Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Collinson, 22 May 1784

From Thomas Collinson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Southgate. May. 22.d. 1784

My dear Friend

The Bearer of this Mr Thos Hill,1 a Gentleman with whom I have the pleasure of being intimately acquainted; visting the Continent from motives of Curiosity, and a laudable desire of extending useful Knowledge; I have requested that he will oblige me; by the transmission of my most respectful Regards to you; & personally to enquire after your Welfare and Health; as such I therefore hope he may fortunately find you for a few moments in some measure disengaged from the many important Affairs you sustain,—so that I may have the Pleasure of receiving the agreeable Information from his Letter, that you are well and happy—

Monday last I dined with our Friends at the George and Vulture—2 Your old Friend Mr Mitchel was there— We conversed together about you, and most cordially wish’d for your Presence. He has just finish’d the great Speculum, that has cost him so many years Labour;3 but has been so much indisposed as to prevent his Trials of it by Night; tho he seems to be satisfied, that his Labour has not been in vain, by what he has seen by it in the Day— Herschel also I hear intends to cast his 4 feet Speculum this Summer—4

I beg you will believe me to remain with the utmost Respect yr affectionate Friend

Thos Collinson

1Most likely Thomas Ford Hill, an antiquarian, who left for the Continent in 1784 on what would become a five-year trip. Like Collinson, he was a Quaker. Hill had toured Scotland in 1780 and collected Gaelic songs, which he then published in the Gent. Mag.: ODNB. He must have visited, as BF received the present letter, but we have no record of their encounter.

2For the Monday Club see X, 250.

3Collinson had also reported this to BF on Nov. 12: XLI, 196. Speculum mirrors, cast in metal, were extremely difficult to fabricate, and Michell’s, with an aperture of 29.5 inches, was enormous for its time: Russell Mc-Cormmach, “John Michell and Henry Cavendish: Weighing the Stars,” British Jour. for the History of Science, IV (1968), 140n, 153n.

4William Herschel’s four-foot speculum mirror was not cast until October, 1785, and had to be recast before the telescope was finally put into use in 1789: Michael Hoskin, Discoverers of the Universe: William and Caroline Herschel (Princeton and Oxford, 2011), pp. 110–24.

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