Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Jeremiah Meyer, [before 20 April 1771]

To [Jeremiah] Meyer1

AL (draft): Historical Society of Pennsylvania

One of the great difficulties in knowing Franklin through the written words he left behind him is that he rarely, on paper, lost his temper. He sometimes did in his marginalia, his most private comments; but in his correspondence with others he preserved a calm that was undoubtedly more Olympian than the flesh-and-blood man could maintain. This draft by a thoroughly angry Franklin, therefore, has a human value that has nothing to do with whether he sent what he had drafted, or moderated its tone to accord with his public persona.

[Before April 20, 17712]

Dr. Franklin presents his Compliments to Mr. Meyer, and prays him not to detain any longer the Picture from which he was to make a Miniature, but return it by the Bearer. Hopes Mr. Meyer will not think him impatient, as he has waited full Five Years,3 and seen many of his Acquaintance tho’ applying later, serv’d before him. Wishes Mr. Meyer not to give himself the Trouble of making any more Apologies or to feel the least Pain on Account of his disappointing Dr. Franklin who assures him, he never was disappointed by him but once, not having for several Years past since he has known the Character of his Veracity, had the smallest dependance upon it.

1An artist famous in his day. Meyer (1735–89) was born in Tübingen, came to England as a boy, and by 1764 was enamel-painter to the King and miniature-painter to the Queen; four years later he was a founding member of the Royal Academy. It should be added, in view of the contents of BF’s note, that he was widely esteemed not only as a painter but as a person. DNB.

2The day when the painting that occasioned this note was sent to WF. See the final paragraph of the following document.

3Longer than that—some eight and a half years. The picture was a portrait of WF that BF had commissioned from Benjamin Wilson (for whom see above, IV, 391 n) while his son was in London. Charles C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven and London, 1962), p. 409. When WF returned to America late in 1762, he left the portrait with Meyer to be copied in three miniatures set in bracelets. WF to William Strahan, Nov., 1762, Yale University Library; James A. Cochrane, Dr. Johnson’s Printer... (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), p. 110.

Index Entries