Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Georgiana Shipley, 3 February 1780

From Georgiana Shipley

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Bolton Street Febry 3d. 1780

How shall I sufficiently express my raptures on recieving your dear delightfull letter & most valuable present.4 The pleasure I felt was encreased if possible at the sight of the beloved little lock of Hair, I kissed both that & the picture a 1000 times: the miniature is admirably painted, the Artist (whose name I wish to learn) appears inferior to none we have in England:5 as for the resemblance, it is my very own dear Doctor Franklin himself, I can almost fancy you are present, nay I even think I see you smile at the excess of my happiness, while I am writing it lies on the table before me, it will ever be my constant & favorite companion, & not only make me happier but better as long as I live, “fingar et ad mores, te recolendo, tuos.”6

The whole family are as much delighted with the picture as myself, my father says, he perfectly recollects the serious yet cheerfull countenance & the superior mind, that used to convince & charm him, he often considers his banishment from your society & correspondence as the loss of the most solid pleasure of his life, & sometimes cannot help flattering himself that we may still outlive the unfortunate circumstances, that part us.

We spent all the last summer in Hampshire, the greatest part of it at Twyford, a place endeared to me by the recollection of former happy times, I believe it is a peculiar blessing that we are not permitted to look far forward into futurity, since how greatly would the pleasure we once indulged in your society have been imbittered, could we have forseen this long & melancholy separation. As I had much leisure in the Country, I employed it in teaching myself Latin; I send you two odes translated from Horace, that you may judge of the progress I have made, & I do this the more willingly as I know your affection for your pupil will incline you to be a partial Critic.

I have lately been reading in Peck’s desiderata curiosa the account of Lord Burghley,7 & imagined I discover’d in every page many traits of my dear Dr Franklin, indeed there is a strong resemblance between the characters of great & good Men in all ages.

The love & respect I feel for my much-valued friend are sentiments so habitual to my heart that no time nor circumstance can lessen the affection, with which I subscribe myself Your ever gratefull & ever obliged

Georgiana Shipley

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4BF had sent her the gifts she had said would make her the “happiest of beings”: a miniature copied from the Duplessis portrait, set into on the lid of a snuff box, and a lock of his hair. The painting was completed by Sept. 4, 1779, when BF paid the artist 8 louis. He sent the box to England care of William Caslon, who both delivered it and took charge of sending back the present letter. XXIX, 408, 481–2; Cash Book; Caslon to WTF, March 10, 1780 (APS). The snuffbox is featured as the frontispiece to this volume.

5The artist, François Dumont (1751–1831), was in the early stages of a brilliant career as a miniaturist. He had already had several commissions for portraits of nobles, and in 1780 was named miniaturiste to Marie-Antoinette. He was inducted into the Royal Academy of Painting in 1788, sponsored by Duplessis, and during his long career won many prizes. DBF; E. Bénézit, ed., Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs … (10 vols., Paris, 1976); Sellers, Franklin in Portraiture, pp. 267–9.

6“I shall be shaped in my character by reflecting on yours.”

7In 1779, Francis Peck’s two-volume Desiderata curiosa: or, A collection of divers scarce and curious pieces relating chiefly to matters of English history … (London, 1732) was reprinted by Thomas Evans. The first book of vol. 1 was a biography of Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, lord high treasurer of England under Queen Elizabeth I.

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