Benjamin Franklin an American in London

By Wright, Esmond | History Today, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Benjamin Franklin an American in London


Wright, Esmond, History Today


Esmonds Wright recalls the life of the American philosophers, scientist and man of letters in his years in a street near Charing Cross.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, a poorly-educated Boston boy who ran away from home to find his fortune in Philadelphia as journalist, editor, printer and publisher, founder of its University and of the American Philosophical Society, was the nearest to a genius of all the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a practical man as well as a theorist. He was fascinated by natural phenomena, and constantly asked the question `Why?'. When a steady succession of appalling winters and dry summers hit Europe in the 1780s, he traced the cause to a volcanic eruption in Iceland. These climatic conditions produced famines across Western Europe and were among the causes of the French Revolution. From his frequent journeys across the Atlantic, Franklin discovered and mapped the Gulf Stream. From his observations of climate he concluded that lightning was electricity. He devised and played the harmonica, his `musical glasses'. He realised -- though he never fully explored the reasons for -- the contagious character of the common cold. He was, in the Italian phrase, l'uomo universale, a renaissance man, or, as the Scots put it, `a man o' pairts'.

For seventeen years (1757-75) he lived in London, in `four rooms and very genteel', as he put it. In these years, though he was proud to be an American, he was, also, in his own phrase, `an Old England man' and proud of that too. He sought to avert the political separation that he saw coming. When it came to war, he went to Paris to secure the support of France that ensured American success. He was present in 1787 in Philadelphia at the Convention that drew up the Constitution.

When Mary Munn of Philadelphia married the 10th Earl of Bessborough in 1948, perhaps she did not realise that in London she would renew acquaintance with the most famous Philadelphian of all, Benjamin Franklin. Or maybe she did: 2nd Earl of Bessborough in. the eighteenth century as Postmaster General had been in charge of Franklin's activities as a colonial post officer-in-chief. For the last thirty years Lady Bessborough and a group of trustees have campaigned to raise money in the US and in the UK to restore the house in which Franklin lived during his London years as the agent for Pennsylvania (and eventually for Massachusetts, New Jersey and Georgia) from 1757 to his return home on the outbreak of the War for American Independence in 1775.

He made 36, Craven Street in the Strand a home from home. Franklin was as much at ease in London as he was in Philadelphia in the hurly-burly of business. Goods were landed from the river at the foot of the street and transported to the Hungerford Market at the top, where it meets the Strand. As the wits put it, there was craft on the river, and craft on the street; and Franklin, a strong swimmer, was at ease with both, the lawyers and journalists at one end, the tradesmen -- and the tides -- at the other. Opposite 36, Craven Street then stood the large and daunting Northumberland House, the town-house of the Dukes of Northumberland, and a thriving social centre -- on the site of what is now Charing Cross Station.

His domestic circle included not only his landlady, Mrs Stevenson, and Polly, her daughter, but Franklin's grandson, Temple, and Sarah Franklin, daughter of one of his Northamptonshire cousins. The latter lived in Craven Street, and was as a second daughter to him.

The Craven Street Gazette, a newspaper which he produced for fun, testifies to his contentment. It is clear that he ruled over his `Court' -- at least in `Queen Margaret's' infrequent absences -- as `Big Man', `Great Person' and `Dr Fatsides'. He hoped that Polly might marry his son, but they both had other ideas. Polly married a surgeon, William Hewson, but became in fact the `intellectual daughter' that his own daughter Sarah (back in Philadelphia) never was. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Benjamin Franklin an American in London
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.