Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Sir James Nicolson, 12 August 1783

From Sir James Nicolson3

AL: American Philosophical Society

August 12. 1783. Grande Rue de Passy La maison
près celle De Monsr Le Comte Destaing

Sir James Nicolson presents Compliments to Doctor Franklin and is somewhat surprized to find out, only since his visit to the Doctr., that his Grandson had been received, out of respect to the Doctor’s great merit, by Lady Nicolson and that he had concealed her Ladyship’s portrait in miniature, under pretence of putting a glass to it. Sir James insists on the restoration of it, as his Lady does on all letters, that may have passed on the subject. He hopes that the Doctr. will grant all the merit due to the prudent method he has taken, having no time to lose, being on his departure for England.

N.B. an immediate answer is expected. as the Doctor’s grandson, long before this, has refused complying with Lady Nicolson’s request—4

Addressed: Doctor Franklin / &c / à son Hotel / a Passy

Notation: J. Nicolson Passy 12 Aug. 83

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3This indignant husband and his indiscreet wife have eluded scholars’ efforts to identify them, largely because of inconsistencies in the evidence. For a discussion of some of the problems see Lincoln Lorenz, John Paul Jones, Fighter for Freedom and Glory (Annapolis, Md., 1943), pp. 774–7. WTF may have known her since 1781; in that year, he introduced David Salisbury Franks to a pair of charming women, a Lady Nicolson and a French countess who won the visitor’s heart: ****Franks to WTF, Dec. 23, 1781, and May 22, 1782 (both at the APS). She is not the comtesse de Nicolson with whom John Paul Jones became entangled, and who also entertained WTF (****Capt. de Stark to WTF, July 24, 1784, APS).

4The next day Sir James wrote directly to WTF: propriety demanded the immediate return of his wife’s portrait, and upon its receipt, he would offer “something appertaining to you.” WTF replied on Aug. 14, insisting that Lady Nicolson first send back his portrait, which “would convince me she did not wish me to retain hers.” Nicolson to WTF, Aug. 13, 1783; WTF to Nicolson, Aug. 14, 1783 (both at the APS).

Index Entries