Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI Conquests in England

I

IT was doubtless a contented Franklin who looked out on the streets of London on the morning of July 27, 1757. Thirty years previously he had left the murky old town as an unknown and unsuccessful youth. He now returns with his head held high. Men distinguished in science, literature and politics hasten forward to do him honor. He is a guest at the splendid home of Peter Collinson. Come Dr. Fothergill, author of the preface to the London pamphlet on Franklin's electrical experiments; Governor Shirley of Massachusetts; William Strahan, printer and publisher to Dr. Samuel Johnson, who is glad to welcome his best American customer; and finally, grinning slyly, James Ralph, Benjamin's erstwhile chum. Ralph lets it be known that he has done rather well for himself. He is a political writer selling his services for fat fees, has had the patronage of the Duke of Bedford, and has been honored by a denunciation in Pope's Dunciad.

To make himself comfortable while he waits to hear from the Penns, Franklin, with "Billy" and a white and a negro servant, finds quarters at No. 7 Craven Street, between the Strand on one side and the Thames on the other. The house is kept by Mrs. Margaret Stevenson, who at once makes the philosopher so comfortable that in later years he was never able to speak of her housekeeping without a sigh. Mrs. Stevenson's home has another great attraction -- her lively daughter, Mary, better known as "Polly."

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