Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Francis Hopkinson, 3 October 1781

From Francis Hopkinson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. Octr. 3d. 1781—

My dear Sir/

Unwilling to engage too much of your Attention I write but seldom, & yet have been unlucky in the few Instances wherein I have endeavour’d to amuse you & gratify myself. My Letters have for the most part miscarried. I wrote pretty fully by Mr. President Lawrence, who you know was taken with his Papers— My Bagatelles were no Doubt paraded in great Form on Lord G: Germain’s or Ld. Norths Tables— & much Good may they do them.

I again enclose you a few of my Performances, comic & serious.— The Oratorial Affair, is I confess not very elegant Poetry but the Entertainment consisted in the Music, & went off very well— In short the Musician crampt the Poet.9

This will be delivered to you by my good friend Mr. Thomas Barclay who is to reside in France as Consul for the United States; he is a Gentleman who will recommend himself on Acquaintance more effectually than I can do in a Letter; he has a particular Esteem for you; & will be much gratified in your Notice; and particularly obliged by your friendly Advice & Assistance, in his Department.

I write no News— Mr. Barclay will give you a full Account of our Situation— I will only say that a very few Weeks will leave the British very little Strength or Hold in America.

Sincerely wishing you Health and Happiness I am ever Your affectionate

F Hopkinson

Write to me when you can & inform me of Philosophical Discoveries & Improvements.

Addressed: Honble. / Dr. Franklin

Endorsed: F. Hopkinson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9For Hopkinson’s “comic” performances, his “bagatelles,” see our annotation to his letter of July 17, above. The “serious” piece was an oratorio first performed on March 21, 1781, at the home of the chevalier de La Luzerne, French minister to the United States, who staged weekly entertainments. Entitled “America Independent, an Oratorial Entertainment,” the piece takes place in the temple of Minerva where, in Scene One, the Genius of France, the Genius of America, and the High Priest of Minerva praise the goddess and ask for her blessing and protection for the new nation, Columbia. In Scene Two, Minerva emerges from her sanctuary, gives an elaborate blessing, and proclaims Jove’s promise that “If her sons united stand, Great and glorious shall she be.” The piece ends with a chorus praising Minerva. Hopkinson had the libretto printed as a broadside.

SB described the performance in a letter to WTF of June 22 and enclosed an annotated copy of the libretto indicating that RB sang the role of the High Priest. “[La Luzerne] thought the High Priest was fit for an Arch Bishop,” she wrote, “I never was so much affected with any thing particularly that part ‘If her sons’ when I could not for my life help crying. You must imagine Minerva decending from the Clouds &c &c for there was not even an arm Chair and rope to lower the Goddess from the Ceiling, and I can assure you she sat very composed behind the Harpsichord the whole time with the gravest face in the world.”

For the oratorio’s second performance on Dec. 11, 1781, Hopkinson changed its name to “The Temple of Minerva.” The text was reprinted in The Freeman’s Journal and was subject to broad parodies. See Gillian B. Anderson, “‘The Temple of Minerva’ and Francis Hopkinson: a Reappraisal of America’s First Poet-Composer,” APS Proc., CXX, no. 3 (1976), 166–77. Anderson reconstructed the score and published it in an edition entitled America Independent, or, The Temple of Minerva, an Oratorial Entertainment (Washington, D.C., 1978).

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