Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Hewson, 11 March 1778

From Mary Hewson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Cheam near Epsom March. 11. 1778

Dear Sir

My mother had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 11th. of Decr. but never could learn who the Bearer was, therefore could not comply with your request of returning an answer by him: A porter brought it to Mr. Barrows, and demanded a groat without saying whence he came. Immediately upon the receipt of that letter my mother went to Mr. Collinson’s, where she was informed the draft had never been offered for payment;9 strict inquiry has been made at the General Post Office, and at every other post Office whither there was the least probability of the packet’s being carried, but in vain, to our great mortification it could not be found.

Before that my mother received one from Temple, and a few days ago she was favoured with yours of the 5th. of February. No mention is made in any of them of your having received your sword, your white clothes, and the saddle you ordered, all which she sent by Mr. Petrie, with a very long letter to Temple, and the bill for the saddle with the receipt. She fears you have not received those things.1

We have often had the pleasure of hearing of your welfare, which you are sensible we have much at heart. I thank you for your remembrance of me, and my children, and for the kind invitation you give, which would be a very high gratification to me to accept, were I able, but my affairs are no farther advanced towards a settlement than when I wrote last, consequently I have neither money nor time at command to undertake such a journey.2 My mother seems determined to visit you if her health and spirits permit. She has enjoyed both till lately that she has been indisposed with a cold, and is now apprehensive of having her leg bad again.

I took a small house in this place last midsummer, in which my mother and I with our little ones reside. The situation is healthy, the necessaries of life are not cheaper than in London, excepting our habitation, but as we live more retired, fewer things are necessary, consequently we spend less money.

We have few neighbours, and those few not social, excepting Mr. Bunny who married an elderly woman last year, and settled in his own house here; and lately I have had the acquisition of my old friend Pitt,3 with her husband and children, who now occupy a part of Mr. B.s house. She seems very happy, he makes her an excellent husband, and they have four fine children, two of each sort.

I have lost my sister Falconar.4 I am sure you will pay the tribute of a sigh, for you knew her amiableness. About a fortnight ago I was in town and called upon Dr. Ingenhousz, who admitted me to his literary apartment, where we chatted upon various subjects, old and new; at some we sighed, I do not recollect any at which we much rejoiced except your health.

Do me the favour to present my compliments to Madlle. Bieheron when you see her. My daughter and I are much obliged to her for the elegant ornaments she sent by Mr. Morgan. He has been dangerously ill, which prevented my seeing him, therefore I know not to whom I am indebted for a print he left with my sister for me, if you know present my thanks to the donor. I have attempted a translation of the four lines, which perhaps I may send you some other time.5 At present you see I have no room. I must squeeze in our love to Temple and little Benjamin. Adieu. Your affectionate humble Servant


If when you are with M. Dubourg you have a moment not more agreeably filled up, you may give him an assurance of my respectful remembrance. Things encrease in value by being transported from one country to another, therefore I hope the compliments of an insignificant English woman may be worth something when they arrive at Paris.

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur François / chez Monsr Chaumont / a Passey / pres de / Paris Postpd

Endorsed: Polly Hewson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9She assumes that BF knows, as we do not, who Mr. Barrows is; Thomas Barrow (above, XIII, 537 n; XXIII, 297) may well have returned to England, but we cannot connect him with Mrs. Stevenson. The bearer of BF’s letter, which has apparently been lost, was unquestionably John Thornton; on Dec. 11 BF was writing letters to go by a gentleman leaving that day or the next: above, XXV, 272. The draft, for £55, reappears in Polly Hewson’s letter below, April 25. Thomas Collinson, of Browns & Collinson, was BF’s London banker.

1BF’s letter of the 5th is missing. For Samuel Petrie see above, XXIV, 543. He was in Paris in January, 1778 (Stevens, Facsimiles, VIII, no. 773, pp. 3–4), and presumably delivered the order then; BF acknowledged its receipt to Mrs. Stevenson on Jan. 25, 1779 (APS). The saddle was for WTF.

2The settlement of her inheritance from Mrs. Tickell; see Polly’s letter below, April 27.

3We know virtually nothing about “Pitty,” who had returned to Jamaica in 1763: above, VIII, 340; X, 216–17, 333–4.

4Her husband’s sister, Mrs. Magnus Falconar.

5Marie-Catherine Biheron was an old friend of the Stevensons: above, XXI, 331–2. Morgan was probably William Morgan (1750–1833), the nephew through his mother of Richard Price, who had recently secured his appointment as chief actuary of the Equitable Assurance Soc. Morgan later became a pioneer in his field. DNB. He has not appeared before, but is said to have been in close touch with BF: Roland Thomas, Richard Price, Philosopher and Apostle of Liberty (London, 1924), p. 123. The print he left is the frontispiece of XXIV, and the suppressed quatrain that was written for it is printed on p. 172.

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