“I met with a very sensible Physician yesterday”

MARY “POLLY” STEVENSON (soon to be HEWSON), having just heard that Benjamin Franklin had returned from a tour of the Continent, wrote him this letter:

Margate Sept. 1. 1769Welcome to England my dear, my honour’d Friend . . . .
I met with a very sensible Physician yesterday, who prescribes Abstinence for the Cure of Consumption. He must be clever because he thinks as we do. I would not have you or my Mother surpris’d, if I should run off with this young man; to be sure it would be an imprudent Step at the discreet Age of Thirty but there is no saying what one should do if sollicited by a Man of an insinuating Address and good Person, tho he may be too young for one, and not yet establish’d in his Profession. He engag’d me so deeply in Conversation and I was so much pleas’d with him, that I thought it necessary to give you Warning, tho’ I assure you he has made no Proposal.
How I rattle! This Flight must be owing to this new Acquaintance or to the Joy of hearing my old one is return’d to this Country; I know which I attribute it to, for I can tell when my Spirits were enliven’d, but you may think as you please if you will believe me to be Dear Sir Your truly affectionate humble Servant
M StevensonCan’t you send me one little Letter directed for me at Mr. Coleman’s Margate? where I shall be some days longer.

The man Polly describes was William Hewson (surgeon, 1739-1774). He was a teacher of anatomy and noted for his research in the field of hematology.

“To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Stevenson, 1 September 1769,” Founders Online, National Archives, version of January 18, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-16-02-0108. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 16, January 1 through December 31, 1769, ed. William B. Willcox. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972, pp. 190–192.]


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