May I govern my passions with an absolute sway,
Grow wiser and better as my strength wears away,
Without gout or stone, by a gentle decay.
But what signifies our wishing? Things happen, after all, as they win happen. I have sung that wishing song a thousand times when I was young, and now find, at fourscore, that the three contraries have befallen me, being subject to the gout and the stone, and not being yet master of all my passions.
Franklin to George Whatley, May 23, 1785
THE GIRL THAT FRANKLIN had first met when she was eighteen was now a matron of forty-five, widowed for more than a decade after four brief but happy years of marriage. His confident assertion that she would come into "easy Circumstances"1 thanks to her wealthy aunt's death had proved premature. Polly saw not a penny of the inheritance for a long time, as litigation, claims, and counterclaims dragged on. Mrs. Stevenson's finances fared no better. Mother and daughter bad to leave the cosmopolitan atmosphere and comfort of Craven Street, then quit London altogether for the quiet village of Cheam, near Epsom, where they could live frugally, with little diversion besides Polly's three children. She suckled her youngest for a whole year and devoted herself completely to their education, often wishing that Franklin's phonetic alphabet had been adopted. Of all this he highly approved: "Your Delight and Duty go together by employing your Time in the Education of your offspring. This is following Nature and Reason instead of Fashion."2
It was also following Rousseau. Ever since his Emile, children were no longer unfashionable in Western Europe. Pedagogy was the rage and Franklin sent to Polly-though not to Sally-the latest literature on the subject, including Mme. de Genlis Adèle et Theodore, the most popular work on both sides of the Channel in the early 1780s. Using the epistolary form so dear to the age, the author had her hero and heroine retire from the artificial life of Paris to a remote corner of Lan-