Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

your remembrance, and never doubt the sincerity of the interest I take in your happiness. It is founded on the sentiments of attachment, of which I have assured you, and with which I have the honor to be, &c.

DE VERGENNES.

TO GEORGE WHATLEY.

Moral and Philosophical Reflections. — Foundling Hos

pital at Paris. Cincinnati. American Confederation. Anecdote of three Greenlanders. Double Spectacles.

Passy, 23 May, 1785. DEAR OLD FRIEND, I sent you a few lines the other day, with my medallion, when I should have written more, but was prevented by the coming in of a bavard, who worried me till evening. I bore with him, and now you are to bear with me; for I shall probably bavarder in answering your letter.

I am not acquainted with the saying of Alphonsus, which you allude to as a sanctification of your rigidity, in refusing to allow me the plea of old age, as an excuse for my want of exactness in correspondence. What was that saying? You do not, it seems, feel any occasion for such an excuse, though you are, as you say, rising seventy-five. But I am rising (perhaps more properly falling) eighty, and I leave the excuse with you till you arrive at that age; perhaps you may then be more sensible of its validity, and see fit to use it for yourself.

I must agree with you, that the gout is bad, and that the stone is worse. I am happy in not having them both together, and I join in your prayer, that

Olse

you may live till you die without either. But I doubt the author of the epitaph you send me was a little mistaken, when he, speaking of the world, says, that

“he ne'er cared a pin What they said or may say of the mortal within." It is so natural to wish to be well spoken of, whether alive or dead, that I imagine he could not be quite exempt from that desire; and that at least he wished to be thought a wit, or he would not have given himself the trouble of writing so good an epitaph to leave behind him. Was it not as worthy of his care, that the world should say he was an honest and a good man? I like better the concluding sentiment in the old song, called The Old Man's Wish, wherein, after wishing for a warm house in a country town, an easy horse, some good authors, ingenious and cheerful companions, a pudding on Sundays, with stout ale, and a bottle of Burgundy, &c. &c., in separate stanzas, each ending with this burthen,

"May I govern my passions with absolute sway,

Grow wiser and better as my strength wears away,
Without gout or stone, by a gentle decay;"

he adds,

“With a courage undaunted may I face my last day,

And, when I am gone, may the better sort say,
In the morning when sober, in the evening when mellow,
He 's gone, and has not left behind him his fellow;

For he governed his passions, &c.'»

But what signifies our wishing ? Things happen, after all, as they will happen. I have sung that wishing song a thousand times, when I was young, and now find, at fourscore, that the three contraries have befallen me, being subject to the gout and the stone, and not being yet master of all my passions. Like the proud girl in my country, who wished and re

[ocr errors]

eason

solved not to marry a parson, nor a Presbyterian, nor an Irishman; and at length found herself married to an Irish Presbyterian parson.

You see I have some reason to wish, that, in a future state, I may not only be as well as I was, but a little better. And I hope it; for I, too, with your poet, trust in God. And when I observe, that there is great frugality, as well as wisdom, in his works, since he has been evidently sparing both of labor and materials; for by the various wonderful inventions of propagation, he has provided for the continual peopling his world with plants and animals, without being at the trouble of repeated new creations; and by the natural reduction of compound substances to their original elements, capable of being employed in new compositions, he has prevented the necessity of creating new matter; so that the earth, water, air, and perhaps fire, which being compounded form wood, do, when the wood is dissolved, return, and again become air, earth, fire, and water; I say, that, when I see nothing annihilated, and not even a drop of water wasted, I cannot suspect the annihilation of souls, or believe, that he will suffer the daily waste of millions of minds ready made that now exist, and put himself to the continual trouble of making new ones. Thus finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall, in some shape or other, always exist; and, with all the inconveniences human life is liable to, I shall not object to a new edition of mine; hoping, however, that the errata of the last may be corrected.

I return your note of children received in the Foundling Hospital at Paris, from 1741 to 1755, inclusive; and I have added the years succeeding, down to 1770. Those since that period I have not been able to obtain. I have noted in the margin the gradual increase, viz. from every tenth child so thrown upon the public, till it comes to every third ! Fifteen years have passed since the last account, and probably it may now amount to one half. Is it right to encourage this monstrous deficiency of natural affection ? A surgeon I met with here excused the women of Paris, by saying, seriously, that they could not give suck; “Car,” said he, “ elles n'ont point de tetons." He assured me it was a fact, and bade me look at them, and observe how flat they were on the breast; "they have nothing more there,” said he, “than I have upon the back of my hand.” I have since thought that there might be some truth in his observation, and that, possibly, nature, finding they made no use of bubbies, has left off giving them any. Yet, since Rousseau pleaded, with admirable eloquence, for the rights of children to their mother's milk, the mode has changed a little ; and some ladies of quality now suckle their infants and find milk enough. May the mode descend to the lower ranks, till it becomes no longer the custom to pack their infants away, as soon as born, to the Enfans Trouvés, with the careless observation, that the King is better able to maintain them.

I am credibly informed, that nine-tenths of them die there pretty soon, which is said to be a great relief to the institution, whose funds would not otherwise be sufficient to bring up the remainder. Except the few persons of quality above mentioned, and the multitude who send to the Hospital, the practice is to hire nurses in the country to carry out the children, and take care of them there. Here is an office for examining the health of nurses, and giving them licenses. They come to town on certain days of the week in companies to receive the children, and we often meet trains of them on the road returning to the neigh

what indeed I knew long since, C'est une bien digne femme, cette Madame Hewson, une très aimable femme. I would not tell you this if I thought it would make you vain; but that is impossible; you have too much good sense.

So wish me a good voyage, and, when you pray at church for all that travel by land or sea, think of your ever affectionate friend,

B. FRANKLIN.

P. S. My love to William, and Thomas, and Eliza, and tell them I miss their cheerful prattle. Temple being sick, and Benjamin at Paris, I have found it very triste breakfasting alone, and sitting alone, and without any tea in the evening.

FROM M. DE RAYNEVAL TO B. FRANKLIN.

Translation.

Versailles, 8 May, 1785.

SIR,

I have learned with the greatest concern, that you are soon to leave us. You will carry with you the affections of all France, for nobody has been more esteemed than you. I shall call on you at Passy, to desire you to retain for me a share in your remembrance, and renew to you personally the assurances of the most perfect attachment, with which I have the honor to be, Sir, &c.

DE RAYNEVAL.

« ZurückWeiter »