Since my Benjamin Franklinhas been more widely translated than any other of my books, I suppose that a passage from it is the natural choice for this collection. This account of the philosopher and the ladies he knew best while he lived at Passy presents him at the peak of his career and in his most charming aspect.
CARL VAN DOREN
FRANKLIN'S CLOSEST FRIENDS in France were for the most part his nearest neighbours. He was on good terms with the parish priest and the village tradesmen. He and the Chaumont family, in the Hôtel Valentinois, saw each other almost daily. Franklin teasingly called the daughter Sophie his wife, which delighted her. Passy was then famous for its mineral springs, down the slope near the river. Louis Le Veillard, who managed the drinking, bottling, and bathing at the Eaux and became in 1789 the first mayor of the town, lived there, like Franklin, all the year round, and he and his wife and daughter were Franklin's friends for life. Across the street from Franklin was the Château de Passy, which belonged to the Comte de Boulainvilliers. His daughter was another of Franklin's favorites. When she became engaged to the Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre, all Passy said that Franklin's lightning rod (paratonnerre) had not been able to protect her. William Alexander, a Scot whom Franklin had known in Edinburgh and London, now lived with his family at Saint-Germain. His daughter Marianne was married in 1779 to Franklin's grand-nephew Jonathan Williams.
Franklin, John Adams disapprovingly said, "at the age of seventyodd had neither lost his love of beauty nor his taste for it." But there is no support for the tradition which insists that the philosopher was a lively lecher in France. "You mention the kindness of