Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Hewson, 13 June 1782

To Mary Hewson

ALS: Yale University Library

Passy, June 13. 1782

My dear Child,

I received your pleasing Letter of the 1st of May thro’ the hands of Mr Hodgson, and one since by Mr Oswald.5 You cannot be more pleas’d in talking about your Children, your Methods of Instructing them, and the Progress they make, than I am in hearing it; and in finding, that instead of following the idle Amusements, which both your Fortune & the Custom of the Age might have led you into, your Delight and your Duty go together, by employing your Time in the Education of your Offspring. This is following Nature and Reason instead of Fashion, than which nothing is more becoming the Character of a Woman of Sense & Virtue. We have here a Female Writer on Education, who has lately publish’d three Volumes, that are much talk’d of. I will send them to you by the first Opportunity. They are much talk’d of, prais’d & much censur’d. The Author, Madame la Comtesse de Genlis, is made, in consequence of her writing that Work, Governor of the Children of the Duc de Chartres, who is Son of the Duke of Orleans.6 Perhaps you may not find much in it that can be of use to you, but you may find something. I enclose another Piece on the same Subject, written by another Comtesse, Madame de Forbach, who does me the honour of calling me her Friend, by which means I have a Copy, it not being publish’d.—7 When you have Leisure I shall like to see your Remarks.

Do not send any Books to Geneva. The Troubles of that City have driven the School and my Boy out of it, and I have thoughts of sending for him home.8 Perhaps I may put him for a while under your Care to recover his English in the same School with your Sons.

I hope with you that there may be a Peace, & that we may once more meet. Remember me kindly to Mr & Mrs Vining.9 I do not at present want a Carriage. Embrace your good Mother for me with much Affection, and believe me to be, my dear dear Friend Yours ever

B Franklin

Endorsed: B Franklin June 13. 1782

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5William Hodgson conveyed the first letter; Richard Oswald forwarded one dated May 23. Both are above.

6The comtesse, Caroline-Stéphanie-Félicité Ducrest de Saint-Aubin, later marquise de Sillery-Genlis (1746–1830), wrote didactic plays and novels. She shared some of the philosophes’ ideas but believed that religion should also play a role in education. Governess to the duke’s twin daughters since 1779, she was named governor of his sons in January, 1782, an unprecedented appointment for a woman: DBF; Gabriel de Broglie, Madame de Genlis (Paris, 1985), pp. 104–9, 117–8; Lewis, Walpole Correspondence, XXXIII, 483–4n. For the ensuing public debate see Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, XX, 27–8.

The three volumes, Adèle et Théodore, ou lettres sur l’éducation (Paris, 1782), presented Genlis’ educational plan for girls and boys in the form of an epistolary novel. For discussion of the work’s merits see Jour. de Paris, issues of March 21, 22, 27, and 30, 1782; Métra, Correspondance secrète, XII, 266, 347–9, 372–4, 407; Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, XX, 75–6, 92–4.

7Mme de Forbach had promised BF that she would devise a plan for the education of girls: XXVI, 459.

8For the political background to the disturbances in Geneva see XXXIV, 486. During the upheaval BFB resided at the country home of schoolmaster Marignac’s brother: BFB to BF, July 27, below.

9John and R. W. Viny.

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