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How To Choose A Mistress
The Benjamin Franklin fan club is coming to order.
We gather on his 279th birthday January 17 – not to honor his achievements as a brilliant patriot, but to revel in his irreverent advice as a columnist.
It was inevitable that Franklin would become the rare free-thinker of his generation. He began at the age of 12 in Boston as an apprentice to his irascible brother James who was a printer and publisher of the “New England Courant.”
The Franklin brothers soon had trouble challenging authority. James was often imprisoned for “libel” and “contempt” of public officials. On those occasions, Ben filled the columns of the “Courant” with comments under the name “Silence Dogood, A Widow.”
In an article Mrs. Dogood declared: “It has long been a question to me whether a commonwealth suffers more from hypocritical pretenders to religion or from open blasphemy. is the more dangerous man of the two, especially if he sustains a government position.”
Ben scandalizes the colony by recounting a night walk of Mrs. Dogood who wrote:
“Soon I came with a crowd of women who by throwing their heads to the right and to the left of all that passed, I decided to come out with no other design than to revive the spirit of love in disappointed singles and expose themselves for sale to the first bidder.
“On the whole I conclude that our night-walkers are a set of people who contribute much to the health and contentment of those who are tired of business and sometimes watch their graceful movements and indiscretions.”
After five years, Ben ran away from his indenture – a criminal offense – first to New York, to Philadelphia then to London. A long stay in England – including a good amount of women of easy virtue – convinced him that he should return to Philadelphia where there were fewer temptations.
Ben ended up living with a former lover, Deborah, who had married and left for another man. Two difficulties prevented Ben and Deborah from formalizing their union. Her husband could return at any time, and Ben had an infant son out of wedlock from an unknown woman.
Ben’s family life is happy. He started a newspaper, “The Gazette,” published his “Poor Richard’s Almanac” and oversaw a large amount of printing for the colonies. He was appointed postmaster general and served on many government commissions.
Ben retired from business in middle age to devote his time to writing, science and public affairs. He discovered electricity, invented bifocal spectacles, introduced postage stamps, designed an efficient stove and made a “harmonica” out of tuned glass bowls.
At the age of 70 he took an active part in the American Revolution. He served for many years as ambassador to France and at the age of 80 signed the US Constitution.
During his busy later years Ben wrote ribald letters – a substitute for the Silence Dogood and Poor Richard columns.
In one, he recounts the speech of a Polly Baker in which this woman strongly pleaded for mercy in her fifth trial for bastardy that the presiding judge was reportedly married to her and had 15 children from.
A letter to the Brussels Academy proposes a project to transform bowel gas into perfume – so as not to offend people in social gatherings.
My favorite is a letter to his niece with advice for choosing a mistress. It was a subject in which Ben was believed to be an expert.
“In all your loves,” wrote Ben, “you should choose older women over younger ones, for the following reasons:
“1. Because they have more knowledge of the world, and their minds are better stored with observations, their conversation is more developed and more lasting agreement.
“2. Because when women stop being beautiful they study well. To maintain their influence on men, they give the reduction of beauty by an increase of usefulness. They learn to do a thousand which services are small and great, and are the best. gentle and useful to friends when you are sick. Therefore they continue to be hospitable.
“3. Since there is no danger to children, which is not regularly performed can be treated with great discomfort.
“4. Because through more experience they are wiser and wiser, to create an intrigue, to prevent suspicion. The trade with them is the safer about your reputation. Thoughtful people may be more inclined in the intercession of an old woman who will kindly nurse a young man, mold his conduct by her good counsels, and prevent him from ruining his health and fortune among mercenary pampams.
“5. Because in every animal that walks upright the lack of fluids that fill the muscles is seen first in the upper part. The face first grows limp and wrinkled. Then the neck. Then the chest and arm. The lower parts continue to last as always. By covering everything above a basket, and only about what is below the belt, it is impossible to distinguish an old woman from an you are young. with an old woman at least equal, and often superior – every skill, through practice, can improve.
“6. Because the sin is small. The debauchery of a virgin will not be her harm and will make her sad for the rest of her life.
“7. Because anger is small. To make a young woman miserable will give you bitter reflections, none of which will attend to making an old woman happy.
“8. And finally, they are very grateful!”
January 19, 1985
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