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BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AS A PSYCHOTHERAPIST: A FORERUNNER OF BRIEF PSYCHOTHERAPY Z.J. UPOWSKI* The life and works of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), a scientist, politician, and writer, have been studied with so much zeal that hardly any fragment of them seems to have escaped the curiosity of his numerous biographers. Moreover, his own autobiographical writings are an ample source of information about his life, work, and relationships [I]. Hence, it is surprising that the episode to be reported here is unknown to the American students of Franklin's life (W. B. Willcox, personal communication, January 10, 1983). This is probably so because its account has been buried in an unpublished manuscript of the memoirs of a Polish princess and, to the best of my knowledge, been quoted only by Polish scholars [2,3]. Yet this episode offers a fascinating glimpse of the man's charisma and empathy. Moreover, in this brief vignette Franklin not only plays the part of a shrewd if amateur psychotherapist but also brings out in high relief some of the key ingredients of effective brief psychotherapy. Franklin Meets the Princess I have translated this piece from its original quotation in Polish which appeared in a monograph published almost a century ago [2]. According to the author of that work, the cited fragment was taken from a handwritten manuscript of the memoirs ofPrincess Izabella Czartoryska (1746-1835), the wife of a Polish aristocrat and a man who came close to becoming a king of Poland, Prince Adam Czartoryski. The princess was surely one of the more colorful women of the late eighteenth century. Wealthy, pampered, bright, and cultivated, she was perennially pursued by powerful men and moved from one stormy love affair to another. At The author thanks Dr. Krystyna Dietrich for bringing to his attention the Polish sources quoted here. ?Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, 250 College Street, Toronto ?5? 1R8, Canada.© 1984 by The University of Chicago. AU rights reserved. 003 1-5982/84/2703-0397$0 1 .00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 27, 3 · Spring 1984 \ 361 least three of her six children are believed to have been illegitimate, including a daughter fathered by the last king of Poland [3]. Two years prior to the episode recounted here, the princess had given birth to a son whose alleged father was her current lover, a Russian prince, Nikolai Repnin [3]. Her husband, whom she had married when she was only 15 years old and at first did not love, ignored her and her infidelity [3]. In the spring of 1772, the princess and Repninjourneyed to London, and she was laterjoined by her husband. During her lengthy stay there she apparently suffered from a serious depression, and her husband sought to cheer her up by introducing her to the famous American. As Franklin wrote in August of that year, "Learned and ingenious foreigners that come to England almost all make a point of visiting me; for my reputation is still higher abroad than here" [1, p. 279]. The Czartoryskis fitted that description well. When they met, the princess was 26 years old, Franklin 66. The following is my literal translation from Polish of her personal account of their unusual encounter: I was ill, in a state of melancholia, and writing my testament and farewell letters. Wishing to distract me, my husband took me to Franklin. On the way my husband explained to me who Franklin was and to what he owed his fame, since I barely knew then that a second hemisphere existed. Franklin had a noble face with an expression of engaging kindness. Surprised by my immobility, he took my hands and gazed at me saying: pauvrejeunefemme. He then opened a harmonium , sat down and played long. The music made a strong impression on me and tears began flowing from my eyes. Then Franklin sat by my side and looking with compassion said, "Madam, you are cured." Indeed, that moment was a reaction in my state ofmelancholia. Franklin offered to teach me how to play the harmonium—I accepted without hesitation, hence he gave me twelve lessons. I have retained memory of him for my whole life. [2, p. 97] Follow-up That effective music...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 361-366
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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