Skip to main content
View PDF

[Benjamin Franklin] Butler to Harriet Allen, 4 October 1816

My dear Harriett 

Before I bid you "good evening" let me mention that at this moment it is but 8 o.clock. So that you need not be under any apprehensions that I am sacrificing health to pleasure, or early hours to her, for whom I would willingly forego them all. I am much, very much, astonished at the conduct of Mr. O, not that I am surprised to hear that he "behaved very little like a Gentleman," for I would not pre degrade the term so much as to apply it to him, but that he should suffer himself to be imposed upon by the artifices of a person like Mrs G. I did think that he had too much discernment to be made the dupe of such a creature. A woman of her conduct, character, & principles deserves no other epithet. I am upon the rack to know the particulars. Do Harriet in one of your first letters, tell me the whole story. I should have felt considerable anxiety upon the subject, if I had not known that your Brother was at home. I should have dreaded some insult or indignity to you or your family. But knowing as I do, the character and firmness of your Brother, I have suffered nothing on that head. O though a stupid, insensible, unfeeling blackhead, has too much prudence or cowardice to hazard any thing of that kind when you are blest by the protection of Wm. H. Allen. I can't possibly conceive the cause of the difficulty, nor will I longer puzzle my brain about it. You will soon give me the particulars and till then I will be satisfied. But in the mean time let me request you, whatever may be the circumstances attending the affair, that to permit it to give you any uneasiness. Whatever calumnies Mrs. G or her assistant & accomplice Miss M, may circulate, they ought not, they can not disturb the tranquility of one of you. The first is too well known to be able to injure the reputation of any person. The latter is too insignificant to be noticed. It is certainly unpleasant to be slandered. The wounds inflicted by detraction are painfully severe. But virtue must eventually triumph over all its artifices. I presume you have read "Comus," one of the finest productions of the immortal Milton. If you have, you must have been struck by the beauty and justice of the following passage. 

"This I hold firm, Virtue may be assailed, but never hurt; Surpriz'd by unjust force, but not inthrall'd; Yea even that, which mischief meant most harm, Shall in the happy trial prove most glory: Evil on itself shall back recoil, And mix no more with goodness. If this fail, The pillar'd firmament is rottenness, and Earth's base built on stubble." Nor is it entirely unapplicable upon the occasion. I am sorry that you are so hard put to it for Beaus, what could you not find one? Not even J. Bingham, Lieut Stone "the honest Iago," Mr. Tabor, nor last though not least Mr. Benjn. Franklin Butler? I think it highly probable that if the latter of those worthies had been at Hudson, that you would have paid Mrs. Coffin a visit. I have no doubt that he would have offered his services, and he perhaps prides himself with the idea, that his attendance would have been more acceptable than that of any other person, in this world. Isnt he a very impudent fellow? And his vanitythat is beyond endurance. You have guessed the point in dispute between John & me. He says that he "does not love Miss Ellen." She is a very clever good girl, but he doesn't like her. And the reasons you would never suspect, if you guessed till Doomsday. Not to keep you in suspence, as it must ^be^ very important to you, he gives as the reason of his dislikes that you are not half as handsome as, (now I have no doubt that you are all curiosity to catch the name of the person who is considered by John as so much superior in personal appearance to yourself.) <June> !!! Now, though I have told John that I would never forgive him, I presume that you will have no objections to do so. For I calculate for a certainty that you will admit at once the truth of John's allegations. But I had better quit the subject for if I say much more, you will begin to believe in earnest that I am the vainest of the vain. When the truth is, that I am proud of but one thing, and that is, the attachment of Harriett Allen. I had heard from Olcott that the visit to N.Y. was in agitation. I am glad that you have concluded to go. The visit will be an agreeable one. Though you wished your wish off the paper, yet, I am "foolish" enough myself to join in it. The truth of the business is, that you and Ann ought to have a Beau to escort you through the streets of the gay metropolis. And I should be happy to be the fortunate person. If you go, take care of yourself, enjoy the visit as you ought to, and be mindful above all things, that you do not forget me. While I was at N.Y. last summer all my enjoyments were <lessened> by the reflection that you was unable to partake of them. Now though I would not for the world have the pleasures of ^the^ jaunt marred by my absence, yet I should be glad to have you think of me, occasionally. I shall not write on Wednesday, unless you should direct to the contrary. You will have other objects to occupy your mind while at NewYork. But, I shall count much on receiving a letter from you ^to be sent^ on that day. Why can't you write me a long letter on the passage. You will have nothing else to do. Unless, what would suit me vastly, you should keep a journal of your adventures, and submit ^it^ after your return to my perusal. My dear girl let me have both, the journal and the letter. And in return as soon as you get home, I will write you a long letter, and make you a visit as soon as possible. You don't say at what time you sail. But presuming that it will not be till after the Boat arrives, I would not be deprived of my Friday evening visit. Can there be any necessity for saying that I wish you and Ann, a pleasant happy visit, and a safe return to the bosoms of your friends. You know that it will be my constant prayer. May all good angels guard you.

Butler.

I open my letter to say that I was rather, too late in taking my letter to the Post Office this morning, so that you will be obliged to pay the postage, which you must charge to Love & Affection.

Oct the 5 received this

Images for this document are currently unavailable.
Source: N New York State Library
Collection: Benjamin Franklin Butler Papers (N)
Series: Series 3 (17 February 1815-2 December 1821)