Archive for the ‘Hewson, Mary “Polly” Stevenson’ Category

“highly pleas’d with the discription of Insects”

Benjamin Franklin apparently visited POLLY STEVENSON at Wanstead (“last Friday”) as she refers to it in the following letter—June 6, 1760. Don’t you love her curiosity about the barometer which prompts her to ask Franklin for an explanation of how it works?

Dear Sir
The Happiness I enjoy’d last friday has afforded me pleasing reflections for the week past. I attended with delight to your kind Instructions, and my highest Amusement ever since has been to recollect them. You obligingly condescended to satisfy my Curiosity about the Barometer, and by your explanation I clearly conceived the cause of the rise and fall of the Mercury; but, upon looking at it after you were gone, I was puzzl’d to find out how the Air has access to the end of the Tube which you told me was left open to relieve its pressure, it being cover’d with Wood. You bid me not apprehend you should think it a Trouble to receive and answer my Questions, therefore I take the liberty of desiring you to solve this difficulty when you can afford to bestow a little time upon your grateful Polly.
I have read the first Volume of your Books, which has afforded me great entertainment. I was highly pleas’d with the discription of Insects, which lead me to admire that Wisdom and Power that created them, and assign’d to each their proper use and employment: and taught me to observe there is nothing so trifling but it is necessary and worthy our attention. The Opinion that Corruption produces Insects is very well refuted from the certainty that Chance has no agency, and their always appearing in Putrified Meats is very well accounted for; but I am left in the dark, whether those Insects would ever arrive at the state of their parent. I find moral reflections frequently inserted so that my reading will not be a useless amusement only to satisfy an Idle Curiosity. I am my dear and honourd Friend most gratefully and affectionately yours
M Stevenson

Polly had apparently read the first volume of the books Franklin had sent her: Pluche’s Spectacle de la Nature. It contains eight dialogues about insects.

“To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Stevenson, 6 June 1760,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-09-02-0040. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 9, January 1, 1760, through December 31, 1761, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966, pp. 118–119.] Portrait of “Polly” from the “Polly” Stevenson Collection of Theodore E. Wiederseim, a direct descendant of the Stevenson-Hewson-Bradford family.

posted January 17th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Education,Franklin, Benjamin,Hewson, Mary "Polly" Stevenson

“have a good Dictionary at hand”

Recall in the previous post that Benjamin Franklin sent POLLY STEVENSON some books that he thought would further her education. His advice to Polly on how to approach them so as to best profit from the reading are those of an experienced reader and teacher. They apply today.

Cravenstreet, May 17. 1760.I send my dear good Girl the Books I mention’d to her last Night.1 I beg her to accept them as a small Mark of my Esteem and Friendship. They are written in the familiar easy Manner for which the French are so remarkable, and afford a good deal of philosophic and practical Knowledge, unembarras’d with the dry Mathematics us’d by more exact Reasoners, but which is apt to discourage young Beginners. I would advise you to read with a Pen in your Hand, and enter in a little Book short Hints of what you find that is curious or that may be useful; for this will be the best Method of imprinting such Particulars in your Memory, where they will be ready either for Practice on some future Occasion if they are Matters of Utility, or at least to adorn and improve your Conversation if they are rather Points of Curiosity. And, as many of the Terms of Science are such as you cannot have met with in your common Reading, and may therefore be unacquainted with, I think it would be well for you to have a good Dictionary at hand, to consult immediately when you meet with a Word you do not comprehend the precise Meaning of. This may at first seem troublesome and interrupting; but ’tis a Trouble that will daily diminish as you will daily find less and less Occasion for your Dictionary as you become more acquainted with the Terms; and in the meantime you will read with more Satisfaction because with more Understanding. When any Point occurs in which you would be glad to have farther Information than your Book affords you, I beg you would not in the least apprehend that I should think it a Trouble to receive and answer your Questions. It will be a Pleasure, and no Trouble. For tho’ I may not be able, out of my own little Stock of Knowledge to afford you what you require, I can easily direct you to the Books where it may most readily be found. Adieu, and believe me ever, my dear Friend, Yours affectionately
B Franklin

“From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Stevenson, 17 May 1760,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-09-02-0038. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 9, January 1, 1760, through December 31, 1761, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966, pp. 117–118.]

posted January 14th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Education,Franklin, Benjamin,Hewson, Mary "Polly" Stevenson

” . . . read some Books”


In a letter to POLLY STEVENSON in February 1760 Benjamin Franklin expresses his thanks for her New Year’s greeting: “I receiv’d your kind Congratulations on occasion of the new Year; and though you had not mine in writing, be assured that I did and do daily wish you every kind of Happiness, and of the longest Continuance.” The next month, in an apparent answer to Polly’s request for guidance in her education, Benjamin Franklin undertook the role of tutor, writing:

Cravenstreet, May 1. 1760I embrace most gladly my dear Friend’s Proposal of a Subject for our future Correspondence; not only as it will occasion my hearing from her more frequently, but as it will lay me under a Necessity of improving my own Knowledge that I may be better able to assist in her Improvement. I only fear my necessary Business and Journeys with the natural Indolence of an old Man, will make me too unpunctual a Correspondent. For this I must hope some Indulgence.
But why will you, by the Cultivation of your Mind, make yourself still more amiable, and a more desirable Companion for a Man of Understanding, when you are determin’d, as I hear, to live Single? If we enter, as you propose, into moral as well as natural Philosophy, I fancy, when I have fully establish’d my Authority as a Tutor, I shall take upon me to lecture you a little on that Chapter of Duty. But to be serious.
Our easiest Method of Proceeding I think will be for you to read some Books, that I may recommend to you; and in the Course of your Reading, whatever occurs that you do not thoroughly apprehend, or that you clearly conceive and find Pleasure in, may occasion either some Questions for farther Information or some Observations that show how far you are satisfy’d and pleas’d with your Author. Those will furnish Matter for your Letters to me, and, in consequence, of mine also to you.
Let me know then, what Books you have already perus’d on the Subject intended, that I may better judge what to advise for your next Reading. And believe me ever, my dear good Girl, Your affectionate Friend and Servant
B Franklin

On May 17, 1760, Franklin sent Polly books on natural philosophy, probably the first volumes of the popular Spectacle de la Nature: or, Nature Display’d being Discourses … to Excite the Curiosity, and Form the Minds of Youth translated by Samuel Humphreys (8th edit., 7 vols., London, 1754–63) from the French of Noël-Antoine Pluche. As a former teacher I am interested in and delighted by the instructions Franklin gives Polly about how to approach the readings in order to understand and retain the knowledge therein.

“From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Stevenson, 1 May 1760,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-09-02-0032. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 9, January 1, 1760, through December 31, 1761, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966, pp. 102–103.]

posted January 10th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Education,Franklin, Benjamin,Hewson, Mary "Polly" Stevenson

“Your kind Remembrance of me . . . “

Benjamin Franklin, that amazing polymath—printer, author, publisher, inventor, scientist, philosopher, and diplomat—was sent to London in 1757 by the Pennsylvania Assembly to protest the influence of the Penn family in the state. Subsequently he represented American interests in England until 1775. During his many lengthy missions Franklin took lodgings in London at 36 Craven Street, just off the Strand. (I visited the site, marked with a Blue Plaque, when I lived in London. It was not yet the Benjamin Franklin House Museum it became in 2006.) His landlady was Mary Stevenson with whom he became friends. He took an interest in her daughter MARY STEVENSON called “POLLY”, and in her education to which he contributed. She expresses her gratitude for his friendship in the following letter.

Wanstead, Janr 14. 1760Dear Sir
Permit me to address you with the Compliment of the Season; not merely as a Compliment, but with a fervent sincerity. May this Year give you a happy sight of your Native Country, and of those dear Relations you left in it; and if there is anything else wanting to compleat your Felicity, May that be added! May you enjoy a long succession of Years, fraught with all the Blessings you desire!
I thank you, dear Sir, for the present you intend me. Your kind Remembrance of me upon every occasion demands my utmost Gratitude. I am extremely happy in finding I am still so much the object of your Regard; and I hope I shall continue to be so, for I shall never cease to be with the highest Esteem your grateful and affectionate Humble Servant
M Stevenson

The gift Polly speaks of was possibly a silver inkstand, according to a footnote to the letter on the Founders Archive, made by Edward Aldridge and John Stamper of London in 1758 or 1759 and inscribed: “The Gift of Benjamin Franklin to Mary Stevenson.” In 1936 it was in the possession of Mrs. Mary Hewson Bradford Laning. It is described and illustrated in R. T. H. Halsey, comp., Benjamin Franklin and His Circle a Catalogue of an Exhibition (Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y., 1936), pp. 140, 141. The painting is of Franklin in London 1767 by David Martin; it hangs in the White House. The citation for the letter follows: “To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Stevenson, 14 January 1760,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-09-02-0008. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 9, January 1, 1760, through December 31, 1761, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966, pp. 19–20.]

posted January 5th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Education,Franklin, Benjamin,Friendship,Hewson, Mary "Polly" Stevenson,London

   Copyright © 2019 In the Words of Women.