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London, and was soon pirated in Dublin, Dundee, Edinburgh, New York, Salem, and other cities. It remained the standard edition of the Autobiography until 1817, when the William Temple Franklin edition appeared. This in turn remained the standard edition until that of Mr. Bigelow appeared, in 1867.
The curious fact that one of the most popular books in the English language, which had run through scores of editions, was printed first in its own tongue in a translation from a translation, and that the original manuscript had never been discovered, attracted from time to time the attention of curious book-lovers and students of Franklin's life.
It was reserved for the Honorable John Bigelow to run the autograph to its hiding-place and give it to the world. In 1866, while Mr. Bigelow was the Minister of the United States to France, the idea occurred to him that the original manuscript of the complete Autobiography might be in that country. Some inquiries after it were started, which at first proved unsuccessful; but in the winter of 1867, after Mr. Bigelow had left Paris, and was in London, on his way homeward to the United States, he received from M. Laboulaye, who had been in quest of the
manuscript, a note announcing its discovery in the possession of M. de Senarmont, a descendant of M. Le Veillard.
Mr. Bigelow at once wrote to his friend William H. Huntington, who was living in Paris, authorizing him to examine the manuscript and make an offer for it of 15,000 francs. Mr. Huntington replied in a series of letters of such vivacity that they deserve to become classic in the history of American bibliophily:
(High private and fiducial)
DEAR MR. BIGELOW:
22 Janvier, '67.
Yours of no date whatever reached me Saturday, and that of M. Laboulaye the same afternoon. M. L[aboulaye] knows nothing more of the MSS. and portrait than what he wrote you; gave me letter of presentation to M. Senarmont, whom he does not know, in the which he mentioned your name with full titles, and addressed it 78 Rue de Verneuil.
It was late to go there that day. A "glance at the map" will show you that it is the one-fourth St. Germain, and so I did not go Sunday.
After breakfast and "girding myself up" how much easier one feels after it! I took the
letter in my hand on this blessed day, and got myself up in the highest number in the Rue de Verneuil, which I found, like Franklin's Memoirs, broken off some time before 78. Whereupon "I fetched a compass," as St. Paul would say, and ran for Rue de Varennes, where I presently made No. 98, and hailing the concierge, found I had reached port this time.
Oh, such a concierge - both he and his female! - reputable, civil, in a comfortable room. While getting up a broad, clean staircase, did hear bell ringing in the court. By the time I reached the door au 2me, a gentle domestic was already there. The dining-room was thoroughly warmed; through the open door, into the salon; a carpet continuous with the parquet, and comfortable chairs, and other quietly, not newly rich furnishing, and still another fire, offered so many peaceful indications that here was not a shop to buy things cheap in. M. de S. presently appeared from upstairs (occupy two floors, then!). Handsome (not pretty), 33 à 37 years of age, courteous, shrewd I guess, but really a gentleman. He said that the MSS. were:
1. The original Autobiography, with interlinings, erasures, etc., from which the copy was made that was sent to W. T. Franklin, and the first translation: It is in folio, bound, complete.
2. Letters, mostly, he thinks, to M. Veillard, not relating to politics - at least not specially political-friendly letters, and not, he thinks, ever communicated to Mr. Sparks or other bookmaking person. The portrait is by Duplessis, and, according to a "tradition in the family," the original, not the replica: it was given by B. F. to M. Veillard.
He had neither MSS. nor portrait in the house: they are at his cousin's (who is, as I understand, part owner of them). On Wednesday I am to go to No. 98 Rue de V. again, when he will have them there or will accompany me to his cousin to see them. He did reside formerly in Amiens, where he or his father had these things. An American, he thinks, did come some years ago to see the portrait there; name of that stranger unknown; also his quality, whether merely an inquisitive traveller; is ready but not eager to sell (if he knows himself) at 25,000 francs the lot; does not want to sell any one of the three articles separately. Does not know that they are mercantilely worth 25,000 francs, but intimates that he shall
run the risk of waiting for or provoking the chance of that price being given. Has been applied to by a photographer (this some time ago) to photograph the portrait: declined proposition at the time, but now conceives that it might gratify curiosity of Americans coming to Exposition next May to see copies of it, or the original hung up there!
I fancy that this Universal French-Exposition idea stands more in the way of reducing the price than anything else.
I write you all these things so that, if you see fit, you can let me know before Wednesday noon whether 15,000 francs is your last price. Please write me by mail any suggestions or directions you will: also how, in case he does yield to the charm of 15,000 down, and I can get the MSS. and portrait in time, I am to send them to you. Suppose M. de S. yields on Wednesday the 23d, I get your money Saturday the 26th, and the articles that night. I express them Sunday morning the 27th. And seeing we are in France, that is the quickest time we could hope to make. I must hurry now to catch the mail.
W. H. HUNTINGTON.