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Ben Franklin

Life of Benjamin Franklin by Jared Sparks


Extracts from a Private Journal.

Having stayed in France about eight years and a half, I took leave of the court and my friends, and set out on my return home, July 12th, 1785, leaving, Passy with my two grandsons, at four P. M.; arrived about eight o'clock at St. Germain. M. de Chaumont, with his daughter Sophia, accompanied us to Nanterre. M. Le Veillard will continue with us to Havre. We met at St. Germain the Miss Alexanders, with Mrs. Williams our cousin, who had provided a lodging for me at M. Benoit's. I found that the motion of the litter, lent me by the Duke de Coigny, did not much incommode me. It was one of the Queen's, carried by two very large mules) the muleteer riding another; M. Le Veillard and my children in a carriage. We drank tea at M. Benoit's, and went early to bed.

Wednesday, July 13th. — Breakfast with our friends, take leave and continue our journey, dine at a good inn at Meulan, and get to Mantes in the evening. A messenger from the Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld meets us there, with an invitation to us to stop at his house at Gaillon the next day, acquainting us at the same time that be would take no excuse; for, being all-powerful in his archbishopric, he would stop us nolens volens at his habitation, and not permit us to lodge anywhere else. We consented. Lodged at Mantes. Found myself very little fatigued with the day's journey, the mules going only foot pace.

July 14th. Proceed early, and breakfast at Vernon. Received a visit there from Vicomte de Tilly and his Comtesse. Arrive at the Cardinal's without dining, about six in the afternoon. It is a superb ancient chateau, built about three hundred and fifty years since, but in fine preservation, on an elevated situation, with an extensive and beautiful view over a well-cultivated country. The Cardinal is archbishop of Rouen. A long gallery contains the pictures of all his predecessors. The chapel is elegant in the old style, with well-painted glass windows. The terrace magnificent. We supped early. The entertainment was kind and cheerful. We were allowed to go early to bed, on account of our intention to depart early in the morning. The Cardinal pressed us to pass another day with him, offering to amuse us with hunting in his park. but the necessity we are under of being in time at Havre, would not permit. So we took leave and retired to rest. The Cardinal is much respected and beloved by the people of this country, bearing in all respects an excellent character.

July 15th. — Set out about five in the morning, travelled till tell, then stopped to breakfast, and remained in the inn during the beat of the day. We had heard at the Cardinal's, that our friend Mr. Holker, of Rouen, had been out that day as far as Port St. Antoine to meet us; expecting us there from a letter of M. de Chaumont's. Here came to us one of his servants, who was sent to inquire if any accident had happened to us on the road, and was ordered to proceed till he got intelligence. He went directly back, and we proceeded. We passed a chain of chalk mountains very high, with strata of flints. The quantity that appears to have been washed away on one side of these mountains, leaving precipices of three hundred feet high, gives an idea of extreme antiquity. It seems as if done by the beating of the sea. We got to Rouen about five; were most affectionately received by Mr. and Mrs. Holker. A great company of genteel people at supper, which was our dinner. The chief President of the Parliament and his lady invite us to dine the next day; but, being preengaged with Mr. Holker, we compounded for drinking tea. We lodge all at Mr. Holker's.

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July 16th. — A deputation from the Academy of Rouen came with their compliments, which were delivered in form, and a present for me by one of the directors, being a magical square, which I think be said expressed my name. I have perused it since, but do not comprehend it. The Duke de Chabot's son, lately married to a Montmorency, and colonel of a regiment now at Rouen, was present at the ceremony, being just come in to visit me. I forgot to mention that I saw with pleasure, in the Cardinal's cabinet, a portrait of this young, man's grandmother, Madame la Duchesse d'Enville, who had always been our friend, and treated us with great civilities at Paris; a lady of uncommon intelligence and merit.

I received here also a present of books, 3 vols. 4to., from Dr —, with a very polite letter, which I answered.

We had a great company at dinner; and at six went in a chair to the President's, where were assembled some gentlemen of the robe. We drank tea there, awkwardly made, for want of practice, very little being drunk in France. I went to bed early; but my company supped with a large invited party, and were entertained with 'excellent singing.

July 17th. — Set out early. Mr. Holker accompanied us some miles, when we took an affectionate leave of each other. Dine at Yvetot a large town, and arrive at Bolbec, being the longest day's journey we have yet made. It is a market-town of considerable bigness, and seems thriving; the people well clad, and appear better fed than those of the wine countries. A linen-printer here offered to remove to America, but I did not encourage him.

July 18th. — Left Bolbec about ten o'clock, and arrive at Havre at five P. M., having stopped on the road at a miserable inn to bait. We were very kindly received by M. and Mde. Ruellan. The governor makes us a visit, and some other gentlemen.

July 19th. — We receive. visits in form from the intendant, the governor or commandant, the officers of the regiment of Poitou and Picardy, the corps of engineers, and M. Limosin.

M. Limosin proposes several vessels; all very dear. We wait for the packet from Southampton. Dine at M. Ruellan's, where we lodge. Receive the affiliation of the lodge at Rouen.

July 20th. — Return the visits. Receive one from the corps de marine; and one from the corps d'artillerie. M. Houdon arrives and brings me letters. Dine at M. Limosin's. Present M. and Mde. Le Mesurier and their sister, agreeable people of Alderney (Aurigny). Kindly entertained by M. Limosin and his daughter. Return the last visits.

The packet-boat arrives, and, the captain (Jennings) calling at our lodging, we agree with him to carry us and the baggage we have here for ten guineas, to land us at Cowes. We are to depart to-morrow evening.

July 21st. — We had another visit from M. de Villeneuve, the commandant, inviting us to dine with him to-morrow; but, intending to go off this evening, we could not accept that honor.

Dine with our friendly host and hostess. Mde. Feines, Mde. de Clerval, and two other ladies, visit M. Le Veillard, with several gentlemen.

In the evening, when we thought we were on the point of departing, the captain of the packet comes and acquaints us that the wind is right against us, and blows so hard, that it is impossible to get out, and we give up the project till to-morrow.

July 22d. — Breakfast, and take leave of some friends, and go on board the packet at half after ten. Wind not very fair.

July 23d. — Buffet all night against, the northwest wind, which was full in our teeth. This continued till two o'clock to-day, then came fair, and we stand our course. At seven P. M. we discover land, the Isle of Wight.

July 24th. — We had a fair wind all night, and this morning at seven o'clock, being off Cowes, the captain represented to me the difficulty of getting in there against the flood ; and proposed that we should rather run up to Southampton, which we did, and landed there between eight and nine. Met my son, who had arrived from London the evening before, with Mr. Williams and Mr. J. Alexander. Wrote a letter to the Bishop of St. Asaph, acquainting him with my arrival, and he came with his lady and daughter, Miss Kitty, after dinner, to see us; they talk of staying here as long as we do. Our meeting was very affectionate. I write letters to London, viz. to Messrs. W. J. M. and Co., to acquaint them with our arrival, and desire to know when the ship will sail, and to Mr. Williams. These letters went by post, before we knew of his being, here. Wrote also to Mr. B. Vaughan.

July 25th. — The Bishop and family lodging in the same inn, the Star, we all breakfast and dine together. I went at noon to bathe in Martin's salt-water hot-bath, and, floating on my back, fell asleep, and slept near an hour by my watch, without sinking or turning ! a thing I never did before, and should hardly have thought possible. Water is the easiest bed that can be. Read over the writings of conveyance, &c., of my son's lands in New Jersey and New York to my grandson. Write to M. Ruellan, M. Limosin, M. Holker, and M. Grand. Southampton a very neat, pretty place. The two French gentlemen, our friends, much pleased with it. The Bishop gives me a book in 4to, written by Dean Paley, and the family dine with us. Sundry friends came to see me from London; by one I receive a present of my friend Dr. Fothergill's works, from Dr. Lettsom, and a book on finance, from Mr. Gale. Mr. Williams tells me the ship had fallen down to Gravesend the 22d, so that she might be in the Downs the 24th, and possibly, here to-morrow, that is on the Mother Bank, which we can see hence. Mr. Williams brought a letter from Mr. Nepean, secretary to Lord Townshend, addressed to Mr. Vaughan, expressing that orders would be sent to the customhouse at Cowes not to trouble our baggage, &r,. It is still here on board the packet that brought it over. Mr. Alexander takes leave for London; write by him to Mr. Jackson, Dr. Jeffries, Dr. Lettsom, and my son-in-law Bache, the latter to be sent by the packet.

July 26th. — Deeds signed between W. Franklin and W. T. Franklin. Mr. Williams, having brought sundry necessaries for me, goes down with them to Cowes, to be ready for embarking. Captain Jennings carries down our baggage that he brought from Havre. My dear friend, M. Le Veillard, takes leave to go with him. Mr. Vaughan arrives from London, to see me.

July 27th. — Give a power to my son to recover what may be due to me from the British government. Hear from J. Williams that the ship is come.

We all dine once more with the Bishop and family, who kindly accept our invitation to go on board with us. We go down in a shallop to the ship. The captain entertains us at supper. The company stay all night.

July 28th. — When I waked in the morning found the company gone, and the ship under sail,

Tuesday, September 13th. — The wind springing fair last evening after a calm, we found ourselves this Morning, at sun-rising, abreast of the lighthouse, and between Capes May and Henlopen. We sail into the bay very pleasantly; water smooth, air cool, day fair and fine.

We passed Newcastle about sunset, and went on near to Red Bank before the tide and wind failed; then came to an anchor.

Wednesday, September 14th. — With the flood in the morning came a light breeze, which brought us above Gloucester Point, in full view of dear Philadelphia! when we again cast anchor to wait for the health officer, who, having made his visit, and finding no sickness, gave us leave to land. My son-in-law came with a boat for us; we landed at Market-Street wharf, where we were received by a crowd of people with huzzas, and accompanied with acclamations quite to my door. Found my family well.

God be praised and thanked for all his mercies!

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