THE earliest but one and the latest but one of the surviving letters of Benjamin Franklin were to his sister Jane, to whom through sixty-three years he wrote more letters than he is known to have written to any other person. "You know you were ever my peculiar favourite," he told her on his twenty-first birthday, when she was not quite fifteen but was soon to be married to Edward Mecom. She remained Franklin's favorite. He was the youngest of the ten Franklin brothers, she the youngest of the seven sisters. Outliving all the others by nearly twenty-four years, the two came to love one another "proportionably more" as they stood more and more alone. No difference in their fortunes and no distance between them could alter or diminish their affection. Their final years were their most devoted and congenial, particularly after he had returned from France, and letters could go back and forth between her in Boston and him in Philadelphia full of confidences and family news and old recollections and new assurances.
Though their correspondence throws fresh light on Franklin at many points, it does more for Jane Mecom, who rises in living colors to be the heroine of the story. The misfortunes and hardships of her youth and middle years, her griefs and losses, could never break, or long bend, her resilient spirit. While she loved to live in the sun of her brother's glory, she was herself too a person, more like him than she knew. She was the only one of the many Franklins who can be compared with him.
No identified likeness of her has been preserved. When she was fifteen, and Franklin had not seen her for nearly three years, he told her he had heard she was "grown a celebrated beauty." When she was thirty-eight he wrote their mother only that he hoped his own daughter would turn out to be "an ingenious sensible, notable, and worthy Woman, like her aunt Jenny." When Jane Mecom was forty-seven her brother teased her for being one of the "fatfolks". In her letters she never