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I am glad my little paper on the Aurora Borealis pleased. If it should occasion further inquiry, and so produce a better hypothesis, it will not be wholly useless. I am ever, with the greatest and most sincere esteem, dear sir, &c., B. FRANKLIN.
Enclosed in the foregoing Letter; being an Answer to a separate Paper received from Dr. Priestley.
I have considered the situation of that person very attentively. I think that, with a little help from the Moral Algebra,” he might form a better judgment than any other person can form for him. But, since my opinion seems to be desired, I give it for continuing to the end of the term, under all the present disagreeable circumstances. The connection will then die a natural death. No reason will be expected to be given for the separation, and, of course, no offence taken at reasons given; the friendship may still subsist, and in some other way be useful. The time diminishes daily, and is usefully employed. All human situations have their inconveniences; we feel those that we find in the present, and we neither feel nor see those that exist in another. Hence we make frequent and troublesome changes without amendment, and often for the worse.
In my youth, I was passenger in a little sloop, descending the river Delaware. There being no wind, we were obliged, when the ebb was spent, to cast anchor, and wait for the next. The heat of the sun on the vessel was excessive, the company strangers to me, and not very agreeable. Near the river-side I saw what I took to be a pleasant green meadow, in the middle of which was a large shady tree, where, it struck my fancy, I could sit and read (having a book in my pocket), and pass the time agreeably till the tide turned. I therefore prevailed with the captain to put me ashore. Being landed, I found the greatest part of my meadow was really a marsh, in crossing which, to come at my tree, I was up to my knees in mire; and I had not placed myself under its shade five minutes, before the mosquitoes in swarms found me out, attacked my legs, hands and face, and made my reading and my rest impossible; so that I returned to the beach, and called for the boat to come and take me on board again, where I was obliged to bear the heat I had strove to quit, and also the laugh of the company. Simi
* See letter to Dr. Priestley, dated September 19th, 1772, p. 452.
lar cases in the affairs of life have since frequently fallen under iny observation. I have had thoughts of a college for him in America. I know no one who might be more useful to the public in the instruction of youth. But there are possible unpleasantnesses in that situation; it cannot be obtained but by a too hazardous voyage at this time for a family; and the time for experiments would be all otherwise engaged.*
[To MISS GEORGIANA ship.I.E.Y.]
IT is long, very long, my dear friend, since I had the great pleasure of hearing from you, and receiving any of your very pleasing letters. But it is my fault. I have long omitted my part of the correspondence. Those who love to receive letters should write letters. I wish I could safely promise an amendment of that fault. But, besides the indolence attending age, and growing upon us with it, my time is engrossed by too much business, and I have too many inducements to postpone doing what I feel I ought to do for my own sake, and what I can never resolve to omit entirely.
Your translations from Horace, as far as I can judge of poetry and translations, are very good. That of the Quâ, qué scelesti ruitis 2 is so suitable to the times, that the conclusion (in your version) seems to threaten like a prophecy; and, methinks, there is at least some appearance of danger that it may be fulfilled. I am unhappily an enemy, yet I think there has been enough of blood spilt, and I wish what is left in the veins of that once-loved people may be spared by a peace solid and everlasting.
It is a great while since I have heard anything of the good bishop. Strange that so simple a character should sufficiently distinguish one of that sacred body Donnez-moi de ses nowvelles. I have been some time flattered with the expectation of seeing the countenance of that most honored and ever beloved friend, delineated by your pencil. The portrait is said to have been long on the way, but is not yet arrived; nor can I hear where it is. Indolent as I have confessed myself to be, I could not, you see, miss this good and safe opportunity of sending you a few lines, with my best wishes for your happiness, and that of the whole dear and amiable family in whose sweet society I have spent so many happy hours. Mr. Jones * tells me he shall have a pleasure in being the bearer of my letter, of which I make no doubt. I learn from him that to your drawing, and music, and painting, and poetry, and Latin, you have added a proficiency in chess; so that you are, as the French say, remplie de talens. May they and you fall to the lot of one that shall duly value them, and love you as much as I do | Adieu. B. FRANKLIN.
* The advice contained in this paper related to Dr. Priestley himself, who had engaged to live with Lord Shelburne, as his librarian, at a salary of about three hundred pounds per annum, for a certain number of years; but, before the term had expired, he became dissatisfied with his situation, and requested counsel from Dr. Franklin on the subject.
[To FRANCIS HoPKINSoN.]
DEAR SIR : I thank you for your ingenious paper in favor of the trees. I own I now wish we had two rows of them in every one of our streets. The comfortable shelter they would afford us when walking, from our burning summer suns, and the greater coolness of our walls and pavements, would, I conceive, in the improved health of the inhabitants, amply compensate the loss of a house now and then by fire, if such should be the consequence. But a tree is soon felled; and, as axes are at hand in every neighborhood, may be down before the engines arrive.
You do well to avoid being concerned in the pieces of personal abuse, so scandalously common in our newspapers, that I am afraid to lend any of them here, until I have examined and laid aside such as would disgrace us, and subject us among strangers to a reflection like that used by a gentleman in a coffeehouse to two quarrellers, who, after a mutually free use of the words rogue, villain, rascal, scoundrel, &c., seemed as if they would refer their dispute to him: “I know nothing of you, or your affairs,” said he ; “I only perceive that you know one another.”
* Afterwards the celebrated Sir William Jones.
The conductor of a newspaper should, methinks, consider himself as in some degree the guardian of his country's reputation, and refuse to insert such writings as may hurt it. If people will print their abuses of one another, let them do it in little pamphlets, and distribute them where they think proper. It is absurd to trouble all the world with them, and unjust to subscribers in distant places to stuff their papers with matters so unprofitable and so disagreeable. With sincere esteem and affection, I am, &c., B. FRANKLIN.
[To MRS. MARY HEWSON.] On the Death of Friends — Folly of War — Protracted Friendship.
PAssy, 27 January, 1783.
—THE departure of my dearest friend,” which I learn from your last letter, greatly affects me. To meet with her once more in this life was one of the principal motives of my proposing to visit England again, before my return to America. The last year carried off my friends Dr. Pringle, Dr. Fothergill, Lord Kames, and Lord le Despencer. This has begun to take away the rest, and strikes the hardest. Thus the ties I had to that country, and indeed to the world in general, are loosened one by one, and I shall soon have no attachment left to make me unwilling to follow.
I intended writing when I sent the eleven books, but I lost the time in looking for the twelfth. I wrote with that; and hope it came to hand. I therein asked your counsel about my coming to England. On reflection, I think I can, from my knowledge of your prudence, foresee what it will be, namely, not to come too soon, lest it should seem braving and insulting some who ought to be respected. I shall, therefore, omit the journey till I am near going to America, and then just step over to take leave of my friends, and spend a few days with you. I purpose bringing Ben with me, and perhaps may leave him under your care.
At length we are in peace, God be praised, and long, very long, may it continue ! All wars are follies, – very expensive and very mischievous ones. When will mankind be convinced of this, and agree to settle their differences by arbitration ? Were they to do it, even by the cast of a die, it would be better than by fighting and destroying each other.
* Mrs. Stevenson, the mother of Mrs. Hewson.
Spring is coming on, when travelling will be delightful. Can you not, when you see your children all at school, make a little party and take a trip hither? I have now a large house, delightfully situated, in which I could accommodate you and two or three friends; and I am but half an hour's drive from Paris.
In looking forward twenty-five years seem a long period, but in looking back how short Could you imagine that it is now full a quarter of a century since we were first acquainted 2 It was in 1757. During the greatest part of the time, I lived in the same house with my dear deceased friend, your mother; of course, you and I conversed with each other much and often. It is to all our honors that in all that time we never had among us the smallest misunderstanding. Our friendship has been all clear sunshine, without the least cloud in its hemisphere. Let me conclude by saying to you, what I have had too frequent occasions to say to my other remaining old friends, “The fewer we become, the more let us love one another.” Adieu, and believe me ever yours, most affectionately, B. FRANKLIN.
[To JoHN SARGENT.]
My DEAR FRIEND: I received and read the letter you was so kind as to write to me the third instant, with a great deal of pleasure, as it informed me of the welfare of a family whom I have so long esteemed and loved, and to whom I am under so many obligations, which I shall ever remember. Our correspondence has been interrupted by that abominable war. I neither expected letters from you, nor would I hazard putting you in danger by writing any to you. We can now communicate freely; and, next to the happiness of seeing and embracing you all again at Halstead, will be that of hearing frequently of your health and prosperity.
Mrs. Sargent and the good lady, her mother, are very kind in wishing me more happy years. I ought to be satisfied with those Providence has already been pleased to afford me, being now in my seventy-eighth; a long life to pass without any uncommon misfortune, the greater part of it in health and vigor of mind and body, near fifty years of it in continued possession of the confidence of my country, in public employments, and enjoying the