Judith Sargent Murray Society
JSM's dates: 1751-1820

Judith Sargent Murray's Letter 765

Judith Sargent Murray and John Murray arrived in Philadelphia in June 1790, shortly after the death of Benjamin Franklin. Judith met Franklin's daughter, Sally Bache, who was then living in her father's home. Judith saw Dr. Franklin's library, described it, and related stories about the great man's character to her parents back home in Gloucester (see also Letter 763).

I have already mentioned the family of Doctor Franklin — We yesterday, by appointment, attended the Levee of his daughter Mrs Bache — This Lady appears to be happy in her matrimonial connexion — the countenance of Mr Bache is agreeable, its manly expression is tempered by a prepossessing sweetness, his figure is good, and his character highly respectable — Mrs Bache is a most amiable Woman, easy of access, affable, and perfectly engaging, and there is in her every feature, an open frankness, which cannot fail of giving pleasure, she hath been well educated and consequently possesses a cultivated mind, and the social complacency of her manners, is descriptive of the woman thoroughly well bred, she hath a promising family of children, consisting of four sons, and three daughters — she now resides in the Mansion home of the late Doctor — It is, although in the very heart of the City, an elegant Retirement. We enter through an arched avenue, which immediately produces us in a square, seemingly detached from the noise, and confusion of the Town, although, in fact it is but a few paces from Market street — The building is in the Philadelphia manner, lofty and commodious — The furniture is neat, and the collection of pictures Capital, highly descriptive of the
best Art —

         We were shown Chinese figures, of rich Porcelain, superbly habited after the manner of their country, and their robes proclaimed them of no vulgar character — We were introduced into the Library of Doctor Franklin — the collection of Volumes is prodigious, I never saw it surpassed, except in the Cambridge University — The library is ornamented by the Bishop of St Assas and his family, and, as I surveyed these figures, the books, the writing desk, and considered myself in the favourite recess of the illustrious deceased, my sensations were — but language is inadequate to their description — We were entertained with vocal, and instrumental music, and no attempt to contribute to our amusement was left unessayed — upon a beautiful Lawn, embosomed by the willow, the weeping willow, and a rich variety of fruit trees, under the wide spreading shade of the Catolphin, now in full, and enchanting blow, the tea table, with a number of seats, was placed, and by the deliciously scented evening breeze, we were sweetly fanned — Mrs Bache speaks of her Father, in a manner becoming a daughter — Upon his patience, his equanimity, and his fortitude, she dwells with peculiar pleasure — His illness was tedious, and his agonies of the most peculiar kind — yet he was always Master of himself, and a smile of serenity constantly irradiated his countenance — Two days before his death he observed, to his daughter, that he did not recollect, in the course of his whole life, ever being for a single moment angry with her, and Mrs Bache adds, that the whole tenor of his conduct, was most endearing — No pang, however severe, possessed the power to ruffle his temper, not the meanest servant could administer to his necessities, but it was exactly right — every thing prepared for him was delightful and to attend upon him, was thus rendered truly pleasurable; Mrs Bache, seems to have drank deeply from the fountain of Republicanism — she declares, had heaven given her any number of boys, they should every one be furnished with a mechanical Art — Her eldest Son hath completed his apprenticeship to a Printer, and she directed herself, with the effect which this circumstance had, upon a young coxcomb, passing on in the stage with young Bache, to a neighbouring City — The descendant of Franklin exhibited the marks of a gentleman, and the Fop inquired into the nature of his pursuits — “I am a Printer Sir—” What Sir, a Printer! and he instantly ordered into his features, the most contemptuous expression — observing, during the remainder of the journey, the most obstinate taciturnity. Mrs Bache suffered much during the late troubles — When the British advanced to Philadelphia, she had been no more than three days confined to her bed of maternity — Mr Bache was not in the City, he had accepted a post under Congress — Hard money she had none — for the family had loaned to government, immediately upon the commencement of the Contest, every farthing which they could command — Thus destitute of the means of support, when the English should take possession, and apprehensive of the treatment which she should receive, she was obliged to quit her home, and fly for safety, her first stage was distant thirteen miles, where believing herself in a state of temporary safety she abode three weeks, when she pursued her way across the Country thirty miles further, where she continued two years, enduring a variety of hardships —


Judith Sargent Murray to Winthrop Sargent and Judith Saunders Sargent (her parents), 3 July 1790.

1998 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

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