THE letters here published are the only surviving record of the long and devoted friendship of Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray, later Mrs. William Greene. Some of the letters have been published before in the standard editions of Franklin's writings. But as they have been printed in chronological order in the mass of correspondence without regard for subject matter, these purely personal letters have been completely submerged. When brought together with the familiar letters written to him, many of which have never been published, they portray a kindly, mellow, domestic side of Franklin, which is little known to the world.
This volume is the first attempt to bring these personal letters together and give the background of the rare friendship between a Block Island girl, whose husband became governor of his state, and Franklin, world famous scientist and statesman. All of the letters here included, except the few otherwise noted, are in the Library of the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia. Some few of the originals have disappeared. The editor has therefore taken the text of these either from a printed version, or from the long hand copies found among the papers purchased by the Rhode Island Historical Society in 1945 from the heirs of Governor Samuel Ward.
A number of original letters from Franklin to Mrs. Catharine (Ray) Greene, both before and after her marriage in 1758, and from Mrs. Jane Mecom, were at the Greene Homestead in Warwick, Rhode Island, which is still in the possession of her descendants. In 1946 the American Philosophical Society acquired these letters because the heirs felt that such manuscripts should not be subject to the hazards of private ownership.
To make it easier to read this volume and to comprehend this unknown side of Franklin, the editor has introduced each letter with historical notes. All quoted sources are listed at the end of each chapter.