Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Collinson, [2 May 1767]

From Thomas Collinson8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Lomb St. Sat. Eveng. 2d Inst.
[May 2, 1767?9]

My worthy Friend

I have waited for some Time past to have an Opportunity of asking honest Ferguson to spend an Evening with me. Calling on him this afternoon find he is disengaged from all Lectures &c. on Wednesday Evening next. I told him I would ask the Favour of your Company at the same Time, pray therefore let me have the Pleasure of it. Nairne1 I dare say will also be glad to give you the Meeting. Do not conclude I imagine myself a man of Science—and as such invite you to spend any of your Hours with me. No I rise no higher than being a Lover of Knowledge—which is in Philosophy, as in Gallantry, quite a different State from that of Possession. I shall always regard your Visits as resulting from your Friendship towards me which will ever be most acceptable to your faithful Friend

Thos Collinson

Pray let me have a Line as I will inform Ferguson accordingly.

Addressed: To / Benjn Franklin Esqr / at Mrs Stevensons / Craven Street

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8For Thomas Collinson (c. 1726–1803), son of James and nephew of Peter Collinson, see above, IX, 211 n.

9Seven times when BF was in London during his first mission and seventeen times during his second mission, the second day of a month fell on a Saturday. With such a wide choice open, certainty is impossible, but the editors suggest May 2, 1767, as the probable date of this letter for two reasons: First, James Ferguson, mentioned in the letter as being in London when Collinson wrote, terminated a lecture tour in Bath and Bristol, January to April 1767 in time to get back to London by about the end of April or the beginning of May. E[benezer] Henderson, Life of James Ferguson in a Brief Autobiographical Account, and Further Extended Memoir (Edinburgh, London, Glasgow, 1867), pp. 338–43. Second, the acquaintance between Ferguson and BF seems to have been close to its height in 1767. It was in the early spring of this year, while Ferguson was in Bath, that London Chron., April 14–16, 1767, announced that “This Day was published” his Tables and Tracts, Relative to Several Arts and Sciences, in which he reproduced BF’s magic square and magic circle, with an extended description of both, pp. 309–17. In his preliminary discussion Ferguson admitted that he had never asked BF to explain his rules for such constructions, “although I never saw a more communicative man in my life.” For the square and circle, see above, IV, 396–403; XII, 146–9. James Ferguson (1710–1776) was a largely self-taught astronomer and mathematician who made his living for the most part by delivering popular lectures on astronomy and natural philosophy in London and the provinces. DNB.

1On Edward Nairne, instrument maker, see above, X, 171 n. He was an old friend of Ferguson, and the latter’s eldest son, James, had for four years been Nairne’s apprentice. Henderson, Life of Ferguson, p. 278.

Index Entries