Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Bartram, 11 January 1770

To John Bartram

Reprinted from William Darlington, ed., Memorials of John Bartram and Humphry Marshall (Philadelphia, 1849), pp. 404–5.

London, Jan. 11, 1770.

My ever dear Friend:

I received your kind letter of Nov. 29, with the parcel of seeds, for which I am greatly obliged to you. I cannot make you adequate returns, in kind; but I send you, however, some of the true Rhubarb seed, which you desire.9 I had it from Mr. Inglish, who lately received a medal, of the Society of Arts, for propagating it.1 I send, also, some green dry Pease, highly esteemed here as the best for making pease soup; and also some Chinese Garavances, with Father Navaretta’s account of the universal use of a cheese made of them, in China, which so excited my curiosity, that I caused inquiry to be made of Mr. Flint, who lived many years there, in what manner the cheese was made; and I send you his answer. I have since learnt, that some runnings of salt (I suppose runnet2) is put into water when the meal is in it, to turn it to curds.

I think we have Garavances with us; but I know not whether they are the same with these, which actually came from China, and are what the Tau-fu is made of.3 They are said to be of great increase.

I shall inquire of Mr. Collinson for your Journal. I see that of East Florida is printed with Stork’s Account.4 My love to good Mrs. Bartram, and your children. With sincere esteem, I am ever, my dear friend, Yours affectionately,

B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9BF had offered the rhubarb seed in the previous July; Bartram had accepted in November and sent a packet of his own. See above, XVI, 173, 250.

1A Dr. James Mounsey had introduced the seed into England; for raising rhubarb from it James Inglish, of Hampstead, had received the Society’s gold medal in 1769: Robert Dossie, Memoirs of Agriculture, and Other Œconomical Arts … (3 vols., London, 1768–82), II, 261–4; III, 448.

2I.e., rennet, used in the generic sense of a curdling agent.

3BF’s description of garavances and their use is, to put it mildly, misleading. He was not referring to cheese but to a vegetable paste; and the paste was not made of garavances, or chick-peas, but of beans. The account he mentioned was by Domingo Fernandez Navarrete (1618–86), a Jesuit missionary to China, who published his work in Spanish in 1676. It was translated into English by Awnsham and John Churchill, published in 1704, and subsequently republished; BF probably encountered it in the third edition: A Collection of Voyages and Travels … (6 vols., London, 1744–46), I, 1–311. Tau-fu or teufu was there described (p. 252) as a paste of kidney beans, as it was in the original Spanish; where BF got hold of garavances we have no idea.

4For the unpublished journal of Bartram’s trip through the south see above, XVI, 110. For the published journal see William Stork, An Account of East-Florida with a Journal, Kept by John Bartram … (London, [1766]).

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