Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Anne-Catherine de Ligniville Helvétius, [September 1783?]

From Anne-Catherine de Ligniville Helvétius

L: American Philosophical Society

mercredy matin [September, 1783?]4

Si Messieurs franklin ne sont pas Engagés pour aujourdhuy, madame Helvétius Les prie de venir dîner Chez elle en famille. Comme hier elle voulait être seule, elle avait fait défendre sa porte; et Lorsqu’ils s’y présenterent, elle Etait renfermée dans sa petite maison de bains: ils doivent juger que La défense n’etant pas pour eux, Elle à été bien fâchée de ce Contretems.

Addressed: a Monsieur / Monsieur franklin / a Passy

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4This is one of several undated letters from Mme Helvétius that I. Minis Hays catalogued for the APS as [1782]. When the present editors examined the manuscript in preparation for vol. 38, we saw that the sealing wax was black, indicating that the note was written during a period of mourning. Mme Helvétius observed three such periods during BF’S stay in Paris, none of which were in 1782.

The first possible date for this letter is c. August, 1779, when one of Mme Helvétius’ brothers-in-law died: XXX, 192n. An argument for 1779 is that the letter is in the hand of Cabanis, who wrote most of her letters during the initial period of her friendship with BF; see XXX, 278–9, 373. Because we did not publish the letter at the earliest possible time, we now place it during the second mourning period, after the death of her other brother-in-law on Aug. 11, 1783. Mourning for siblings customarily lasted two months (Jour. de Paris for Dec. 31, 1783, p. 1508). BF’S ailments would have prevented him from traveling in mid-August, but by Sept. 12 he accepted a dinner invitation in Chaillot (XL, 615–16); hence, our tentative attribution of September. The third mourning period was in March, 1784, when her sister died: David Smith et al., eds., Correspondance générale d’Helvétius (5 vols., Toronto, Buffalo, and Oxford, 1981–2004), IV, 48n, 49n.

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