Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Edward Nairne, 18 October 1783

To Edward Nairne

Reprinted from William Temple Franklin, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin … (3 vols., 4to, London, 1817–18), III, 459.

Passy, Oct. 18, 1783.

Dear Sir,

I received your favor of August 14,7 by Mr. Sykes, with the book of directions for using your patent electric machine. The machine itself is also come to hand in good order, after some delay on the road;8 and I think it very ingeniously contrived indeed: I wish your success in the sale may be equal to its merits. The experiments in your pamphlet gave me pleasure, and I shall be glad to see the account you mention of the shortening of wires by lightning.

What you have heard of the eyes of sheep forced out by a stroke of lightning which killed them, puts me in mind of having formerly seen at Philadelphia six horses all killed lightning in a stable, every one of whom appeared to have bled at the eyes, nose, and mouth; though I do not recollect that any of their eyes were out.

You are so good as to consider how much my time has been and is taken up, and to excuse on that account my being a bad correspondent. Near three years ago I began a letter to you on the subject of hygrometers. I had written three folio pages of it when I was interrupted by some business; and before I had time to finish it I had mislaid it. I have now found it, and having added what I suppose I had intended to add, I enclose it.9 You can judge better than myself whether my idea of such an instrument is practicable and may be useful.

If you favor me with another line, let me know how Mrs. Nairne does, and your amiable children.1 With great esteem, &c. I am,

B. Franklin

Edward Nairne’s Patent Electrical Machine

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7XL, 470–1.

8This was the second machine shipped by Benjamin Vaughan, as the first had been damaged: XL, 176n, 235, 470.

9Though the letter was not finished and copied until October, 1783, BF retained his original dateline of Nov. 13, 1780; see XXXIII, 518–23. It appeared under that date in the APS Transactions for 1786, and in WTF, Memoirs, where it is published as the enclosure to the present letter.

1His daughters, Polly and Fanny, named in Nairne’s reply of Dec. 2.

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