General William Franklin

Dr. Marsha Keith Schuchard has kindly drawn the Society’s attention to an entry in Henry Crabb Robinson’s diary, in which he describes a visit to the Attic Chest and confirms the identity of the “General Franklin” who contributed several poems to the circle:

March 18th [1812] — Evening at Porden’s, the Society of the Attic Chest. This is a small society, the members of which send verses, which are put into a box, and afford an evening’s amusement at certain intervals. The box was actually made at Athens. Some verses, I suspect by Miss Flaxman, on music, pleased me best. The company was numerous, — the Rogets, Phillips the painter, and his wife. Old General Franklin, son of the celebrated Benjamin, was of the party. He is eighty-four years of age, has a courtier-like mien, and must have been a very fine man. He is now very animated and interesting, but does not at all answer to the idea one would naturally form of the son of the great Franklin.

Rem* — At these meetings Ellen Porden was generally the reader, and she was herself a writer of poetry. She even ventured to write an epic poem, called “Richard the Second.” When she presented a copy to Flaxman, who loved her for her amiable qualities (and more than amiable, for she was a good domestic character, an excellent sister and daughter), he thanked her and said: “Why, Ellen, my love, you’ve written a poem longer than Homer.” She married Captain, afterwards Sir John Franklin. The marriage took place with an express consent on her part to his making a second voyage of discovery towards the North Pole, if the government should give its permission. Before he went a daughter was born; but her own health had become so bad that her life was despaired of. I was one of the few friends invited to the last dinner at his house before his departure. Flaxman was of the party, and deeply depressed in spirits. Captain F. took an opportunity in the course of the evening to say to me: “My wife will be left alone with the infant. You will do me a great favor, if you will call on her as often as your engagements permit.” I promised. In a few days I went to the Quarter Sessions, and before I returned Mrs. Franklin was dead.

Henry Crabb Robinson. Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence. (One Volume Edition) Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1898. pp. 241-2.