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about, for their own revolution was not twenty years away.
It interested them all the more that the man who represented all this for them, and whose name seemed to be really a French one, came from the horrible wilderness of America, the home of interminable dark forests, filled with savage beasts and still more savage men.
France at that time was the gay, pleasure- and sensation-loving France which had just been living under the reign of Louis XIV. Sated with luxury and magnificence, with much intelligence and culture even among the middle classes, there was no novelty that pleased Frenchmen more than something which seemed to be close to nature; and when they discovered that this exceedingly natural man from the woods had also the severe and serene philosophy of Cato, Phocion, Socrates, and the other sages of antiquity, combined with a conversation full of wit, point, and raillery like their own, it is not surprising that they made a perpetual joy and feast over him. It was so delightful for a lady to pay him a pretty compliment about having drawn down the fire from heaven, and have him instantly reply in some most apt phrase of an old man's gallantry; and then he never failed; there seemed to be no end to his re
Amidst these brilliant surroundings he wore for a time that shocking old fur cap which appears in one of his portraits; and although his biographers earnestly protest that he was incapable of such affectation, there is every reason to believe that he found
that it intensified the character the French people had already formed of him. Several writers of the time speak of his very rustic dress, his firm but free and direct manner which seemed to be the simplicity of a past age. But if he was willing to encourage their laudation by a little clever acting, he never carried it too far; and there is no evidence that his head was ever turned by all this extravagant worship. He was altogether too shrewd to make such a fatal mistake. He knew the meaning and real value of it, and nursed it so carefully that he kept it living and fresh for nine years.
So he went to live in Paris, while the people began to make portraits, medals, and busts of him, until there were some two hundred different kinds to be set in rings, watches, snuff-boxes, bracelets, looking-glasses, and other articles. Within a few days after his arrival it was the fashion for every one to have a picture of him on their mantel-piece. He selected for his residence the little village of Passy, about two miles from the heart of Paris, and not too far from the court at Versailles. There for nine years his famous letters were dated, and Franklin at Passy, with his friends, their gardens and their wit, was a subject of interest and delight to a whole generation of the civilized world.
M. Ray de Chaumont had there a large establishment called the Hôtel de Valentinois. In part of it he lived himself, and, to show his devotion to the cause of America, he insisted that Franklin should occupy the rest of it as his home and for the business of the embassy free of rent. This arrangement
Franklin accepted in his easy way, and nothing more was thought of it until precise John Adams arrived from Massachusetts and was greatly shocked to find an envoy of the United States living in a Frenchman's house without paying board.
Pleasantly situated, with charming neighbors who never wearied of him, enjoying the visits and improving conversation of the great men of the learned and scientific worlds, caressed at court, exchanging repartees and flirtations with clever women, oppressed at times with terrible anxiety for his country, but slowly winning success, and dining out six nights of nearly every week when he was not disabled by the gout, the old Philadelphia printer cannot be said to have fallen upon very evil days.
His position was just the reverse of what it had been in England, where his task had been almost an impossible one. In France everything was in his favor. There were no Wedderburns or Tory ministers, no powerful political party opposed to his purposes, and no liberal party with which he might be tempted to take sides. The whole nation-king, nobles, and people—was with him. He had only to suggest what was wanted; and, indeed, a great deal was done without even his suggestion.
This condition of affairs precluded the possibility of his accomplishing any great feat in diplomacy. The tide being all in his favor, he had only to take advantage of it and abstain from anything that would check its flow. Instead of the aggressive course he had seen fit to follow in England, he must avoid everything which in the least resembled ag