Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Deborah Franklin, 5 May 1774

To Deborah Franklin

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London, May 5. 1774

My dear Child,

Our Family here is in great Distress. Poor Mrs. Hewson has lost her Husband, and Mrs. Stevenson her Son-in-law. He died last Sunday Morning of a Fever which baffled the Skill of our best Physicians. He was an excellent young Man, ingenious, industrious, useful, and belov’d by all that knew him. She is left with two young Children, and a third soon expected. He was just established in a profitable growing Business, with the best Prospects of bringing up his young Family advantageously.9 They were a happy Couple! All their Schemes of Life are now overthrown!

I continue well, Thanks to God. I have only time to add Love to our Children and little ones. I am ever, Dear Debby, Your affectionate Husband

B Franklin

Addressed: To / Mrs Franklin / Philadelphia / viâ N York / per Packet

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Dr. Hewson, at thirty-four, was well launched on his career. His course in anatomy (above, XIX, 304, 341) was as successful as ever, and his practice in surgery and midwifery was increasing. On April 21 the Public Advertiser announced publication of his Experimental Inquiries, Part II, Containing a Description of the Lymphatic System …, which was dedicated to BF. Three days earlier fever struck him, the result of a cut incurred while dissecting a corpse. On the 20th he was well enough to lecture again; on the 23rd he was at death’s door. He appeared for a time to be mending, but on May 1 he died. BF to DF above, April 28; Thomas J. Pettigrew, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Late John Coakley Lettsom … (3 vols., London, 1817), I, 145–7 of second pagination. “His last moments of recollection,” Polly wrote years later, “were embittered by the idea of leaving me with three children scantily provided for. The trial of my fortitude was different. …” Her third child and first daughter, Elizabeth, was born the following August. George Gulliver, ed., The Works of William Hewson, F.R.S. (London, 1846), p. xiv.

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