Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Madame Brillon, [1 September 1777?]

From Madame Brillon

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Ce lundi 3 [i.e., September 1, 1777?8]

Madame Brillon fait dire a son aimable papa que le jour est pris pour allér au sallon et déjeunér chés monsieur Vérnet jeudi; mércredi on prendra l’heure et les arrangemens. Madame Brillon prie le bon papa de venir a 6 heures précises prendre le thé mércredi parceque monsieur Wattellét et madame le comte viénnent ce jour la disnér avéc elle.9 Si le papa n’avoit un engagement sacré pour les mércredis madame Brillon l’eut bien préssé de venir se joindre a ses autres amis.

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur Franklin / A Passy

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The salon to which she was inviting BF was the exhibition of the Académie royale in the Louvre, opening on Aug. 25 in odd-numbered years. She dates her note Monday the 3rd, and we have tried long and hard and without success to find such a Monday that would fit. The calendar offers only two possibilities: September, 1781, and November, 1777. The first is out of the question, because by then she would not have written so formally. The second is highly unlikely for a different reason: the Salon in 1777 was due to last only a month (Jour. de Paris, Aug. 25, 1777, p. 3), and extending it for another five weeks and more would have been a startling departure from custom. We are therefore forced to conclude that the date is erroneous, and that she meant to write either “lundi le 1” or “mercredi le 3.”

9Claude-Joseph Vernet had been showing his seascapes in the exhibition for more than thirty years, but his entries in 1777 were the great sensation of the Salon: Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, X, 234–5; XI, 29; J. J. Guiffrey, Table générale des artistes ayant exposé aux Salons du XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1873). For Watelet see Mme. Brillon’s note above, June 16; Mme. Lecomte was his mistress. In another note, dated merely Sunday evening, Mme. Brillon told BF that she was expecting him at 7:30 the next morning to see the paintings, lunch with Vernet, and then return for a family dinner: APS.

BF had more than Vernet’s paintings to interest him at the Salon. His own bust by Caffiéri was on exhibit. So was the monument to Montgomery that he had ordered from the sculptor. The General’s name did not appear on it, and the omission set tongues wagging. “L’on s’indigne d’une réticence injurieuse, caractérisant la foiblesse du gouvernment, qui, sans doute, l’a défendu pour ne pas déplaire aux Anglois.” Bachaumont, op. cit., XI, 45.

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