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Benjamin Franklin’s adultery in Craven Street

This house (second from left) is 36 Craven Street, just off London’s Trafalgar Square. The Pennsylvania lobbyist Benjamin Franklin rented the top two floors in the 1760s. The house was only a short walk from Parliament, so it suited him very well. He told his wife so in a letter home:

‘I lodge in Craven Street near Charing Cross. We have four rooms furnished, and everything about is pretty genteel.’

Franklin’s bedroom was the second floor front, with another room behind for his electrical experiments (it was he who fitted the lightning conductors on St Paul’s Cathedral). His son William lived above, complaining of ‘the Watchman’s hoarse voice calling Past two aClock and a Cloudy morning.’

The house was a centre for the American expatriate community in London. In 1767, an American newly arrived from the colonies decide to call on Franklin to introduce himself and bring him all the latest news from home.

When the young man reached the second floor, he noticed that the door was slightly ajar. Franklin was inside, dressed in a blue-green suit with gilt buttons. He was energetically kissing the young woman on his knee. History does not record the woman’s name, but it certainly wasn’t Mrs Franklin. She was 3,000 miles away, in Philadelphia.


This from Franklin’s memoirs:

‘I found at my door in Craven-street, one morning, a poor woman sweeping my pavement with a birch broom; she appeared very pale and feeble, as just come out of a fit of sickness. I ask’d who employ’d her to sweep there; she said, “Nobody, but I am very poor and in ┬ádistress, and I sweeps before gentlefolks’ doors, and hopes they will give me something.”

‘I bid her sweep the whole street clean, and I would give her a shilling; this was at nine o’clock; at 12 she came for the shilling.’



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