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TO HUMPHREY MARSHALL ON THE SPOTS IN THE SUN
- DR. WILSON'S NEW HYPOTHESIS
LONDON, 14 February, 1773. SIR:-A considerable time after its arrival, I received the box of seeds you sent me the beginning of last year, with your observations on spots in the sun. The seeds I distributed among some of my friends who are curious; accept my thankful acknowledgments for them. The observations I communicated to our astronomers of the Royal Society, who are much pleased with them, and hand them about from one to another; so that I have had little opportunity of examining them myself, they not being yet returned to me.
Here are various opinions about the solar spots. Some think them vast clouds of smoke and soot arising from the consuming fuel on the surface, which at length take fire again on their edges, consuming and daily diminishing till they totally disappear. Others think them spots of the surface, in which the fire has been extinguished, and which by degrees is rekindled. It is, however, remarkable that, though large spots are seen gradually to become small ones, no one has observed a small spot gradually become a large one; at least I do not remember to have met with such an observation. If this be so, it should seem they are suddenly formed of their full size; and perhaps, if there were more such constant and diligent observers as you, some
might happen to be observing at the instant such a spot was formed, when the appearances might give some ground of conjecture by what means they were formed.
The professor of astronomy at Glasgow, Dr. Wilson, has a new hypothesis. It is this: that the sun is a globe of solid matter, all combustible, perhaps, but whose surface only is actually on fire to a certain depth, and all below that depth unkindled, like a log of wood, whose surface to half an inch deep may be burning coal, while all within remains wood. Then he supposes, by some explosion similar to our earthquakes, the burning part may be blown away from a particular district, leaving bare the unkindled part below, which then appears a spot, and only lessens as the fluid burning matter by degrees flows in upon it on all sides, and at last covers or rekindles it.
He founds this opinion in certain appearances of the edges of the spots as they turn under the sun's disk, or emerge again on the other side; for, if there are such hollows in the sun's face as he supposes and the bright border round their edges be the fluid burning matter flowing down the banks into the hollow, it will follow that, while a spot is in the middle of the sun's disk, the eye, looking directly upon the whole, may discern that border all round; but when the hollow is moved round to near the edge of the disk, then, though the eye which now views it aslant can see full the farthest bank, yet that which is nearest is hidden, and not to be distinguished; and when the same spot comes to emerge again on the other side of the sun, the bank
which before was visible is now concealed, and that concealed which before was visible, gradually changing, however, till the spot reaches the middle of the disk, when the bank all round may be seen as before. Perhaps your telescope may be scarce strong enough to observe this. If it is, I wish to know whether you find the same appearances. When your observations are returned to me, and I have considered them, I shall lodge them among the papers of the Society, and let you know their sentiments. With great esteem and regard, I am,
TO WM. MARSHALL
LONDON, 14 February, 1773. REVEREND SIR:—I duly received your respected letter of October 30th, and am very sensible of the propriety and equity of the act passed to indulge your friends in their scruples, relating to the mode of taking an oath, which you plead for so ably by numerous reasons. That act, with others, has now been sometime laid before his Majesty in council. I have not yet heard of any objection to it; but if such should arise, I shall do my utmost to remove them, and obtain the royal assent.
Believe me, Reverend Sir, to have the warmest wishes for the increase of religious as well as civil liberty throughout the world; and that I am, with great regard, your most obedient humble servant,
TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN
LONDON, 14 February, 1773. MY DEAR CHILD: I wrote to you a few days since by the packet. In a box directed to Mr. Bache, I sent a striped cotton and silk gown
you, of a manufacture now much the mode here. There is another for Sally. People line them with some old silk gown, and they look very handsome. There goes also a bedstead for Sally, sent on Capt. All's telling Mrs. Stevenson that you wished it had been sent with the bed. She sends also some little things for Benny Boy.
Now, having nothing very material to add, let us trifle a little. The fine large gray squirrel you sent, who was a great favorite in the bishop's family, is dead. He had got out of his cage in the country, rambled, and was rambling over a common three miles from home, when he met a man with a dog. The dog pursuing him, he fled to the man for protection; running up to his shoulder, who shook him off, and set the dog on him, thinking him to be, as he said afterwards, some varment or other. So poor Mungo, as his mistress called him, died. To amuse you a little, and nobody out of your own house, I enclose you a little correspondence between her and me on the melancholy occasion. Skugg, you must know is a common name by which all squirrels are called here, as all cats are called Puss. Miss Georgianna is the bishop's youngest daughter but one. There are five in all. Mungo was buried in the
garden, and the enclosed epitaph put upon his monument. So much for squirrels."
My poor cousin Walker, in Buckinghamshire, is a lacemaker. She was ambitious of presenting you and Sally with some netting of her work, but as I knew she could not afford it, I chose to pay for it at her usual price, 3/6 per yard. It goes also in the box. I name the price that, if it does not suit you to wear it, you may know how to dispose of it.
I have desired Miss Haydock to repay you the £8 6s. sterling, which I have laid out for her here on account of her silk. I think it is not the color she desired. I suppose her relation, Mrs. Forster, who took the management of it, will give her the
My love to Sally and the dear boy. I am ever your affectionate husband,
TO JOSIAH DAVENPORT
LONDON, 14 February, 1773. LOVING COUSIN:- I was sorry to hear of your failing in your business. I hear you now keep a little shop, and therefore send you four dozen of Evans' maps, which, if you can sell, you are welcome to apply the money towards clothing your boys, or to any other purpose. Enoch seems a solid, sensible lad, and I hope will do well. If you will be advised (illegible], think of any place in the post
1 See this letter under date of September 26, 1772.