5
MAKING FRIENDS OVERSEAS
1757–1774

As Pennsylvania’s agent in London, Franklin had to wait three
years for the courts to make proprietor Thomas Penn pay his fair
share for provincial defense. Franklin used that time and two
more years enjoying club life, honors, and new friends among
leaders of the liberal religious, intellectual, cultural, and political
communities, enlarging the circle with visits to France, Germany,
Ireland, and Scotland. The universities of Saint Andrews and
Oxford granted him honorary doctorates. He attended the corona-
tion of George III. Conviviality, congeniality, and ceremony left
little time for composing anything other than official or technical
reports. Accustomed to using humor for attack or defense in
business and politics, he found it also useful in relieving pressures
of public service by writing “familiar letters.”

James Howell’s Epistolae Ho-Elianae (1645–1655) had popular-
ized composing familiar letters as written conversation—“We
should write as we speak,” said Howell.1 The pen, he said, should
impersonate the mind in motion as it processes news, jokes,
anecdotes, and impromptu aphorisms, such as “One foot cannot
be up till the other be down.” The allusions that bubble up in the
process and the language too should be adjusted to the readers
whose assumptions and attitudes the writer shares and also to the
role assumed by the writer. Franklin had already developed this

-85-

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Benjamin Franklin's Humor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction - A Life in Laughter 1
  • 1- Silence Dogood 1722–1723 11
  • 2- Paragraphs in Philadelphia 1729–1735 27
  • 3- Philadelphia’s Poor Richard 1733–1748 47
  • 4- Philadelphia Comic Relief 1748–1757 65
  • 5- Making Friends Overseas 1757–1774 85
  • 6- Losing London 1773–1776 103
  • 7- Seducing Paris 1776–1782 119
  • 8- Comic Release 1783–1785 137
  • 9- Revising Past and Future 1786–1790 153
  • Notes 169
  • Sources 175
  • Index 181
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