Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Sir Alexander Dick, 11 December 1763

To Sir Alexander Dick

ALS: New York Public Library

Philada. Dec. 11. 1763

Dear Sir

I take the Opportunity of a Ship from this Place to Leith,3 once more to pay my Respects to my good Friend from this Side the Water, and to assure him that neither Time nor Distance have in the least weakened the Impression on my Mind, stampt there by his Kindness to me and my Son, while we were in Scotland.4 When I saw him last, we talk’d over the pleasant Hours we spent at Prestonfield, and he desired me, whenever I should write, to join with mine his best Respects to you and to Lady Dick, your amiable Daughter and the rest of your domestic Circle.5 He is very happy in his Government as well as in his Marriage.

My Daughter has been endeavouring to collect some of the Music of this Country Production, to send Miss Dick, in Return for her most acceptable Present of Scotch Songs.6 But Music is a new Art with us. She has only obtain’d a few Airs adapted by a young Gentleman of our Acquaintance to some old Songs,7 which she now desires me to enclose, and to repeat her Thanks for the Scotch Music, with which we are all much delighted. She sings the Songs to her Harpsichord, and I play some of the softest Tunes on my Armonica, with which Entertainment our People here are quite charmed, and conceive the Scottish Tunes to be the finest in the World. And indeed, there is so much simple Beauty in many of them, that it is my Opinion they will never die, but in all Ages find a Number of Admirers among those whose Taste is not debauch’d by Art.8

I expected before this Time some of yours and Dr. Hope’s botanical Orders to execute, which I shall do with great Pleasure whenever they come to hand.9

Be pleased to present my Respects to our Friends the Russels, when you see them; to the two Doctors Monro, Dr. Cullen, Dr. Clark, Mr. M’Gawen, and any others who may do me the Honour to enquire after me,1 not forgetting Pythagoras, who, from his Temperance I conclude is still living and well.2 I send him the Picture of a Brother Philosopher in this Country.3 And withal I send you a Piece of our American Husbandry, which will show you something of the State of Agriculture among us; and a Book of our Poetry too, which from so remote a Country may probably be esteem’d some Curiosity if it has no other Merit.4

With the sincerest Esteem and Affection, I am, Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

Sir Alexr Dick

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Pa. Gaz., Dec. 8, 1763, reported that the ship Boyd, Captain Dunlap, was outward bound for Leith and on the 15th that it had cleared.

4On the visit of BF and WF to Sir Alexander and Lady Dick at Prestonfield, Oct. 6–12, 1759, see above, VIII, 431, 440–1, 442–4.

5Janet, Lady Dick, whom BF had known in Scotland, had died Dec. 26, 1760. Sir Alexander had married Mary Butler of Pembrokeshire, March 23, 1762. The elder daughter, to whom BF refers here and in the next paragraph, was named Janet for her mother and was about fourteen at the time BF was writing.

6If the “Scotch Songs” were not MS copies, as seems possible, Janet Dick’s gift to Sally may have been one of several collections published by Robert Bremner (d. 1789). DNB.

7Probably Francis Hopkinson. See above, p. 233, and George E. Hastings, The Life and Works of Francis Hopkinson (Chicago, [1926]), pp. 70–4.

8Franklin explained his particular enjoyment of Scottish tunes in a letter to Lord Kames, June 2, 1765, Scottish Record Office. His preference for simple music appears in several letters of later date.

9See above, p. 16.

1The persons mentioned are: James Russell (d. 1773), apothecary surgeon (above, p. 22 n); Alexander Monro, primus (1697–1767), professor of anatomy at Edinburgh (DNB), and Alexander Monro, secundus (1733–1817), his father’s associate at Edinburgh (see above, IX, 230 n); William Cullen (1710–1790), professor of chemistry at Edinburgh (above, VII, 184 n); George Clark, later author of a paper on shallow plowing in Essays and Observations, Physical and Literary of the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, III (1771), 56–67. “Mr. M’Gawen” is not identified beyond the fact that in a letter to WF, Jan. 30, 1772 (APS), BF mentioned “Mr. McGowen” as one of their “old Acquaintance” whom he had again met at Edinburgh in the autumn of 1771.

2For John Williamson of Moffat, called “Pythagoras” by the Dick family, see above, VIII, 445 n.

3Possibly a picture of Benjamin Lay, Pa. eccentric, painted by William Williams and engraved by Henry Dawkins; see above, II, 357 n; VIII, 92.

4The first of these books was probably Jared Eliot’s Essays upon Field-Husbandry in New-England in either the Boston or N.Y. enlarged edition of 1761. The second book may have been one of the “Poetic Pieces of our young Geniuses” or “Blossoms of American Verse,” as BF had called them to Strahan and Whitefoord a year earlier; see above, pp. 167, 173.

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