Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Hewson, 10 January 1780

To Mary Hewson

ALS (draft): American Philosophical Society

Passy, Jan. 10. 1780

My very dear Friend

Your kind Letter of May 30. 79.7 came to my hands but a few days since, by Dr Ingenhausz, who has also brought the Milk pot. The Copper Vessel I received long ago.8 I hear that your Affairs are settled to your Satisfaction, on which I congratulate you with sincere Pleasure. You end your Letter with this endearing Expression of Friendship, “I wish we could meet!”.— And now why may we not meet? I live here in a pleasant Village within two Miles of Paris, a lofty Situation, with good Air, have a fine large Garden & neighbouring Woods to walk in;9 in which Village you might find Lodgings or a small House, sufficient to accommodate your self, good Mother & Children. There are in the Village a Number of Boarding Schools, in which the young ones might soon learn the Language, and a Number of good Families that form a most amiable Society.— You would soon be respected & belov’d among them. You will see by the enclos’d1 that you have already some Character in France. I can furnish you with a Passport. You formerly had Thoughts of coming hither. Think again and tell me the Result. In one of your Letters, you mention your being 4½ Guineas in my Debt, and desire my Orders what to do with it.—2 I have a Grandson at Geneva, about the Age of your eldest Son, who I am afraid will forget his English if he has not some entertaining English Books to read. I wish therefore that you would make a little Collection for him, of your Choice, to the value of 2 Guineas & a quarter, and send them to me by the first convenient Opportunity (or bring them yourself) and that you would purchase with the other half of the Money exactly the same Collection & present it to my Godson, with my Blessing. I lent to my good Friend Dr Hawkesworth, the Persian Tales in 5 Volumes, French, which were never return’d to me;3 they are said to be written in the purest & most elegant Stile of that Language: They may be of use to your Son, if he is to learn French, and therefore I desire you would present my Respects to Mrs Hawksworth, reclaim them for me, and give them also to the dear good Child, whose pretty Prattle & Good Nature I remember well, and whom I love very tenderly.—

Present my affectionate Respects to your good Mother, & believe me, my dear Friend, ever Yours,

B Franklin

Mrs Hewson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7XXIX, 578–9.

8For the silver creamer see Ingenhousz to BF, Nov. 18. That and the copper roasting pot were two of the items BF had requested from Mrs. Stevenson: XXIX, 136–7.

9A view of the grounds of the château de Valentinois is reproduced in XXIV, facing p. 170.

1BF may have enclosed a copy of the sketch of Dubourg’s life mentioned in our annotation of Lamotte to BF, Dec. 12. Polly and Dubourg had admired one another for some time. In 1770, she had made for BF a translation of Dubourg’s Petit code de la raison humaine; the language was so good, said Dubourg, that it could easily pass as an original. XVII, 185–6, 291. A few years later Dubourg, while producing the French edition of BF’s scientific writings, translated letters between Polly and BF. According to the abovementioned sketch, Dubourg’s favorite section of that edition was the correspondence with the “jeune philosophe Miss Stevenson … les questions judicieuses de cette jeune Demoiselle et les responses agreables et savantes de son maitre.”

2See XXVIII, 365; XXIX, 140.

3For John Hawkesworth, a close friend of Polly’s whose own pseudo-oriental tale Almoran and Hamet was published in 1761, see IX, 265–6n. The volumes he had borrowed were Les Mille et un jours, contes persans, trans. by François Pétis de La Croix (5 vols., Paris, 1710–12). Published shortly after The Arabian Nights, the Persian Tales (as it was known in English) benefited from its popularity and was widely read throughout the 18th century. English editions, translated from the French, were available as early as 1722. See the modern critical edition of Les Mille et un jours, Paul Sebag, ed. (Paris, 1980); Georges May, Les Mille et une nuits d’Antoine Galland … (Paris, 1986), pp. 71–5; Christophe Baläy, “François Pétis de La Croix et les Mille et un jours,” Studies on Voltaire and the eighteenth century, CCXV (1982), 9–43.

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