Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Hewson, 8 January 1783

To Mary Hewson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Passy, Jany. 8. 1783

My dear dear Friend,

I sent you sometime since 11 Pamphlets of the same kind with the enclos’d, supposing, as I had heard them well spoken of, that you who are so laudably attentive to the Education of your Children, might possibly find in them some Hints worth your Notice. I find the Work is to go on, and I will send you what comes out for the present Year, if you desire it.1

I receiv’d a Letter last Summer from my excellent old Friend your good Mother.2 I was soon after taken ill with the Gravel & Sciatica, which together harrass’d & confin’d me till very lately. I am now, Thanks to God, freed from both; but the Sciatica has left me Weak on the left Side, so that I go up & down Stairs with Difficulty. I am in other respects at present well & hearty.— Present my sincere Love to her. Nothing would give me greater Pleasure than to see you both once more, well & happy. But you, who are truly sagacious, & honest, & can give good Advice, tell me frankly your Sentiments, whether, in case of a Peace, it will be prudent in me to visit England before I return to America. I have no other Call there, but the Pleasure of seeing my Friends of whom I must again soon take leave; and my Appearing may perhaps exasperate my Enemies. If you think this not of serious Consequence, tell me whether I may come right through London to Kensington, with the View of finding Room in your House; or whether I should take a Lodging in the City, to return to. Don’t let me in the least incommode you.

I forget whether I ever acknowledg’d the Receipt of the Prints of Mr Hewson.3 I have one of them fram’d in my Study. I think it very like. I believe I acquainted you with good M. Dubourg’s Death. He had enlarg’d his little Piece which you translated; and in respect for his Memory, I have had it printed. I enclose a Copy.4

I am sorry to learn the still unsettled State of Mr. Wilkes’s Family.5 Mrs Wilkes is undoubtedly well qualified to teach English here, but I cannot think it would be worth her while to come hither for that purpose. It is true that our Language is in vogue here, and many learn a little of it. But the Instructors are poorly paid, & the Employ precarious and uncertain: the Observation is so general as to have given Rise to a Proverb, Pauvre comme un Maitre de Langue.

I have not yet quite determin’d about sending Bache to England. If I do, he will certainly be plac’d under your Care; for I am much pleas’d and oblig’d by the Readiness with which you kindly undertake to inspect his Education.6

I am concern’d to hear of poor Peirce’s Misfortunes.7 People are rarely fortunate that quit the Profession they were bred to. I believe he was an excellent Farmer, and I think it a pity that he quitted that Calling. I intend sending him Ten Guineas, by a Friend who talks of going soon to London.8 They shall be left with you, so that if his Necessities should press before my Friend arrives, you may safely advance & afterwards deduct such part as you judge proper. I know not how otherwise to help him.

You know how much I love you, and that I am ever, My dear Friend, Yours most sincerely

B Franklin

Mrs Hewson

1These were monthly installments of L’ami des enfants (Paris, 1782) by Arnaud Berquin (DBF). The work was announced in several issues of the Jour. de Paris (e.g., see that of Dec. 6, 1782) and consisted of fables, stories, dialogues, and short plays for children: Mary Hewson to BF, April 2, 1784 (James S. Bradford, Philadelphia, 1956); Quérard, France littéraire; Tourneux, Correspondance littéraire, XIII, 45.

2Margaret Stevenson wrote on July 24: XXXVII, 675–6.

3In December, 1780, BF thanked her for sending prints of her late husband, William: XXXIII, 14; XXXIV, 134.

4BF’s close friend and editor Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg died in December, 1779. In 1770 Hewson translated his Petit Code de la raison humaine for publication in England, as it had been denied permission for publication in France: XV, 115n; XVII, 185–6, 291; XXXI, 237n, 361n. Dubourg continued to revise and enlarge the work up to the time of his death. A French text consisting of 91 sections was published in England in 1773 and 1774. The manuscript BF inherited consisted of 102 sections, substantially rearranged and to some degree revised from the earlier publication. BF, as he says here, “had it printed.” The question is, when and by whom? As the imprint date is 1782, we speculate that the book was printed in December, shortly before BF wrote the present letter. The type is unquestionably BF’s, but the printing need not have been done at Passy. Pierres’s letter of Dec. 14, discussing fonts that BF is lending him, suggests that Pierres could have taken BF’s type and printed the work clandestinely on his own press.

5Israel and Elizabeth Wilkes and their two sons were struggling to find gainful employment: XXXVII, 651–2.

6BF was considering sending BFB to study with Hewson’s sons at the Cheam school: XXXVII, 471–2, 652–3.

7See James Pearce’s letter of Oct. 29.

8Probably Benjamin Vaughan, who returned to England the following month; he wrote BF from London on Feb. 25 (APS).

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