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accuracy of my statement. You know Mr. Brillon's gardens, and what fine walks they contain; you know the handsome flight of an hundred steps, which lead from the terrace above to the lawn below. You have been in the practice of visiting this amiable family twice a week, after dinner, and it is a maxim of your own that “a man may take as much exercise in walking a mile, up and down stairs, as in ten on level ground.” What an opportunity was here for you to have had exercise in both these ways Did you embrace it, and how often ? Franklin. I cannot immediately answer that question. Gout. I will do it for you; not once. Franklin. Not once 2 Gout. Even so. During the summer you went there at six o'clock. You found the charming lady, with her lovely children and friends, eager to walk with you and entertain you with their agreeable conversation ; and what has been your choice 3 Why, to sit on the terrace, satisfying yourself with the fine prospect, and passing your eye over the beauties of the garden below, without taking one step to descend and walk about in them. On the contrary, you call for tea and the chess-board; and lo! you are occupied in your seat till nine o'clock, and that besides two hours' play after dinner; and then, instead of walking home, which would have bestirred you a little, you step into your carriage. How absurd to suppose that all this carelessness can be reconcilable with health, without my interposition' Franklin. I am convinced now of the justness of poor Richard's remark, that “Our debts and our sins are always greater than we think for.” Gout. So it is. You philosophers are sages in your maxims, and fools in your conduct. Franklin. But do you charge, among my crimes, that I return in a carriage from Mr. Brillon's 2 Gout. Certainly; for, having been seated all the while, you cannot object the fatigue of the day, and cannot want, therefore, the relief of a carriage. Franklin. What, then, would you have me do with my carriage 2 Gout. Burn it, if you choose; you would at least get heat out of it once in this way. Or, if you dislike that proposal, here’s another for you: observe the poor peasants, who work in the vineyards and grounds about the vilages of Passy, Auteuil, Chaillot, &c.; you may find every day, among these deserving creatures, four or five old men and women, bent and perhaps crippled by weight of years, and too long and too great labor. After a most fatiguing day, these people have to trudge a mile or two to their smoky huts. Order your coachman to set them down. This is an act that will be good for your soul; and, at the same time, after your visit to the Brillons, if you return on foot, that will be good for your body. Franklin. Ah! how tiresome you are Gout. Well, then, to my office; it should not be forgotten that I am your physician. There ! Franklin. O-o-o-o! what a devil of a physician Gout. How ungrateful you are to say so Is it not I who, in the character of your physician, have saved you from the palsy, dropsy, and apoplexy 2 one or other of which would have done for you long ago, but for me. Franklin. I submit, and thank you for the past, but entreat the discontinuance of your visits for the future; for, in my mind, one had better die than be cured so dolefully. Permit me just to hint that I have also not been unfriendly to you. I never feed physician or quack of any kind, to enter the list against you; if, then, you do not leave me to my repose, it may be said you are ungrateful too. Gout. I can scarcely acknowledge that as any objection. As to quacks, I despise them; they may kill you, indeed, but cannot injure me. And, as to regular physicians, they are at last convinced that the gout, in such a subject as you are, is no disease, but a remedy; and wherefore cure a remedy?—but to our business, - there ! - Franklin. O ! O! — for Heaven's sake leave me; and I promise faithfully never more to play at chess, but to take exercise daily, and live temperately. Gout. I know you too well. You promise fair; but, after a few months of good health, you will return to your old habits; your fine promises will be forgotten, like the forms of the last year's clouds. Let us, then, finish the account, and I will go. But I leave you with an assurance of visiting you again at a proper time and place; for my object is your good, and you are sensible now that I am your real friend.
[TO MADAME BRILLON.]
PAssy, 10 November, 1779. I RECEIVED my dear friend's two letters, one for Wednesday and one for Saturday. This is again Wednesday. I do not deserve one for to-day, because I have not answered the former. But, indolent as I am, and averse to writing, the fear of having no more of your pleasing epistles, if I do not contribute to the correspondence, obliges me to take up my pen; and, as Mr. B. has kindly sent me word that he sets out to-morrow to see you, instead of spending this Wednesday evening, as I have done its namesakes, in your delightful company, I sit down to spend it in thinking of you, in writing to you, and in reading over and over again your letters. I am charmed with your description of Paradise, and with your plan of living there; and I approve much of your conclusion, that, in the mean time, we should draw all the good we can from this world. In my opinion, we might all draw more good from it than we do, and suffer less evil, if we would take care not to give too much for whistles. For to me it seems that most of the unhappy people we meet with are become so by neglect of that caution. You ask what I mean? You love stories, and will excuse my telling one of myself. When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and, being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation, and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure. This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Don't give too much for the whistle ; and I saved my money. As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle. When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself. This man gives too much for his whistle. When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, He pays, indeed, said I, too much for his whistle. If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, Poor man, said I, you pay too much for your whistle. When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, Mistaken man, said I, you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure ; you give too much for your whistle. If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, Alas ! Say I, he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle. When I see a beautiful, sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, What a pity, say I, that she should pay so much for a whistle ! In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles. Yet I ought to have charity for these unhappy people, when I consider that, with all this wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain things in the world so tempting, — for example, the apples of King John, which happily are not to be bought; for, if they were put to sale by auction, I might very easily be led to ruin myself in the purchase, and find that I had once more given too much for the whistle. Adieu, my dear friend, and believe me ever yours, very sincerely and with unalterable affection, B. FRANKLIN.
QUESTIONS FOR THE JUNTO."
HAVE you read over these queries this morning, in order to consider what you might have to offer the Junto touching any one of them 2 namely:
1. Have you met with anything, in the author you last read, remarkable, or suitable to be communicated to the Junto ? Particularly in history, morality, poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge 2
2. What new story have you lately heard, agreeable for telling in conversation ?
3. Hath any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause ?
* For some account of this club, see chapter Iv. of the Autobiography. The graver pursuits of the Junto were sometimes varied with music and song. The following song was composed for one of their meetings by Franklin. In one of his letters he applies it to his wife :
MY PLAIN COUNTRY JOAN.
Of their Chloes and Phyllises poets may prate,
These twelve years my wife, still the joy of my life, –
Not a word of her face, of her shape, or her air,
I beauty admire, but virtue I prize,
Am I loaded with care, she takes off a large share,
Does good fortune arrive, the joy of my wife
She defends my good name, even whem I’m to blame,
Her compassionate breast feels for all the distressed,
In health a companion delightful and dear,
In sickness no less than the carefulest nurse,
In peace and good order my household she guides,
Yet cheerfully spends, and smiles on the friends
Some faults have we all, and so has my Joan,
And, now I’m grown used to them, so like my own,