We noticed the epigraph above recently while perusing Richard Fariña’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, his great novel of the post-Beat early ’60s. The quote held a few levels of attraction for us: There was obviously the local, Ben Franklin hook; there was, of course, also Franklin’s (not for the first time) strange pre-saging of early-hip lingustics (see Mailer, et al.); and finally, there was the sentiment itself, for who among us has not known, at one point or another, that it was indeed time to quit the Scene, whatever that Scene may be?
For Franklin, it turns out that when he penned the above, he was suffering from a condition as old and as current as there is among men: player-hating. By 1780, you see, Franklin had been in France for nearly four years already, dispatched there as U.S. Ambassador in the wake of the heady summer of 1776. And four years in from the Declaration of Independence, the American political scene had gone sour for him. As he went about his business in France, he was somewhat annoyed to feel the occasional backbiting and hear of his name and rep being soiled for the political gain of others back home in the States, a situation exacerbated somewhat by his not-very-great relationship with John Adams, who was occasionally by his side in Paris. They did not get along; each thought the other was kind of an asshole; and by 1780, their rifts had escalated. He was also 74 years old. He’d had enough of this shit. (Indeed, it was also the human scene he’d be altogether quitting soon.) This is when Franklin wrote to George Washington, with whom he stayed solid throughout. A more contextual excerpt from the letter goes like so:
“I must soon quit the Scene, but you may live to see our Country flourish, as it will amazingly and rapidly after the War is over. Like a Field of young Indian Corn, which long Fair weather and Sunshine has enfeebled and discolored, and which in that weak State, by a Thunder Gust, of violent Wind, Hail, and Rain, seem’d to be threaten’d with absolute Destruction; yet the Storm being past, it recovers fresh Verdure, shoots up with double Vigour, and delights the Eye, not of its Owner only, but of every observing Traveller.”
A more modern reading of it would be, “Yeah, I’m over it. Let me know how all of that works out for you, buddy.”