Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Sir John Pringle, [March 1767]

From Sir John Pringle

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Berkeley Square Friday 11 o’cl [March 17679]

Dear Sir,

I take the liberty to beg that You would come as soon as You can to the Duke of Ancaster’s in Berkeley Square, as His Grace and the Duchess are in the greatest distress about their daughter, who has been long in a most Miserable condition with spasms and convulsions. After all that we have done the distemper remains obstinate, and therefore the Parents have thought of electrifying Her. I have recommended the Operation to be performed by Spence1 and the rather as the present spasm has shut the Young Lady’s jaw and deprived Her both of speech and swallowing. I ventured to name You as the person the most proper for directing the operation, trusting to your friendship to me and humanity towards the distressed. Their Graces both join in begging this favour, and I gave them hopes that you would not refuse it. I am Dear Sir, Your most Affectionate humble Servant

John Pringle

As the Young Lady is at Chelsea, the Duke’s Coach is sent to bring You first to the Duke’s house in Berkeley Square and afterwards to Chelsea.

Addressed: Dr Franklin / Craven Street / at Mrs Stevensons / left hand 2 / 3 ds down

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Dated thus because of the reference to the serious illness of the young daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Ancaster. Peregrine Bertie, 3d Duke of Ancaster (1714–1778), and his second wife, the former Mary Panton, had one son and three daughters. The two younger girls lived until well into the nineteenth century, but the eldest daughter, Lady Mary Catherine (b. 1754), died April 12, 1767, two days before her thirteenth birthday. London Chron., April 11–14, 1767; “G.E.C.” and V. Gibbs, The Complete Peerage, 1 (London, 1910), 128–9; XII, part II (London, 1959), 680–81. As Lady Mary died at the Hotwells, Bristol (above, IX, 194 n), it seems probable that after the electric shock treatment (though not necessarily because of it) her condition improved enough for her to be moved from Chelsea to the spa at Clifton, near Bristol; she soon suffered a relapse, however, and died on Palm Sunday.

1Nothing is known of this practitioner. It is interesting to note, however, that in his Autobiography BF twice referred to the itinerant lecturer on electricity, Archibald Spencer, whom he first met in Boston in 1743 and from whom he later bought apparatus, as “Dr. Spence.” BF’s memory of the lecturer’s name may have become confused by this later contact with another man of a very similar name also concerned with electricity. Autobiog. (APS–Yale), pp. 196, 240, 298.

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