Of all the enviable Things England has, I envy most its People.
--Franklin to Polly Stevenson, March 25, 1763
IMAGINE DEBORAH in mid-winter 1758. She is about to turn fifty. Her husband has been gone for half a year and there is no mention yet of his return. Communication between them is haphazard, at the mercy of gales, captains' whims, French privateers roaming the Atlantic, the pressure of his business. She keeps writing by every opportunity, roughly once a week, but receives few answers. She knows that Franklin and William have landed safely in late July and that they have rented four comfortable rooms in the London house of Margaret Stevenson, a widow living on Craven Street near the Houses of Parliament.* She also knows that Franklin soon fell ill, quite seriously, for more than two months, but that he is now on his way to recovery, though still weak and dizzy. He has told her of the many bleedings he has undergone, the huge quantities of bark infusion he has swallowed, all to little avail, and he has stressed that though his landlady gave him the best care she could, he did miss his wife's devotion and Sally's ministrations.
And now a letter has come from London, a long letter. It is not from Franklin. It is from their old friend, the printer William Strahan whom he has at last met face to face. "Look out sharp," Franklin had written on the eve of his departure "and if a fat old fellow should come to your printing house and request a little smouting [part-time work], depend upon it, `tis your affectionate friend and humble servant."1 On____________________