From Rudolph Erich Raspe2
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Cassell. March. 17. 1770.
I sympatize still so much with Your publick Spirit and Your Genius, You have happily devoted to Your countries service and the improvement of natural Philosophy, that the keeping me in Your good remembrance is the least liberty I can indulge me with. I cannot therefore neglect to trouble You with these lines and to recommend You Mr. Lichtenberg Professor of Mathematics and natural Philosophy in the University of Giessen. He is very desirous to be nearer acquainted with a Man he values so high and in so many respects; and besides he himself will plead the liberty I take and easily gain a part in the friendship You have bestow’d on me.3
The compliments for me, which last Summer You order’d to Mr. Merk, who had the honour to see You in Switzerland, have been deliver’d to me.4 They were very welcome to me, as shall be too the dearer proof of Your continuing my worthy friend the new Edition of Your Electrical Letters, which I hope will now be finish’d.
I recommend me to Your and to Mr. Pringle’s further favour and have the honour to be with the highest and warmest regard Dear Sir Your most obedient humble Servant
R E Raspe.
For Dr. Franklin.
2. For the adventures and misadventures of this odd character, whom BF had met in 1766 and who later presented the world with the tales of Baron Munchausen, see above, XIII, 345 n.
3. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–99) later became an eminent writer and physician. In 1767 the government of the Landgraf of Hesse had named him professor of mathematics and reader in English at the University of Giessen, but he continued to study at Göttingen until his brief visit to England in 1770. While in London he was presented to the King, who as Elector of Hanover authorized his appointment to a professorship at Göttingen; Hessian efforts to get him back were unsuccessful. Carl Brinitzer, A Reasonable Rebel, George Christoph Lichtenberg (New York, 1960), pp. 34, 47–8. The presence of Raspe’s letter among BF’s papers would suggest that Lichtenberg delivered it in person; but the indications are that he did not, and that Raspe’s effort to introduce the two came to nothing. Robert L. Kahn, “Meeting between Lichtenberg and Franklin?”, German Life and Letters, new ser. (Oct., 1955), 64–7.
4. Johann Heinrich Merck (1741–91) was an author and critic, who later became a friend of Goethe and exercised considerable influence on the writers of the Sturm und Drang. When, where, or even whether BF had met him we cannot say, but a meeting in Switzerland in the summer of 1769 seems virtually out of the question. BF left London on July 14 of that year and was back again on Aug. 24, and would not have had time for such a journey; and we have encountered no reference to his ever being in Switzerland.