Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXX Franklin and Madame Brillon

I

IN the course of the twenty-five years and more which Franklin spent abroad in the service of his country, he met many able and eminent personages. Most of them were glad to become his friends. Those who ran counter to him, or who in any way engaged in a contest with him, lived to regret it; for though he disliked strife, his mental agility, adroitness, and subtlety, added to his wide reading and observation of human nature, made him, when aroused, a sinuous and doughty opponent.

It remained for a woman of France to reveal herself as fully his equal, and at times his superior, in those very qualities in which he most excelled. She was a match for him in wit, in fantasy, in verbal fencing, and gay and sophisticated dialectics, while in subtle feeling, intuition, culture, and mastery of language, she surpassed him. During his ardent flirtations with her, though he brought to bear every atom of his skill and persistence, he never quite prevailed.

This was Madame d'Hardancourt Brillon, wife of Franklin's neighbor, a French official named Jouy de Brillon; and hostess to Franklin twice and sometimes three times weekly at her leafy home, Moulin Joli ( Pretty Mill). She was the chiefest of the women who called him "dear papa"; she once wrote him, "My heart loved you from the first moment of our acquaintance"; and she sometimes almost knelt before him in a kind of humble adoration.

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