Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Georgiana Shipley, 26 May 1780

From Georgiana Shipley

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Bolton Street May 26th 1780

My dear Doctor Franklin

I now send you the only return I can possibly make for your most valuable present, it is a drawing done by myself after a picture of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s & as I have applyed myself entirely to painting in water-colors this last twelve-month I hope both you and your grand-son will be agreed as to the improvement I have made, otherwise I shall have spent much time & labor to little purpose.8

I have had the sincere pleasure of hearing, from several of our friends, repeated assurances of your good health & good looks these accounts make us happier than you can easily conceive, since every year rather encreases than lessens the love & admiration we feel for our much-valued friend. At times I continue to flatter myself that we shall meet again, yet I almost despair, when I reflect how many important changes must take place before that wish’d-for event.

I believe we shall set off for St Asaph the beginning of June, as my father is impatient to leave town, & we have no parliamentary business likely to detain him. It is now almost two years since I saw my brother, who lives entirely in Wales, I have also a little nephew, whom I have never seen, so I have many inducements to make me think the journey agreable.9

Electricity is at present the fashionable cure for all complaints, it is certain that many people have received great benefit only from the electrical air, the shock & spark are seldom tryed, except in a few particular cases. Saturday we are to go to Mr Nairnes in order to see an electrical machine he has lately finished, & which is intended for the Empress of Russia.1 Your friend Dr Priestley has been extremely ill with a bilious complaint, he is at present much better, yet looks far from well. He & Mr Bryant have had some literary desputes, which I fear have vexed him a good deal.2

In a large company the other day, a gentleman, who had lately traveled by Land from the East Indies, was mentioning the intense coldness of the nights during his passage over the desart. The extreme cold was confined to the desart & not perceivable on any other part of the Continent: none of the Company could assign a reason for this.

I returned you my thanks for the beloved picture by Mr Caslon,3 but I can not conclude without repeating them, indeed I had no idea that a picture could make me so happy. It has however one bad effect, the temptation it gives me to take snuff, as an excuse for looking at it very very often.

Assure yourself of our constant good wishes, & believe me, as usual, Yours affecately & much obliged

Georgiana Shipley

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Reynolds, a close friend of the Shipley family who tutored Georgiana in art (XVIII, 200n), had painted a half-length portrait of Bishop Shipley in 1777. Georgiana entrusted her copy of it to Digges, who wrote BF on May 24 (above) that he would take care of forwarding it. The picture was lost in transit and became the subject of many anxious inquiries over the next seven months. It eventually arrived early in 1781; BF acknowledged its receipt in a letter, now fragmentary and without a date, written after Jan. 17, 1781 (Library of Congress). For the Reynolds portrait see Algernon Graves and William Vine Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P. R. A. (4 vols., London, 1899–1901), III, 891.

9Her brother William Davies Shipley (1745–1826), dean of St. Asaph, married Penelope Yonge in 1777. Their eldest son was born in 1779: DNB.

1Edward Nairne may have been developing the design which eventually became the “insulated medical electrical machine” for which he was granted a patent in 1782: W.D. Hackmann, Electricity from Glass: the History of the Frictional Electrical Machine 1600–1850 (Alphen aan den Rijn, 1978), pp. 133–4.

2In April, Jacob Bryant, the antiquary and author (DNB), had attacked Priestley in a 136-page treatise entitled An Address to Dr. Priestly upon his Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity (London, 1780). Priestley countered immediately with A Letter to Jacob Bryant, Esq. in Defence of Philosophical Necessity (London, 1780).

3See XXXI, 444.

Index Entries