Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII Franklin and the Countess d'Houdetot

I

APURELY platonic, though fervent, admirer of Franklin was Sophie Lalive, Countess d'Houdetot, once the beloved of Jean Jacques Rousseau, and the friend and patron of St. John de Crèvecoeur, the French immigrant to the United States who became the author of Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer. From the first she seems to have been an ardent sympathizer with the American cause, and when at the age of about fifty she met Franklin, she at once joined the circle of those ladies who wrote tender letters to the sage during his entire stay in France; and afterwards, too. She had a passion for planting trees as souvenirs at her home at Sanois, in the valley of Montmorency. She called them her "memorials." She once asked Thomas Jefferson to procure her more than twenty different trees from the United States, which she wanted for her garden. Her letters to Franklin were always expressed in worshipful terms, closing with such expressions as "A thousand tender sentiments to Monsieur Franklin." The following is a specimen:

"You have promised, my dear and venerable doctor, a little visit at Sanois. This is the moment to remind you of it; our path and my garden are in all their beauty and our flowers call you. If it is convenient to come Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, or some other day, remember that you have promised me to be entirely my guest and to dwell

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