Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Deborah Franklin, 19 July 1770

To Deborah Franklin

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London, July 19. 1770

My dear Child,

This will be delivered to you by our ingenious Countryman Mr. Benbridge, who has so greatly improv’d himself in Italy as a Portrait Painter, that the Connoisseurs in that Art here think few or none excel him. I hope he will meet with due Encouragement in his own Country, and that we shall not lose him as we have lost Mr. West: For if Mr. Benbridge did not from Affection chuse to return and settle in Pensilvania, he certainly might live extreamly well in England by his Profession.7

I have just received Letters from you and Mr. Bache and Sally,8 which I shall answer fully per next Opportunity, having now only time to add my Love to you and them, and to your dear little Boy. I am, as ever, Your affectionate Husband

B Franklin

Addressed: To / Mrs Franklin / at / Philadelphia / per favour of / Mr Benbridge

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Mr. West was of course the expatriate American painter and old friend of BF, Benjamin West. Henry Benbridge (1744–1812) was a Philadelphian who had been studying for several years in Italy; in 1769 he had painted a portrait of Pasquale Paoli, commissioned by James Boswell, which was exhibited in London. Benbridge arrived there at the end of 1769 with a letter of introduction from his step-father to BF (above, XVI, 38), through whom he met the latter’s young friend Thomas Coombe. As his introduction to the art world of London, Benbridge did portraits of BF and Coombe for the spring exhibition at the Royal Academy, where both were shown; afterward one was to go to DF and the other to Coombe’s father. They have disappeared. Charles C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven and London, 1962), pp. 190–1. BF’s failure to mention a portrait in this letter is clear indication that something had already happened to it and Benbridge was not taking it with him. He did take the Coombe portrait: Thomas Coombe to his sister Sally, Aug. 17, 1770, Hist. Soc. of Pa.

8DF’s letter of June 13 appears above; the other two have been lost.

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