Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Stevenson, 26 September 1768: phonetic spelling and transcription

From Mary Stevenson

Transcribed from ALS (draft with all but the final sentence in phonetic spelling): American Philosophical Society

[Kensiŋtɥn, Septembɥr 26, 1768]

Diir Sɥr,

Yɨi have transkrɥib’d iur Alfabet &c. huits̸ ɥi ħink mɥit bi aav sɥrvis tu dhoz hu uis̸ tu akuɥir an akiuret pronɥnsies̸ɥn if dhat kuld bi fiks’d, bɥt ɥi si meni inkaanvinienses az uel az difikultis dhat uuld atend dhi briŋiŋ iur letɥrs & aarħaagrafi intu kaamɥn ius. AAAAl aaur etimaalods̸is uuld bi laast, kaansikuentli ui kuld naat asɥrteen dhi miiniŋ aav meni uɥrds; dhi distinks̸ɥn, tu, bituiin uɥrds aav difɥrent miiniŋ & similar saaund uuld bi dhron daun; and aaaal dhi buks aalredi riten uuld bi iusles ɥnles ui liviŋ rɥitɥrs pɥblis̸ nu idis̸ɥns. In s̸aart ɥi biliiv ui mɥst let pipil spel aan in dheer old ue, and (az ui s̸al fɥind it isiiest) du dhi seem aaurselvs. With ease & with sincerity I can in the old way subscribe myself Dear Sir,

Your affectionate humble Servant,
M. Stevenson

Dr. Franklin

[Kensington, Sept. 26, 17687]

Dear Sir

I have transcribed your Alphabet &c. which you think might be of Service to those who wish to acquire an accurate pronunciation if that could be fix’d, but I see many inconveniences as well as difficulties that would attend the bringing your letters and orthography into common use. All our etymologies would be lost, consequently we could not ascertain the meaning of many words; the distinction, too, between words of different meaning and similar sound [would be thrown down, and all the books already written]8 would be useless unless we living writers publish new editions. In short I believe we must let people spell on in their old way, and (as we shall find it easiest) do the same ourselves. With ease and with sincerity I can in the old way subscribe myself Dear Sir Your affectionate humble Servant

M Stevenson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Place and date are supplied from the first printing of the letter: Benjamin Vaughan, ed., Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces … by Benj. Franklin (London, 1779), p. 472; the final version that BF received and passed on to Vaughan has not survived. Polly is replying to BF’s letter of July 20 in his new alphabet, with enclosures, for which see above. Her criticisms prompted B.F.’s long rebuttal that follows.

8Polly’s letter as sent, or Vaughan’s printing of it, omitted the words in brackets and thereby distorted the sense.

Index Entries