Benjamin Franklin: The Naughty Bits

Years ago I came across a peculiar little pamphlet “privately printed” for the Frankliniana Society in 1929 and “strictly limited to 500 copies.”  Written by Benjamin Franklin (whose mug appears on the front of the $100 bill), it’s titled Franklin on Marriage, and someone, rather rudely, stamped “ON SEX” across the front cover. Is that a warning or an enticement? Tut, tut. 

Anyway, in the first piece written in 1745, Franklin, who it turns out, was both a bit of a raver and a humourist writes “Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress.” Franklin argues that “marriage is the proper remedy,” for “violent natural inclinations,” but failing that, he advises the young man to get himself an old mistress rather than a young one, and these are his reasons:

1. Because they have more Knowledge of the World, & their Minds are better stor’d with Observations, their Conversation is more improving, & more lastingly agreeable.

2. Because when Women cease to be handsome they study to be good. To maintain their Influence over men, they supply the Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of Utility. They learn to do a thousand Services small & great, & are the most tender and useful of Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman.

3. Because there is no Hazard of Children, which irregularly produced may be attended with much Inconvenience.

4. Because through more Experience they are more prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent Suspicion. The Commerce with them is  therefore safer with regard to your Reputation. And with regard to theirs, if the Affair should happen to be known, considerate People might be rather inclined to excuse an old Woman, who would kindly take care of a young man, for  his Manners by her good counsels, & prevent ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.

5. Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part. The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing and plump as ever: so that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to tell an old one from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of Corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being, in practice, capable of Improvement.

6. Because the Sin is less. The debauching of a Virgin may be her Ruin, and make her Life unhappy.

7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflection; none of which may attend the making an old Woman happy.

8th and lastly. They are so grateful!!

Another piece in the pamphlet addresses the issue of farting and is signed “FART-HING.”  And  that brings me to the question:  was Franklin a member of the infamous Hellfire Club or was he in attendance, as some claim, as a spy?… The latter sounds a lot like someone I knew who was caught soliciting prostitutes. He had the misfortune to solicit an undercover policewoman by mistake and argued he was innocent as he was merely conducting research about prostitutes for a term paper.  




Filed under Letters

11 responses to “Benjamin Franklin: The Naughty Bits

  1. I’d say he was certainly a misogynist.
    Point 5 still made me laugh.

    • I expect most of them were back then. Just the way society was. I was really surprised by this Caroline, when I found it on a bookshelf. It made me laugh too.

  2. leroyhunter

    “3. Because there is no Hazard of Children, which irregularly produced may be attended with much Inconvenience.”
    You don’t say Ben, you don’t say.

    “He had the misfortune to solicit an undercover policewoman by mistake and argued he was innocent as he was merely conducting research about prostitutes for a term paper.”
    As Lydon B Johnson was fond of saying: “That dog don’t hunt.”

    • The contents of this pamphlet were not included in collections of Franklin’s work because they were considered too salacious.

      BTW , I came across the title of a documentary about twins. It’s called Poto and Cabengo.

  3. Brian Joseph

    Hi Guy – The Founders of America and the American Revolutionary War Era are probably my number one interest. Franklin was an amazing character. His escapades, sexual and otherwise in France are so very interesting. As the above illustrates he could also be a very funny man.

    Though some of the above has a misogynistic tone, he spent most of his life, by choice surrounded by strong and intelligent women who he seemed to like and seemed to like him in turn.

    • I admit that I don’t know much about that era & its main figures. I’m a foreigner for one thing and then slept through the US history classes I took. So what do you think…spy or participant in the Hellfire Club?
      Had you seen this pamphlet before?

  4. Brian Joseph

    I think that the pamphlet was mentioned in a biography. I think that he would not have been a full fledged member of such a club. He tends to avoid anything that was extremely controversial. For instance, he was not religious but took pains not to offend religion in general. I could see him attending a meeting with an open mind and a jovial spirit but probably not going back a second time.

  5. This is superb! There is something about the very elegant sentence constructions of the 18th century that makes even the most vapid observation sidesplittingly funny. And it’s all the funnier when one reminds oneself that the author of this was Benjamin Franklin, of all people!

  6. This is funny, it sounds like French 18thC. Menauposis as a contraceptive, that’s an idea.

    I suspect that the old women he mentions might think they’d rather have a young man than one of their own age. So everyone’s happy.

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