Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Stevenson, [August 1760 ?]

From Mary Stevenson

Draft: American Philosophical Society

[Bristol, August? 1760]1

Dear Sir

Since you are pleas’d to say you shall be glad of a Line from me I will find Leisure.

In my Letter to my Mother, I mention’d I had a Question to ask you. It is this, What is the reason the Water at this place becomes warm by pumping tho it is not so at the spring?2 Pardon my Impertinence. Goodnatur’d persons have always more impos’d on them than others; yet I believe the satisfaction which they receive from their Actions counterballances their fatigue in performing them. There is my encouragement and my excuse.

I remember you told me in your last obliging Conversation that the rising of Tides in Rivers was not owing to a greater quantity of Water in them but to the Moon’s attraction. Now my dear Sir it appears to me that the Rivers are augmented by the water flowing into them from the Sea, because they begin to rise first at the part nearest it whether there Course is contrary or the same with the Moon, and are reckon’d saltest at high Water. Whether my last assertion may not be a false one I will not presume to determine, but it is the common opinion, tho I don’t comprehend why there should not retire an equal quantity of fresh as salt Water. I offer my sentiments to you without reserve, trusting to your Candour, and hoping to have my Errors corrected. I hope you know my Heart well enough to believe I do it with becoming Diffidence.

We purpose leaving Bristol next Thursday. I cannot say I have been entertain’d with the Publick Diversions of the Place tho I have attended the Rooms mo[st nigh]ts and danc’d at the Balls, but I have few Acquaintance. Miss Pitt and I generally quit the Rooms as soon as my Aunt is engag’d at Cards, and spend the remainder of the evening with two Young Ladies who lodge in the same House with us, one of them being in too ill a state of Health to permit her to go out much. We have a sensible agreeable Man of our select party. The Country is delightfully pleasant, as I suppose you will take an opportunity of seeing before you leave England. I was one day at Redcliff Church which is allow’d to be a fine piece of Architecture.3 There is something very Noble when you enter it, but it stands so disadvantageously that the outside is quite lost. There are some Paintings at the Altar, but I own they did not please me, and I had the satisfaction of hearing them disapprov’d by one who has more Judgment.

From hence we go to Sir Robert Longs4 where I intend to write to my Mother but at present this Letter must suffice for both. Therefore my rever’d Preceptor, and honour’d Mother, I hope will together accept the duty and good wishes of their affectionate Pupil and Daughter

M Stevenson

1BF’s reply, September 13, indicates that this “agreable Letter from Bristol,” had reached him some time before and that since then he had been “much engag’d in Business.” See below, p. 212. The draft of a note from Polly to another person, written on the same sheet as this letter, shows that she was at Bristol with Mrs. Tickell and Miss Pitt.

2Warm springs, called the Hotwells, in the parish of Clifton on the west side of Bristol, became famous for medicinal purposes in the seventeenth century. The lower reaches of the nearby Avon River are affected by tidal flow and, to protect the spring water from contamination, pumps were installed in 1695, raising it through pipes thirty feet to the “Hotwell-house.” An eighteenth-century guide book reports that “in the common spring water of the neighbouring rockhouse, Farenheit’s thermometer stood at 50 degrees, the water of the Hotwell taken immediately from the pump raised it to 76.” The water was esteemed for a variety of uses: “to temper an hot acrimonious blood, to palliate or cure consumptions, weakness of the lungs, hectic fevers and heats,” and a host of other ailments ranging from loss of appetite to diabetes and cancer. “Large and elegant public rooms” in Clifton provided “public breakfasts during the season” (May to September or October), cotillions, country dances, and balls for the entertainment of “the company at the Hotwells.” The New History, Survey and Description Of the City and Suburbs of Bristol, or Complete Guide, And informing and useful Companion for the Residents and Visitants of this ancient, extensive and increasing City, the Hotwells and Clifton (Bristol, 1794), pp. 98–105.

3St. Mary Redcliff in Bristol was built for the most part in the fourteenth century. Queen Elizabeth I has been quoted as calling it “the fairest, the goodliest, and most famous parish church in England.”

4Sir Robert Long, 6th Baronet, of Draycot Cerne, Wilts (1705?–1767). His seat lay near Chippenham, about twenty miles east of Bristol. He was M.P., 1734–67; often reckoned a Tory in politics, he was generally independent like most Wiltshire members, and voted for the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766. Namier and Brooke, House of Commons. III, 53.

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