The Love Letters Project #11: Benjamin Franklin

The love letters of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Who better to write the world’s most memorable love letters than the world’s most famous writers? Let’s look at intellectual all-rounder Benjamin Franklin, a man ahead of his time in perhaps every way but one.

Madame Brillon,

What a difference, my dear friend, between you and me! You find innumerable faults with me, whereas I see only one fault in you (but perhaps that is the fault of my glasses). I mean this kind of avarice which leads you to seek monopoly on all my affection, and not allow me any for the agreeable ladies of your country.

Do you imagine that it is impossible for my affection (or my tenderness) to be divided without being diminished? You deceive yourself, and you forget the playful manner with which you stopped me. You renounce and totally exclude all that might be of the flesh in our affection, allowing me only some kisses, civil and honest, such as you might grant your little cousins. What am I receiving that is so special as to prevent me from giving the same to others, without taking from what belongs to you?

The sweet sounds brought forth from the pianoforte by your clever hand can be enjoyed by twenty people simultaneously without diminishing at all the pleasure you so obligingly mean for me, and I could, with as little reason, demand from your affection that no other ears but mine be allowed to be charmed by those sweet sounds.



Translation: “I require your faithful devotion, and in return you should allow me the freedom to dally?” It rather sounds that way. Skipping ahead a few years…

Articles for a Treaty of Peace with Madame Brillon (as reprinted here)
Passy, July 27, 1782.

There shall be eternal Peace, Friendship & Love, between Madame
B. and Mr F.

…In order to maintain the same inviolably, Made B. on her Part
stipulates and agrees, that Mr F. shall come to her whenever she
sends for him.

ART. 3.
That he shall stay with her as long as she pleases.

ART. 4.
That when he is with her, he shall be oblig’d to drink Tea,
play Chess, hear Musick; or do any other thing that she requires of

ART. 5.
And that he shall love no other Woman but herself.

ART. 6.
And the said Mr F. on his part stipulates and agrees, that he
will go away from M. B.’s whenever he pleases.

ART. 7.
That he will stay away as long as he pleases.

ART. 8.
That when he is with her, he will do what he pleases.

ART. 9.
And that he will love any other Woman as far as he finds her

Let me know what you think of these Preliminaries. To me they
seem to express the true Meaning and Intention of each Party more
plainly than most Treaties. – I shall insist pretty strongly on the
eighth Article, tho’ without much Hope of your Consent to it; and on
the ninth also, tho I despair of ever finding any other Woman that I
could love with equal Tenderness: being ever, my dear dear Friend,

How much can we read into such pronouncements? Could they be nothing but an intense, playful flirtation (we have no evidence to suggest it was more than that)? Or was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States a bit of a cad?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.