Who is John Paradise?

I’ve been  studying the Franklin, Massachusetts library, and reading through the correspondence between Dr. Richard Price and Benjamin Franklin in the 1780s. Their discussion ranges wonderfully — through Georgiana Shipley’s woes, the miracle of compound interest, the Finances of France, nasty reports of chaos in America (discounted by Franklin),  great confusion in England (reported by Price), and balloon aviation. Amid this wonderful correspondence, I find this remarkable mention by Franklin:

Poor Paradise, whom you mention, I respect and pity: But there is no helping him. He seems calculated by Nature for Unhappiness, and will be equally miserable whether with or without his Wife, having no Firmness of Mind. I doubt his Property in Virginia may suffer by his Irresolution. (BF to RP, 8/16/1784)

Franklin sent this 8/16/84 letter c/o Temple, with this postscript:

The Bearer is my Grandson and Secretary, a worthy good Young Man. I beg leave to recommend him to your Civilities, and if convenient I wish he may be introduc’d one Evening to our Club. He stays but a short time in London.

Price had mentioned ” the Club at the London Coffee House which you have so often made happy by your company.”

Sure enough, in his letter of April 5, 1784, Price mentioned:

You probably will remember Mr. Paradise, a friend of Sir Willm. Jones’s and a very worthy man, who has considerable property in Virginia and to whom you have been kind. He has lately been in great trouble. The folly, temper and extravagance of his wife produced for some weeks a Separation between him and her and made him one of the most unhappy men I ever saw. But they are now come together again.

The Papers index by name clarifies:

Paradise, John (1743-1795)
British scholar, friend of Franklin correspondent Sir William Jones.
Famous for hosting gatherings in his London home for prominent artists and intellectuals including Samuel Johnson, Joseph Priestley, and Joshua Reynolds.
Fellow of the Royal Society (1771).
Born in Salonica, Macedonia. M.A., Oxford (1769). Married in 1769 to Lucy Ludwell; had issue.

Jones and Paradise visited Franklin in France in May 1779. On the 2nd of October 1780, Paradise reported to Franklin he was now an American, and sounded far from miserable:

the day when I shall have the happiness of becoming a complete member of an American republick, a day, on which I shall through life reflect with pleasure, and which I therefore am desirous of celebrating with the sincerest joy. What higher pleasure, indeed, can be felt by a man, who may without vanity profess himself a lover of liberty and virtue, than to be admitted as an affectionate and zealous citizen by one of those illustrious states, who by the noblest exertions of unexampled virtue, have established their liberty on the surest basis!

The Wikipedia entry on John Paradise confirms the basics of this man’s existence, but leaves his land holdings and spiritual bankruptcy unmentioned.

The trail heats up through his wife: the Ludwell Blog entry entitled: John Paradise, the First Naturalized U.S. Citizen … features the image used above. The question now moves to this: what happened to John Paradise and Lucy Ludwell between October 1780 and August of 1784? What was their property, and how did it fare?

My congratulations to the Ludwell Blog.


Alas, Poor Mungo!

John Kelly of the Washington Post features Squirrel Week each year, and he’s all over Mungo.

At the end of his most recent addition he clarifies where Mungo actually died:

But it turns out that when Mungo died, Twyford House was being renovated. The Shipleys were living at a place called Northwood House, 14 miles away in Chilbolton.

So that’s probably where Mungo was buried. Last summer I visited Northwood. Owner Jean Ward (Mrs.) graciously showed me around the house and the grounds. Alas, she’s never come across a squirrel tomb.

Franklin, Massachusetts Library

Franklin Bookcase

The collection of books donated by Franklin were housed in this standalone bookcase from 1904 till 2018.

The library at Franklin, Massachusetts has an intimate connection with Dr. Franklin, and is re-housing their collection of books he donated. They were displayed in a standalone, closed bookcase from 1904 till now (2018), when they are going to a more accessible presentation, according to this news report on the renovation. Congratulations!

In 1778, the westerly part of the town of Wrentham, Massachusetts was the first city in America to rename itself after Dr. Franklin. Franklin was in Philadelphia when the town administrators conveyed the honor, and asked him for a donation of a bell. Franklin responded with a donation of books instead, as “Sense is better than Sound.”

Dr. Franklin asked Dr. Richard Price, a Unitarian minister in London, to select books. In wondering about the many religious volumes, I at first supposed Dr. Price’s occupation as well as Dr. Price realizing the town was built around a Congregational church. On further reading, this idea of books on religion seems to have come from Franklin himself: he asked for books as are most proper to inculcate Principles of sound Religion and just Government.

Franklin wrote to Richard Price in March 1785

Passy, Mar. 18. 1785.
My dear Friend,

My Nephew, Mr. Williams, will have the honour of delivering you this Line. It is to request from you a List of a few good Books to the Value of about Twenty-five Pounds, such as are most proper to inculcate Principles of sound Religion and just Government. A new Town in the State of Massachusetts, having done me the honour of naming itself after me, and proposing to build a Steeple to their Meeting House if I would give them a Bell, I have advis’d the sparing themselves the Expence of a Steeple at present, and that they would accept of Books instead of a Bell, Sense being preferable to Sound. These are therefore intended as the Commencement of a little Parochial Library, for the Use of a Society of intelligent respectable Farmers, such as our Country People generally consist of. Besides your own Works I would only mention, on the Recommendation of my Sister, Stennet’s Discourses on personal Religion, which may be one Book of the Number, if you know it and approve of it. With the highest Esteem and Respect, I am ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B Franklin


Price wrote to Franklin on June 3, 1785:

Mr. Williams has given me much pleasure by calling upon me and bringing me a letter from you. I have, according to your desire, furnish’d him with a list of Such books on religion and government as I think Some of the best, and added a present to the parish that is to bear your name of Such of my own publications as I think may not be unsuitable. Should this be the commencement of parochial libraries in the States it will do great good.


In their letter thanking Franklin for the books, there is a sly comment that more scientific books would have been equally welcomed:

We only regret, that Modesty should deny us the celebrated Productions of the greatest Phylosopher and Politician in America. Since Providence hitherto hath delighted to smile on all your great and noble Efforts, we cannot but hope, your generous exertion to diffuse useful and divine Knowledge among us, will be productive of the happiest effects, and completely answer your warmest wishes. May all the seeds of Science, which You have sown in this, and various other parts of the world, grow up into a living Laurel, to adorn your illustrious Head in the Temple of Fame.

These books were the nucleus of the town library. Growing up in Franklin, Massachusetts, Horace Mann loved his local library, commenting also that the original books were “suited, perhaps, to the ‘conscript fathers’ of the town”, that is, heavily religious. For more, see the Franklin Library History

Vicky Buchanio, librarian of the Franklin Public Library, has graciously shared information about the books. There is a nice view of this beautiful facility on this TV news report.