Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Christopher Baldwin, 18 December 1778

From Christopher Baldwin1

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Clapham Common 18 Decr. 18 1778

I am sure my dear Sir you will be much surprised at receiving a letter with my name at the bottom; but when you cast your eye on the Place from whence its dated, I think it will bring to your mind a Place at which, and friends with whom, you have passed some pleasant hours. We often think & talk of em and long for their return. Mrs. Baldwin,2 from the pleasure she takes in being posessed of it, shews your bust in wax,3 the present of our friend Moore, to every body worthy of seeing it—she is not a little proud of that & your Liturgy,4 which is her constant Sundays entertainment.

A worthy friend who I am sure will safely convey this to you, is to have the perusal of it for a few days, as his reward.

Mrs Baldwin has frequently shewn your bust to our amiable neighbour Lady Rivers,5 who promised to call upon you in her way to the So. of France, and remember us to you.

At the time her Ladyship left, we little thought of an accident that has since happened—the loss of Dominica, where I have property to the amount of £12000. My Son,6 the only child we have, as you will remember, is now at Portsmouth, going out to Dominica to take care of our Estate there. He is a most worthy young man, beloved by all who Know him; and as a recommendation to the Marquis de Bouillé will certainly be of great service to him, so his fond, fond Mother repeatedly urges me to write to you, to beg you procure him such recommendation from some Gentn. of Rank among your friends in France—no body she insists upon it, can do this service to her Son, so effectually as you, and being quite of her opinion, We therefore now earnestly beg it of you, without a doubt of your kind complyance.

Mrs Baldwin has repeatedly offerd herself to her ministerial friends as an Ambassadress to you. I tell her that in company with our worthy friend Small,7 I think somthing may be done among you—mentioning him it leads me to tell you, that Dr. Saunders (Huck)8 who lives near us at Clapham, told me lately, that he had hopes of procuring him a comfortable appointment here. I was lately shewn an excellent little profile,9 but it did not please me so well as that with your wig—tho I knew it instantly, and its so excellently well done, that I wished much to be possessed of it,—but your friend withstood all my importunitys.

For this month past we have been drowned with rain; I hope the Weather is more comfortable with you. I have told my Son of your Cabin lamp with water and oil to read by at Sea.1 Mrs. Baldwin and Miss Watkins2 join with me in kind remembrance & good wishes to you, with the pleasing hope of again seeing you here. I am My dear Sir Your Sincere friend & humble Servant

Chr. Baldwin

Notation: Baldwin Clapham Common 18. Xbre. 1778.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1For the friend who had assisted BF with his experiment in soothing the waves of Mount Pond, Clapham Common, by pouring oil on the waters, see XX, 466n.

2The former Jane Watkins, daughter of Samuel and Margaret Gamble Watkins of Antigua. See Vere L. Oliver, The History of the Island of Antigua . . . (3 vols., London, 1894–99), III, 206.

3Possibly a copy of the wax medallion made in 1766, now ascribed to Isaac Gosset (1713–99). We know BF gave one to Mrs. Stevenson and another to his wife, and he may well have given additional ones to other friends. See XIII, 523n, and Charles C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven and London, 1962), pp. 293–5.

4“Your liturgy” is somewhat misleading, for it was Lord Le Despencer, not BF, who made most of the revisions and parings for the Abridgement of the Book of Common Prayer (London, 1773); XX, 343–5.

5Née Penelope Atkins, she (c. 1725–95) was the wife of George Pitt, the first Baron Rivers. DNB. She spent much of her life abroad and is frequently mentioned in Lewis, Walpole Correspondence.

6All we know of him is that he predeceased his father: Oliver, History of the Island, III, 352.

7Alexander Small (1710–94) was a Scots army surgeon and fellow member of the Society of Arts: IX, 110n.

8Dr. Richard Huck, or Huck-Saunders as he called himself after his marriage in 1777, associated with BF’s London circle of medical friends in the 1760’s. See XV, 172n.

9One of the Sèvres medallions made in 1778 of unglazed porcelain and described more fully by Baldwin in his letter of March 5, 1779 (APS), and in Sellers, Franklin in Portraiture, pp. 365–7. Franklin apparently kept a supply of them on hand to give as souvenirs to friends and callers.

1Upon his return to Philadelphia in 1762 BF had described the lamp whose glass base held a layer of oil over the water contained in it: X, 158–60.

2Mrs. Baldwin’s younger sister, Mary Watkins: Oliver, History of the Island, III, 203.

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