stamp Act,3 the Session before the last; supposing it may afford you some Amusement.

I inclose you two Letters, one from Mr. Canton, the other from Dr. Knight,4 which I have had in my Hands too long, waiting for an Opportunity of sending them to you without Charge of Postage. With sincere Esteem, I am, Dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B Franklin

Mr. Raspe

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1On Raspe, at this time a librarian at the Royal Library in Hanover, whom BF and Pringle had met during the summer of 1766, see above, XIII, 345 n.

2Neither of these letters has been found.

3This sentence and the remainder of the paragraph indicate that Raspe had expressed a hope that BF would find “Employment” in America for him or that BF and Pringle would do so in England. In the following November he seems to have written Pringle suggesting a position as “Secrétaire Surnuméraire” to the Privy Council or as instructor to the five-year-old Prince of Wales. For this and some other notes to this letter the editors are indebted to Robert L. Kahn, “Three Franklin-Raspe Letters,” APS Proc., XCIX (1955), 397–400.

4Johann Gerhard Reinhard Andreä (1724–1793), chemist and court apothecary, had published Alchymistische Briefe, von dem Verfasser chymischer Versuche, zur Prüfung des Kalches (Hanover, 1767).

5William Lewis (1714–1781), chemist and physician; F.R.S., 1745.

6Kahn states that this work appeared anonymously in 1758 as Chemysche Versuche.

7On Raspe’s difficulties with the Monthly Review, see above, XIII, 406–7 n.

8The fourth edition of Exper. and Obser. did not appear from the press until the winter of 1768–69.

9This translation, made by Johan Carl Wilcke, professor of Experimental Physics at the Stockholm Military Academy, is Des Herrn Benjamin Franklins Esq. Briefe von der Elektricität. Aus dem Engländischen übersetzet, nebst Anmerkungen von J.C. Wilcke (Leipzig, 1758. verlegst Gottfried Kiesewetter, Buchh. in Stockholm). It contains the 1751 edition (above, IX, 123–30), the Supplemental Experiments of 1753 (above, IV, 458–61), and the New Experiments of 1754 (above, V, 432–5).

1Raspe’s article, “Beschreibung der Armonica des Hrn. Franklins,” appeared in Neue Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften, IV, i (1767), 116. It cited the article by Albrecht Ludwig Friedrich Meister as having been published in the “59sten Stuck” of the Hannö Magazin in the latter part of 1766.

2Christian Hartmann Samuel von Gatzert (1737–1804), jurist and later Hessian official, had been extraordinary professor of Law at Göttingen in 1764 and became a professor at the University of Giessen in 1767. He had almost certainly heard Marianne Davies play the armonica while he was visiting England this year.

3Above, XIII, 124–62.

4John Canton (above, IV, 390 n) and Gowin Knight (above, III, 111 n), two leading scientists of London.

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