“some alteration in the disposition there must be”

Jane Mecom, Benjamin Franklin’s sister, wrote to her daughter Jane Collas detailing concerns about her lifestyle and declining, for the time being, the offer to live with her. Jane is certainly forthright in her criticism, to which her daughter took umbrage. It appears that generational conflict is not new.

Coventry, April 1778My Dear Child,
That I always did love you I think I have all along in life given manufest proof … and that I do still love you … is a sufficient witness to myself, for I can’t think that a sincere affection will suffer great mistakes to pass without endeavouring a reformation. If my reproof has effected that, the end is answerd and I shall with as much satisfaction spend the remainder of my days with you as you would to have me … but some alteration in the disposition I observed in you when here, there must be, or I should not be happy. I see your fondness for a great deal of company is not at all abated, and that is exceeding disagreeable to me. Your aspiring so much to gentility, without means to support it, must appear as ridiculous in every prudent person’s eye as it does to mine … and your lying abed in a morning was always a trouble to me. … It has often so fretted me to wait for you to come to breakfast that I could not get over it in some hours. Those are some of the reasons why I appeared indifferent about going to live with you. … My natural temper is none of the patientest, and tho’ by age and experience I am brought in some measure to check the appearance of resentment, I don’t know but I am as much inwardly galled as ever, therefore think it prudent to avoid such occasions as much as may be. But, after all, whenever I hear you are settled … you may depend on my coming to make a trial. … I must spend the remainder of my life where I can enjoy most ease and happiness. I have gone through trouble sufficient for the time. It is natural to wish for ease and quiet at my years.

The excerpt is from The Letters of Benjamin Franklin & Jane Mecom edited by Carl Van Doren (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), pages 174-75.

posted March 21st, 2013 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Children, Daily life


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