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belongs to us; to think one's own religion, king and wife, the best of all possible wives, kings, or religions. I remember three Greenlanders, who had travelled two years in Europe, under the care of some Moravian missionaries, and had visited Germany, Denmark, Holland, and England; when I asked them at Philadelphia (where they were in their way home) whether, now they had seen how much more commodiously the white people lived by the help of the arts, they would not choose to remain among us, their answer was, that they were pleased with having had an opportunity of seeing so many fine things, but they chose to LIVE in their own country. Which country, by the way, consisted of rock only; for the Moravians were obliged to carry earth in their ship from New York for the purpose of making a cabbage-garden : * * * * We shall always be ready to take your children, if you send them to us. I only wonder that, since London draws to itself and consumes such numbers of your country people, the country should not, to supply their places, want and willingly receive the children you have to dispose of That circumstance, together with the multitude who voluntarily part with their freedom as men to serve for a time as lackeys, or for life as soldiers, in consideration of small wages, seems to me proof that your island is over-peopled. And yet it is afraid of emigrations ! B. FRANKLIN.
[To MRS. MARY HEWSON, LONDON.]
Recovery of an Old Letter— Life in Philadelphia—Cards— Consolation for Idleness — Public Amusements — Family Matters. - PHILADELPHIA, May 6, 1786.
MY DEAR FRIEND: A long winter has passed, and I have not had the pleasure of a line from you, acquainting me with your and your children's welfare, since I left England. I suppose you have been in Yorkshire, out of the way and knowledge of opportunities; for I will not think you have forgotten Ille. To make me some amends, I received, a few days past, a large packet from Mr. Williams, dated September 1776, near ten years since, containing three letters from you, one of December 12, 1775. This packet had been received by Mr. Bache after my departure for France, lay dormant among his papers during all my absence, and has just now broke out upon me like words that had been, as somebody says, congealed in northern air. Therein I find all the pleasing little family history of your children. How William had begun to spell, overcoming by strength of memory all the difficulty occasioned by the common wretched alphabet, while you were convinced of the utility of our new one; how Tom, genius-like, struck out new paths, and, relinquishing the old names of the letters, called U bell and P bottle ; how Eliza began to grow jolly,–that is, fat and handsome, resembling Aunt Rooke, whom I used to call my lovely; together with all the then news of Lady Blunt's having produced at length a boy; of Dolly's being well, and of poor good Catherine's decease; of your affairs with Muir and Atkinson, and of their contract for feeding the fish in the channel; of the Vinys, and their jaunt to Cambridge in the long carriages; of Dolly's journey to Wales with Mr. Scot; of the Wilkes's, the Pearces, Elphinston, &c. &c.; concluding with a kind of promise that as soon as the Ministry and Congress agreed to make peace I should have you with me in America. That peace has been some time made, but, alas! the promise is not yet fulfilled. And why is it not fulfilled 2* I have found my family here in health, good circumstances, and well respected by their fellow-citizens. The companions of my youth are, indeed, almost all departed, but I find an agreeable society among their children and grandchildren. I have public business enough to preserve me from ennui, and private amusement besides, in conversation, books, my garden, and cribbage. Considering our well-furnished, plentiful market as the best of gardens, I am turning mine, in the midst of which my house stands, into grass-plats, and gravel-walks, with trees and flowering shrubs. Cards we sometimes play here in long winter evenings, but it is as they play at chess, not for money, but for honor, or the pleasure of beating one another. This will not be quite a novelty to you, as you may remember we played together in that manner during the winter you helped me to pass so agreeably at Passy. I have, indeed, now and then a little compunction in reflecting that I spend time so idly; but another reflection comes to relieve me [whispering], “You know the soul is immortal; why, then, should you be such a niggard of a little time, when you have a whole eternity before you?” So, being easily convinced, and, like other reasonable creatures, satisfied with a small reason when it is in favor of doing what I have a mind to do, I shuffle the cards again, and begin another game. As to public amusements, we have neither plays nor operas, but we had yesterday a kind of oratorio. as you will see by the enclosed paper; and we have assemblies, balls and concerts, besides little parties at one another's houses, in which there is sometimes dancing, and frequently good music; so that we jog on in life as pleasantly as you do in England, anywhere but in London; for there you have plays performed by good actors. That, however, is, I think, the only advantage London has over Philadelphia. Temple has turned his thoughts to agriculture, which he pursues ardently, being in possession of a fine farm that his father lately conveyed to him. Ben is finishing his studies at college, and continues to behave as well as when you knew him, so that I still think he will make you a good son. His younger brothers and sisters are also all promising, appearing to have good tempers and dispositions, as well as good constitutions. As to myself, I think my general health and spirits rather better than when you saw me, and the particular malady I then complained of continues tolerable. With sincere and very great esteem, I am ever, my dear friend, yours, most affectionately, B. FRANKLIN.
* Mrs. Hewson (once Miss Mary Stevenson, and daughter of Franklin’s London landlady) removed, in 1786, with her family, to Philadelphia, where one of her sons became a successful physician.
P. S. My children and grandchildren join with me in best wishes for you and yours. My love to my godson, to Eliza, and to honest Tom. They will all find agreeable companions here. Love to Dolly, and tell her she will do well to come with you.
[To MRS. JANE MECOM..] Phonography Anticipated. PHILADELPHIA, 4 July, 1786. You need not be concerned, in writing to me, about your bad spelling; for, in my opinion, as our alphabet now stands, the bad spelling, or what is called so, is generally the best, as conforming to the sound of the letters and of the words. To give you an instance. A gentleman received a letter, in which were these words: “Not finding Brown at hom, I delivered your meseg to his yf.” The gentleman, finding it bad spelling, and therefore not very intelligible, called his lady to help him read it. Between them they picked out the meaning of all but the yf, which they could not understand. The lady proposed calling her chambermaid, “Because Betty,” says she, “has the best knack at reading bad spelling of any one I know.” Betty came, and was surprised that neither Sir nor Madam could tell what yf was. “Why,” says she, “y f spells wife; what else can it spell ?” And, indeed, it is a much better as well as shorter method of spelling wife than doubleyou, i, ef, e, which in reality spell doubleyifey. There is much rejoicing in town to-day, it being the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which we signed this day ten years, and thereby hazarded lives and fortunes. God was pleased to put a favorable end to the contest much sooner than we had reason to expect. His name be praised. Adieu. B. FRANKLIN.
[To Miss ***.]
As a great part of our life is spent in sleep, during which we have sometimes pleasant and sometimes painful dreams, it becomes of some consequence to obtain the one kind and avoid the other; for, whether real or imaginary, pain is pain, and pleasure is pleasure. If we can sleep without dreaming, it is well that painful dreams are avoided. If, while we sleep, we can have any pleasing dream, it is, as the French say, autant de gagné, so much added to the pleasure of life.
To this end, it is, in the first place, necessary to be careful in preserving health, by due exercise and great temperance; for, in sickness, the imagination is disturbed, and disagreeable, sometimes terrible ideas are apt to present themselves. Exercise should precede meals, not immediately follow them; the first promotes, the latter, unless moderate, obstructs digestion. If, after exercise, we feed sparingly, the digestion will be easy and good, the body lightsome, the temper cheerful, and all the animal functions performed agreeably. Sleep, when it follows, will be natural and undisturbed; while indolence, with full feeding, occasions nightmares and horrors inexpressible; we fall from precipices, are assaulted by wild beasts, murderers and demons, and experience every variety of distress. Observe, however, that the quantities of food and exercise are relative things; those who move much may, and indeed ought to eat more; those who use little exercise should eat little. In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eat about twice as much as nature requires. Suppers are not bad, if we have not dined; but restless nights naturally follow hearty suppers, after full dinners. Indeed, as there is a difference in constitutions, some rest well after these meals; it costs them only a frightful dream and an apoplexy, after which they sleep till doomsday. Nothing is more common in the newspapers than instances of people who, after eating a hearty supper, are found dead abed in the mornlng.
Another means of preserving health, to be attended to, is the having a constant supply of fresh air in your bed-chamber. It has been a great mistake, the sleeping in rooms exactly closed, and in beds surrounded by curtains. No outward air that may come in to you is so unwholesome as the unchanged air, often breathed, of a close chamber. As boiling water does not grow hotter by longer boiling, if the particles that receive greater heat can escape, so living bodies do not putrefy, if the particles, so fast as they become putrid, can be thrown off. Nature expels them by the pores of the skin and the lungs, and in a free, open air they are carried off; but in a close room we receive them again and again, though they become more and more corrupt. A number of persons crowded into a small room thus spoil the air in a few minutes, and even render it mortal, as in the Black Hole at Calcutta. A single person is said to spoil only a gallon of air per minute, and therefore requires a longer time to spoil a chamber-full; but it is done, however, in proportion, and man putrid disorders hence have their origin. It is recorded of Methusalem, who, being the longest liver, may be supposed to have best preserved his health, that he slept always in the open air ; for, when he had lived five hundred years, an angel said to him, “Arise, Methusalem, and build thee an house, for thou shalt live yet five hundred years longer.” But Methusalem answered, and said, “If I am to live but five hundred years longer, it is not worth while to build me an house; I will sleep in the air, as I have been used to do.” Physicians, after having for ages contended that the sick should not be indulged with fresh air, have at length discovered that it may do them good. It is therefore to be hoped, that they may in time discover, likewise, that it is not hurtful to those who are in health, and that we may be then cured of the aërophobia, that at present distresses weak minds, and makes them choose to be stifled and poisoned, rather than leave open the window of a bed-chamber, or put down the glass of a coach.