The Patriarch of Craven Street
Lend then, my dear Paternal Friend, a pitying ear to my Griefs.
--Amelia Barry to Franklin, December 7, 1781
I am gratly obliged to you for the trouble I give you.
--Martha Johnson to Franklin, February 15, 1768
. . . the best Friend I ever had.
--Hannah Walker to Franklin, July 17, 1769
I don't mean . . . to give you too much concern or troble with my Sons, tho' . . .
--Jonathan Williams Sr. to Franklin, August 27, 1770
DYERS, BAKERS, LACEMAKERS, tavernkeepers, seamen, printers, laughing children, anguished widows, gifted nephews, ne'er-do-well nephews . . . so many humble people who would have left no visible trace bad they not been Franklin's kin. Yet in his life they mattered. They were the counterweight to the lords of high politics and the princes of science, Hillsborough and Priestley, Shelburne and Pringle. They anchored him to reality and to his past, gave him the feeling of his power and his kindness, the essential comfort of belonging. He rarely turned his back on them or ignored their needs. True to Puritan tradition, he unhesitatingly accepted his responsibilities as patriarch of a sprawling family: women in distress, youngsters in need of a home, relatives from America to be steered through the perils of London, and, back home, the perennially troubled members of the Mecom family.
Take, for instance, the case of Amelia Evans, not even a relative by birth. Born a year after Sally, she was Deborah's goddaughter, and the only child of Lewis Evans, one of the most eminent cartographers of colonial America, a man of many talents and interests who had drawn the