Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Splendour in the Grass

Benjamin Franklin and Illegitimacy

Benjamin Franklin had an illegitimate son named William in 1730. In 1747, he published the anonymous, satirical pamphlet The Speech of Polly Baker, revealing what he really thought about the matter. The brief pamphlet is the tale of a woman put on trial for having (yet another) illegitimate child.

The Preface is hilarious: "The speech of Polly Baker, before a Court of Judicature, at Connecticut near Boston in New England; where she was prosecuted the Fifth Time, for having a Bastard Child: Which influenced the Court to dispense with her Punishment, and induced one of her Judges to marry her the next day."


This is the most flattering portrait of Franklin from a series of him by French painter Joseph Duplessis, painted between 1778 (when Franklin was in Paris seeking military help from the French) through to about 1785 (this one is from that later period).

Franklin was also responsible for witty and salacious writings like Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress (1745, but not published during his lifetime, nor in the 19th century) and Fart Proudly (around 1781). He appears to have meant what he said and he evidently practised at both (affairs and farting) frequently and proudly.

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