The Art of Congeniality
AS IF TO prepare himself for his personal and diplomatic triumphs in France during the American Revolution, Franklin had in England ripened his capacity for intimate friendship, and practiced his way of greeting life with forbearance and tranquility if not with pleasure. He wrote in 1772, in a moment of vanity, that "nothing can be more agreeable [than my situation here] . . . a general respect paid me by the learned, a number of friends and acquaintance among them, with whom I have a pleasing intercourse; a character of so much weight, that it has protected me when some power would have done me injury . . . my company so much desired, that I seldom dine at home in winter, and could spend the whole summer in the country-houses of inviting friends, if I chose it. Learned and ingenious foreigners, that came to England, almost all make a point of visiting me; for my reputation is still higher abroad than here." Franklin's easy optimism and his calm faith in man and society, an important aspect of his habit of mind, arose in large part from his marvelous gift for friendship.
Nothing shows this better than the delight he took, when past his fiftieth birthday, in talking and writing to three charming young ladies. The first, Catharine Ray (later Greene), was twenty- four when Franklin met her in Boston in 1755 and traveled with her to Rhode Island. Her bright conversation and unaffected letters delighted him: