Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Johnson, 24 December 1751

To Samuel Johnson

ALS: Columbia University Library

Philada. Dec. 24. 1751

Dear Sir

I received your Favour of the 11th Inst.3 and thank you for the Hint you give of the Omission in the Idea. The Sacred Classics are read in the English School, tho’ I forgot to mention them: And I shall propose at the Meeting of the Schools after the Holidays, that the English Master begin and continue to read select Portions of them daily with the Prayers, as you advise.

But if you can be thus useful to us at this Distance, how much more might you be so if you were present with us, and had the immediate Inspection and Government of the Schools. I wrote to you in my last that Mr. Martin our Rector died suddenly of a Quinsey.4 His Body was carried to the Church, respectfully attended by the Trustees, all the Masters and Scholars in their Order, and a great Number of the Citizens. Mr. Peters preach’d his Funeral Sermon, and gave him the just and honourable Character he deserved. The Schools are now broke up for Christmass, and will not meet again ’till the 7th of January. Mr. Peters took Care of the Latin and Greek School after Mr. Martin’s Death ’till the Breaking-up. And Mr. Allison,5 a Dissenting Minister, has promis’d to continue that Care for a Month after their next Meeting. Is it impossible for you to make us a Visit in that Time? I hope by the next Post to know something of your Sentiments, that I may be able to speak more positively to the Trustees concerning the Probability of your being prevail’d with to remove hither.

The English Master is Mr. Dove,6 a Gentleman about your Age, who formerly taught Grammar 16 Years at Chichester in England. He is an excellent Master, and his Scholars have made a surprizing Progress.

I shall send some of the Oeconomies to Mr. Havens7 per next Post. If you have a spare One of your Essays on the Method of Study, the English Edition,8 please to send it me.

My Wife joins in the Compliments of the Season to you and Mrs. Johnson, with Dear Sir, Your affectionate humble Servant

B Franklin

Addressed: To  The Revd Dr Johnson  at  Stratford Connecticut  Free  B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Not found.

4David Martin, first rector of the Academy, died Dec. 11, 1751, and was buried in Christ Church burying ground. Montgomery, Hist. Univ. Pa., pp. 141–2. A eulogy appeared in Pa. Gaz., Jan. 14, 1752.

5Rev. Francis Alison (1705–1779), graduate of Glasgow University, came to America, 1735; Presbyterian minister at New London, Pa., 1737–52, where he established a successful private school, 1743; minister of the First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, and teacher of Latin and Greek in the Academy, after 1752. DAB; see also BF’s letters introducing him to Connecticut friends, Sept. 1, 1755.

6David James Dove (c. 1696–1769), son of a tailor in Portsmouth, England; came to Philadelphia, 1750; he was appointed English master in the Academy in 1751, and by December had 90 pupils, who required two assistants. His mild pedagogic methods were ahead of their time; he was a successful teacher; but he neglected his obligations to the Academy; and the trustees had to let him go, 1753. The younger Richard Peters, however, remembered him as “a sarcastic and ill-tempered doggerelizer, who was but ironically Dove.” He opened a private school for boys and girls in Vidal’s Alley, 1753; was master of the Union School, Germantown, 1761–63; conducted his own academy there, 1763–67; and returned to Philadelphia, 1767. DAB; Montgomery, Hist. Univ. Pa., pp. 143–6; PMHB, XXXV (1911), 332.

7Possibly Jonathan Havens, of Shelter Island, off the eastern end of Long Island, N.Y., brother-in-law of Mrs. Johnson’s deceased first husband.

8An Introduction To the Study of Philosophy: Exhibiting a General View of all the Arts and Sciences, For the Use of Pupils (London, 1744), reprinted from the New London, Conn., edition, 1743 (Evans 5220), which in turn was an enlarged version of the essay which first appeared in The Present State of the Republick of Letters, VII (1731), 376–92. This is quite unlike the “Introduction to the Study of Philosophy” included in Johnson’s Elementa Philosophica, published by Franklin and Hall, 1752. About 1720 Johnson composed a short essay entitled “The Best Method (to me) of Scholars’ Studies while at the College.” Herbert W. and Carol Schneider, eds., Samuel Johnson, President of King’s College: His Career and Writings (N.Y., 1929), II, 250.

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