Midnight, 22 October, 1780.
FRANKLIN. Eh! Oh! eh! What have I done to merit
these cruel sufferings?
GOUT. Many things; you have ate and
drank too freely, and too much indulged those legs of yours in
FRANKLIN. Who is it that accuses
GOUT. It is I, even I, the Gout.
FRANKLIN. What! my enemy in person?
GOUT. No, not your enemy.
FRANKLIN. I repeat it, my enemy;
for you would not only torment my body to death, but ruin my
good name; you reproach me as a glutton and a tippler; now all
the world, that knows me, will allow that I am neither the one
nor the other.
GOUT. The world may think as it
pleases; it is always very complaisant to itself, and sometimes
to its friends; but I very well know that the quantity of meat
and drink proper for a man, who takes a reasonable degree of
exercise, would be too much for another, who never takes any.
FRANKLIN. I take—eh! oh!—as much
exercise—eh!—as I can, Madam Gout. You know my sedentary state,
and on that account, it would seem, Madam Gout, as if you might
spare me a little, seeing it is not altogether my own fault.
GOUT. When life is a
sedentary one, your amusements, your recreation, at least,
should be active. You ought to walk or ride; or, if the weather
prevents that, play at billiards. But let us examine your course
of life. While the mornings are long, and you have leisure to go
abroad, what do you do? Why, instead of gaining an appetite for
breakfast, by salutary exercise, you amuse yourself with books,
pamphlets, or newspapers, which commonly are not worth the
reading. Yet you eat an inordinate breakfast, four dishes of
tea, with cream, and one or two buttered toasts, with slices of
hung beef, which I fancy are not things the most easily
digested. Immediately afterwards you sit down to write at your
desk, or converse with persons who apply to you on business.
Thus the time passes till one, without any kind of bodily
exercise. But all this I could pardon, in regard, as you say, to
your sedentary condition. But what is your practice after
dinner? Walking in the beautiful gardens of those friends with
whom you have dined would be the choice of men of sense; yours
is to be fixed down to chess, where you are found engaged for
two or three hours! This is your perpetual recreation, which is
the least eligible of any for a sedentary man, because, instead
of accelerating the motion of the fluids, the rigid attention it
requires helps to retard the circulation and obstruct internal
secretions. Wrapt in the speculations of this wretched game, you
destroy your constitution. What can be expected from such a
course of living, but a body replete with stagnant humors, ready
to fall prey to all kinds of dangerous maladies, if I, the Gout,
did not occasionally bring you relief by agitating those humors,
and so purifying or dissipating them? If it was in some nook or
alley in Paris, deprived of walks, that you played awhile at
chess after dinner, this might be excusable; but the same taste
prevails with you in Passy, Auteuil, Montmartre, or
Sanoy, places where there are the finest
gardens and walks, a pure air, beautiful women, and most
agreeable and instructive conversation; all which you might
enjoy by frequenting the walks. But these are rejected for this
abominable game of chess. Fie, then, Mr. Franklin! But amidst my
instructions, I had almost forgot to administer my wholesome
corrections; so take that twinge,—and that.
FRANKLIN. Oh! eh! oh! Ohhh! As much
instruction as you please, Madam Gout, and as many reproaches;
but pray, Madam, a truce with your corrections!
GOUT. No, Sir, no,—I will not abate
a particle of what is so much for your good,—therefore—
FRANKLIN. Oh! ehhh!—It is not fair
to say I take no exercise, when I do very often, going out to
dine and returning in my carriage.
GOUT. That, of all imaginable
exercises, is the most slight and insignificant, if you allude
to the motion of a carriage suspended on springs. By observing
the degree of heat obtained by different kinds of motion, we may
form an estimate of the quantity of exercise given by each.
Thus, for example, if you turn out to walk in winter with cold
feet, in an hour’s time you will be in a glow all over; ride on
horseback, the same effect will scarcely be perceived by four
hours’ round trotting; but if you loll in a carriage, such as
you have mentioned, you may travel all day and gladly enter the
last inn to warm your feet by a fire. Flatter yourself then no
longer, that half an hour’s airing in your carriage deserves the
name of exercise. Providence has appointed few to roll in
carriages, while he has given to all a pair of legs, which are
machines infinitely more commodious and serviceable. Be
grateful, then, and make a proper use of yours. Would you know
how they forward the circulation of your fluids, in the very
action of transporting you from place to place; observe when you
walk, that all your weight is alternately
thrown from one leg to the other; this occasions a great
pressure on the vessels of the foot, and repels their contents;
when relieved, by the weight being thrown on the other foot, the
vessels of the first are allowed to replenish, and, by a return
of this weight, this repulsion again succeeds; thus accelerating
the circulation of the blood. The heat produced in any given
time depends on the degree of this acceleration; the fluids are
shaken, the humors attenuated, the secretions facilitated, and
all goes well; the cheeks are ruddy, and health is established.
Behold your fair friend at Auteuil; a lady who received from
bounteous nature more really useful science than half a dozen
such pretenders to philosophy as you have been able to extract
from all your books. When she honors you with a visit, it is on
foot. She walks all hours of the day, and leaves indolence, and
its concomitant maladies, to be endured by her horses. In this,
see at once the preservative of her health and personal charms.
But when you go to Auteuil, you must have your carriage, though
it is no farther from Passy to Auteuil than from Auteuil to
FRANKLIN. Your reasonings grow very
GOUT. I stand corrected. I will be
silent and continue my office; take that, and that.
FRANKLIN. Oh! Ohh! Talk on, I pray
GOUT. No, no; I have a good number
of twinges for you to-night, and you may be sure of some more
FRANKLIN. What, with such a fever!
I shall go distracted. Oh! eh! Can no one bear it for me?
GOUT. Ask that of your horses; they
have served you faithfully.
FRANKLIN. How can you so cruelly
sport with my torments
I am very serious. I have here a list of offenses against your
own health distinctly written, and can justify every stroke
inflicted on you.
FRANKLIN. Read it then.
GOUT. It is too long a detail; but
I will briefly mention some particulars.
FRANKLIN. Proceed. I am all
GOUT. Do you remember how often you
have promised yourself, the following morning, a walk in the
grove of Boulogne, in the garden de la Muette, or in your own
garden, and have violated your promise, alleging, at one time,
it was too cold, at another too warm, too windy, too moist, or
what else you pleased; when in truth it was too nothing, but
your insuperable love of ease?
FRANKLIN. That I confess may have
happened occasionally, probably ten times in a year.
GOUT. Your confession is very far
short of the truth; the gross amount is one hundred and
FRANKLIN. Is it possible?
GOUT. So possible, that it is fact;
you may rely on the accuracy of my statement. You know M.
Brillon’s gardens, and what fine walks they contain; you know
the handsome flight of an hundred steps, which lead from the
terrace above to the lawn below. You have been in the practice
of visiting this amiable family twice a week, after dinner, and
it is a maxim of your own, that “a man may take as much exercise
in walking a mile, up and down stairs, as in ten on level
ground.” What an opportunity was here for you to have had
exercise in both these ways! Did you embrace it, and how often?
FRANKLIN. I cannot immediately
answer that question.
GOUT. I will do it for you; not
FRANKLIN. Not once?
so. During the summer you went there at six o’ clock. You found
the charming lady, with her lovely children and friends, eager
to walk with you, and entertain you with their agreeable
conversation; and what has been your choice? Why, to sit on the
terrace, satisfy yourself with the fine prospect, and passing
your eye over the beauties of the garden below, without taking
one step to descend and walk about in them. On the contrary, you
call for tea and the chess-board; and lo! you are occupied in
your seat till nine o’clock, and that besides two hours’ play
after dinner; and then, instead of walking home, which would
have bestirred you a little, you step into your carriage. How
absurd to suppose that all this carelessness can be reconcilable
with health, without my interposition!
FRANKLIN. I am convinced now of the
justness of Poor Richard’s remark, that “Our debts and our sins
are always greater than we think for.”
GOUT. So it is. You philosophers
are sages in your maxims, and fools in your conduct.
FRANKLIN. But do you charge among
my crimes, that I return in a carriage from M. Brillon’s?
GOUT. Certainly; for, having been
seated all the while, you cannot object the fatigue of the day,
and cannot want therefore the relief of a carriage.
FRANKLIN. What then would you have
me do with my carriage?
GOUT. Burn it if you choose; you
would at least get heat out of it once in this way; or, if you
dislike that proposal, here’s another for you; observe the poor
peasants, who work in the vineyards and grounds about the
villages of Passy, Auteuil, Chaillot, etc.; you may find every
day among these deserving creatures, four or five old men and
women, bent and perhaps crippled by weight of years, and
too long and too great labor. After a most
fatiguing day, these people have to trudge a mile or two to
their smoky huts. Order your coachman to set them down. This is
an act that will be good for your soul; and, at the same time,
after your visit to the Brillons, if you return on foot, that
will be good for your body.
FRANKLIN. Ah! how tiresome you are!
GOUT. Well, then, to my office; it
should not be forgotten that I am your physician. There.
FRANKLIN. Ohhh! what a devil of a
GOUT. How ungrateful you are to say
so! Is it not I who, in the character of your physician, have
saved you from the palsy, dropsy, and apoplexy? one or other of
which would have done for you long ago, but for me.
FRANKLIN. I submit, and thank you
for the past, but entreat the discontinuance of your visits for
the future; for, in my mind, one had better die than be cured so
dolefully. Permit me just to hint, that I have also not been
unfriendly to you. I never feed physician or quack of any
kind, to enter the list against you; if then you do not leave me
to my repose, it may be said you are ungrateful too.
GOUT. I can scarcely acknowledge
that as any objection. As to quacks, I despise them; they may
kill you indeed, but cannot injure me. And, as to regular
physicians, they are at last convinced that the gout, in such a
subject as you are, is no disease, but a remedy; and wherefore
cure a remedy?—but to our business,—there.
FRANKLIN. Oh! oh!—for Heaven’s sake
leave me! and I promise faithfully never more to play at chess,
but to take exercise daily, and live temperately.
GOUT. I know you too well. You
promise fair; but, after a few months of good health, you will
return to your old habits; your fine promises will be forgotten
forms of the last year’s clouds. Let us
then finish the account, and I will go. But I leave you with an
assurance of visiting you again at a proper time and place; for
my object is your good, and you are sensible now that I am your