|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|By Benjamin Franklin (17061790)|
Letter to Madame Helvétius
|MORTIFIED at the barbarous resolution pronounced by you so positively yesterday evening,that you would remain single the rest of your life, as a compliment due to the memory of your husband,I retired to my chamber. Throwing myself upon my bed, I dreamt that I was dead, and was transported to the Elysian Fields.|| 1|
| I was asked whether I wished to see any persons in particular; to which I replied that I wished to see the philosophers.There are two who live here at hand in this garden; they are good neighbors, and very friendly towards one another.Who are they?Socrates and Helvétius.I esteem them both highly; but let me see Helvétius first, because I understand a little French, but not a word of Greek. I was conducted to him: he received me with much courtesy, having known me, he said, by character, some time past. He asked me a thousand questions relative to the war, the present state of religion, of liberty, of the government in France. You do not inquire, then, said I, after your dear friend, Madame Helvétius; yet she loves you exceedingly: I was in her company not more than an hour ago. Ah, said he, you make me recur to my past happiness, which ought to be forgotten in order to be happy here. For many years I could think of nothing but her, though at length I am consoled. I have taken another wife, the most like her that I could find; she is not indeed altogether so handsome, but she has a great fund of wit and good sense; and her whole study is to please me. She is at this moment gone to fetch the best nectar and ambrosia to regale me; stay here awhile and you will see her. I perceive, said I, that your former friend is more faithful to you than you are to her; she has had several good offers, but refused them all. I will confess to you that I loved her extremely; but she was cruel to me, and rejected me peremptorily for your sake. I pity you sincerely, said he, for she is an excellent woman, handsome and amiable. But do not the Abbé de la Roche and the Abbé Morellet visit her?Certainly they do; not one of your friends has dropped her acquaintance.If you had gained the Abbé Morellet with a bribe of good coffee and cream, perhaps you would have succeeded: for he is as deep a reasoner as Duns Scotus or St. Thomas: he arranges and methodizes his arguments in such a manner that they are almost irresistible. Or if by a fine edition of some old classic you had gained the Abbé de la Roche to speak against you, that would have been still better; as I always observed that when he recommended anything to her, she had a great inclination to do directly the contrary. As he finished these words the new Madame Helvétius entered with the nectar, and I recognized her immediately as my former American friend Mrs. Franklin! I reclaimed her, but she answered me coldly:I was a good wife to you for forty-nine years and four months,nearly half a century; let that content you. I have formed a new connection here, which will last to eternity.|| 2|
| Indignant at this refusal of my Eurydice, I immediately resolved to quit those ungrateful shades, and return to this good world again, to behold the sun and you! Here I am: let us avenge ourselves!|| 3|