Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Hewson, [late 1771?]

To Mary Hewson

AL (incomplete?): American Philosophical Society

[Late 1771?5]

Voltaire in his Questions sur l’Encyclopedie, which I have been reading this Morning, gives Translations of several Greek Epigrams into French, to show that the latter Language was as capable of Correctness as the former. I had a mind to try if [I could] not render them more concisely in English, [but have] not succeeded; but you (or some of our bouts-rimés6) may, if you please to try; for I am confi[dent that the ]English Language is denser than the French, else wh[at shall we make?] of Rosscommon’s Assertion,

The Weighty Bullion of one Sterling Line

Drawn to French Wire would through whole Pages shine?7

So I send them for your Amusement at Bro[mley. You may] communicate them to Dolly if you write to h[er. Living in the?] Country she may want Amusement if you don’t.

Addressed: Mrs Hewson8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5The article BF had been reading is in Questions sur l’Encyclopédie par des amateurs... (9 vols., [Geneva], 1770–72), V, 220–5. The publication of the fifth volume in 1771 fixes the earliest date when this note could have been written. The MS is badly torn; we have conjecturally supplied BF’s missing words, and have silently completed the quotation from the original.

6Rhymed word endings of lines, from which a versifier fills in the rest of the lines; hence by extension the versifier himself.

7Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon, “An Essay on Translated Verse,” in Poems by the Earl of Roscomon... (London, 1717), p. 9.

8Above the address BF has penciled another quotation:

Venus take my votive Glass.

Since I am not what I was,

What I from this Day shall be,

Venus, let me never see.

This is a slight amendment of Matthew Prior, Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1766), p. 75.

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