Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Coakley Lettsom, 13 September 1781

From John Coakley Lettsom8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Sambrook house Basinghall Street Sept. 13. 1781

May I request Dr. Franklin’s acceptance of the publications herewith sent. The octavo volume by Captn. Carver is more interesting, on acct. of the importance of a Country whose back settlements it describes, and which is one day destined, I hope, to form the hemisphere of freedom—9

I expected to include in two 8vo volumes the whole of Dr. Fothergill’s works, but so many essays have been discovered since his decease, worthy of preservation, that the whole cannot be included in less than three volumes, or one large Quarto.1 The natural history part will be embellished with coloured engravings—

Should Dr. Franklin ever condescend to favour me with any Remarks, or anecdotes respecting our late amiable friend, they will be highly acceptable to2

J. C. Lettsom

Addressed: To / Benj. Franklin / Paris—

Notation: Lettsom 18 Sept. 1781.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8A prominent Quaker physician and philanthropist whom BF had known since 1769. For several years Lettsom lived at 24 Basinghall Street: XVI, 187n; XXXIV, 262n; Henry B. Wheatley, London Past and Present … (3 vols., London, 1891), I, 122–3; III, 208.

9BF and the explorer Jonathan Carver (XVI, 117n) met in London in 1769, although this is the only subsequent reference to him in BF’s papers. His Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768, which was based on his record of his journey through northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, was first published in London in late 1778. Rapidly gaining popularity, the work appeared in a second edition in 1779. Lettsom may well have sent BF a reissue of the 1779 edition that he brought out in 1781 for the benefit of the widow and children of Carver after his death in 1780. Lettsom prefaced the work with a biographical sketch of the author: John Parker, ed., The Journals of Jonathan Carver and Related Documents, 1766–1770 ([St. Paul, Minn.], 1976), pp. 1–2, 39–41, 47. For a full publishing history and account of the controversy the work generated see Parker, Journals, pp. 38–56, and Norman Gelb, ed., Jonathan Carver’s Travels Through America, 1766–1768 … (New York, Toronto, and Singapore, 1993).

BF lent Carver’s work to Swedish Ambassador Gustav Creutz who, in an undated letter (APS), expressed a wish to have the book translated and asked that BF lend his copy for that purpose as it would take six weeks to obtain one from England. APS.

1Although Lettsom in 1782 published an account of Fothergill’s life (Some Account of the Late John Fothergill [London, 1782]), the edition of the late physician’s works did not appear until 1783–84. Published in London, The Works of John Fothergill, M.D., with Some Account of his Life was issued in both a three- volume octavo and a quarto edition: R. Hingston Fox, Dr. John Fothergill and his Friends … (London, 1919), pp. 416–17; Betsy C. Corner and Christopher C. Booth eds., Chain of Friendship: Selected Letters of Dr. John Fothergill of London, 1735–1780 (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), pp. 53n, 516–17.

2Lettsom continued to work on this project, informing BF in 1784 that he was compiling “an elegant edition” of Fothergill’s life that would include anecdotes of Fothergill’s acquaintance with BF and others. Two and a half years later he sent BF Memoirs of John Fothergill, M.D. &c. (London, 1786), “just printed”: Lettsom to BF, Jan. 28, 1784, and Aug. 14, 1786, APS.

Index Entries