Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Stevenson, 22 March 1762

To Mary Stevenson

MS not found; reprinted from Stan. V. Henkels, Catalogue No. 1262 (July 1, 1920), pp. 15–16.4

London, March 22, 1762.

My dear Friend,

I must retract the Charge of Idleness in your Studies, when I find you have gone thro’ the doubly difficult Task of reading so big a Book on an abstruse Subject and in a foreign Language.5

The Question you were about to ask is a very sensible one. The Hand that holds the Bottle receives and conducts away the electric Fluid that is driven out of the outside by the repulsive Power of that which is forc’d into the inside of the Bottle. As long as that Power remains in the same Situation, it must prevent the Return of what it had expell’d; tho’ the Hand would readily supply the Quantity if it could be receiv’d.

Your good Mama bids me tell you, that she has made Enquiry and finds that the School for Lovers will not be acted till the Benefits are over;6 but when she hears that it is to be acted she will send you timely Notice. I need not add, that your and your Friends Company at Dinner that Day will be a great Pleasure to us all. But methinks ’tis a Pity, that when you are so desirous of studying in that School, it should not be open, and must we be depriv’d of the Happiness of seeing you till it is? Rather than that should be, I would almost venture to undertake reading you a few Lectures on the Subject myself.

If you are not to be in town in a few Days, I should be glad you would send the French Letters, on Electricity, as a Friend is desirous of perusing them.

My sincere Respects to Mrs. Tickell, Mrs. Rooke, Miss Pitt, etc. and believe me ever, my dear Polly, your affectionate Friend,

B. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4The first two paragraphs were printed as Letter LIII in Exper. and Obser., 1769 edit., pp. 460–1; 1774 edit., pp. 470–1.

5Polly had been reading the second edition of Dalibard’s translation of BF’s Exper. and Obser. The question discussed in the next paragraph is one she had raised regarding a passage in it; see above, p. 65.

6The School for Lovers, a comedy in verse by William Whitehead (1715–1785), poet laureate, 1757–85, was first played at Drury Lane, Feb. 10, 1762, and its publication “this day” was announced in London Chron., Feb. 13–16, 1762. An extended review in Gent. Mag., XXXII (April 1762), 157–61, praised it for its “extremely well drawn, and sustained” characters, its “natural and spirited” dialogue, and its “chaste and elegant” sentiments. It was revived in 1775 and 1794. “William Whitehead,” DNB.

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