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were also in the habit of consulting him in their private affairs, and he was often chosen arbiter between contending parties.
“He was fond of having at his table, as often as possible, some friends or well-informed neighbours, capable of rational conversation; and he was always careful to introduce useful or ingenious topics of discourse, which might tend to form the minds of his: children. By this means, he early attracted our attention to what was just, prudent, and beneficial, in the conduct of life. He never talked of the meats which appeared upon the table ; never discussed whether they were well or ill dressed, of a good or bad flavour,high-seasoned or otherwise, preferable or inferior to this or that dish of a similar kind. Thus accustomed, from my infancy, to the utmost inattention as to these objects, I have been perfectly regardless of what kind of food was before me; and I pay so little attention to it even now, that it would be a hard' matter for me to recollect, a few hours after I had dined, of what my dinner had consisted. When travelling, I have particularly experienced the advantage of this habit : for it has often happened to me to be in company
with persons, who, having a more delicate because a more exercised, taste, have suffered, in many cases, consi. derable inconvenience; while, as to myself, I have had nothing to desire.”
Franklin, from childhood, was of a frugal turn, and saved money prior to his apprenticeship, which made him master of “ Burton's Historical Collection;" “ small chapmen's books," as he describes them, “ and cheap, forty volumes in all." His father's library contained the usual books of the more intelligent nonconformists of that day, i.e., those of speculative and controversial divinity *; Plutarch's Lives, however,
* An anecdote of Dr Franklin's childhood has often been given ; but it exhibits his propensity to innocent humour so characteristically, that we cannot
The father followed the patterns of piety he had received from his ancestors, so as to be addicted to very long graces.
When therefore, on one occasion, the family provision of salt meat for the winter was about to be put into a barrel, " Father," said Benjamin, “ if you were to say grace now, over the whole barrel at once, it would be a prodigious saving of time."
inspired his early taste for biography and anecdote; Defoe's Essays on Projects stirred perhaps his first propensities to invention and practical enterprise; and Dr Mather's “Essay to do Good,” his benevolent inclinations. He mentions the last two as tending to give him a turn of thinking which influenced the principal future events of his life.
We now hear no more of his preference for the sea ; or it remained with him only in the innocent shape of the love of bathing and swimming ; for he steadily applied to his brother's business, and became important to all his proceedings. Very humble, and humbly dealt with, was his first attempt at authorship" wretched stuff," he lived to call it, “ in the streetballad style ;" but the mercenary brother found his account in commissioning Benjamin to hawk some of these productions about the streets of Boston, particularly a ballad called “ The Light-house Tragedy” (containing an account of a then recent shipwreck) and “a Sailor's Song, on the taking of Teach or Blackbeard, a noted Pirate.” The father however remonstrated, reminded both brothers that versemakers were generally beggars, and criticised Benjamin's productions until he relinquished them.
But he was not unnoticed in a more encouraging way, and for more hopeful production. Matthew Adams, esq., an intelligent merchant of Boston, welcomed him to the use of a pretty extensive library; he read Locke, and the “Port Royal Art of Thinking ;' and studied and imitated the Spectator. He speaks in warm terms of his delight at making an odd volume of the latter his own, and the use he promptly made of it. “ This was a publication I had never seen," he says. " I bought the volume, and read it again and again. I was enchanted with it, thought the style excellent, and wished it were in my power to imitate it. With this view, I selected some of the papers, made short summaries of the sense of each period, and put them for a few days aside. I then, without looking at the book, endeavoured to restore the essays to their due
form, and to express each thought at length, as it was in the original, employing the most appropriate words that occurred to my mind.
“I afterwards compared my Spectator with the original : I perceived some faults, which I corrected; but I found that I wanted a fund of words, if I may so express myself, and a facility of recollecting and employing them, which I thought I should by that time have acquired, had I continued to make verses. The continual need of words of the same meaning, but of different lengths for the measure, or of different sounds for the rhyme, would have obliged me to seek for a variety of synonymes, and have rendered me master of them. From this belief, I took some of the tales of the Spectator, and turned them into verse; and after a time, when I had sufficiently forgotten them, I again converted them into prose.
“ Sometimes also I mingled all my summaries together, and a few weeks after endeavoured to arrange them in the best order, before I attempted to form the periods and complete the essays. This I did with a view of acquiring method in the arrangement of my thoughts. On comparing afterwards my performance with the original, many faults were apparent, which I corrected; but I had sometimes the satisfaction to think, that in certain particulars of little importance I had been fortunate enough to improve the order of thought or the style; and this encouraged me to hope that I should succeed, in time, in writing decently in the English language, which was one of the great objects of my ambition.'
About this time, a literary acquaintance of the name of Collins, of Boston, induced Franklin to attempt his first original composition in prose. They had been disputing verbally on the propriety of bestowing a learned education upon the female sex. Franklin maintained the affirmative of the question: but his opponent, having the greater command of words, left him mortified with the feeling of a momentary defeat. As they were not again to meet for
some time, Franklin determined to attempt a reply to Collins on paper: and a correspondence was commenced upon the subject. Thus springs the future stream of Franklin's literary character, and his singular ability for temperate and fair discussion. He here again receives the advantage of his father's superintendence of his plans. The papers both of Benjamin and his friend were accidentally seen by him; to Collins he gave the palm of superior eloquence—to Franklin, of more correct orthography and punctuation; but far from discouraging his future attempts in this way, he stimulated his plans of self-improvement, and fostered his rising ambition.
His other modes of economising time and money were often commendable. He adopted a vegetable diet; and offering to maintain himself for half the money his brother paid for his board, the overture was readily accepted. Out of money saved from this half now paid to him, he contrived to obtain what was to him a considerable fund for the purchase of books: and while his brother and the other workmen took their dinner and other meals, his lighter repast of biscuit or bread and water, a handful of raisins, or a tart, was soon despatched, and afforded him leisure for reading and study, which he could obtain in no other way.
Evidently fond of disputation, and having increased some previous tendency to scepticism by the perusal of Collins and Shaftesbury, he now studied the Socratic method of conducting it, to the great occasional perplexity of his associates; but with great good sense he established a rule for himself, never to use the phrases “ certainly, undoubtedly,” or any others that gave an air of positiveness to his opinions; but to substitute"I conceive; I apprehend; it appears to me so and so: it is so, if I am not greatly mistaken.” “ This habit, I believe,” he says, " has been of great advantage to me, when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been, from time to time, engaged in promoting.
And as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning and sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat most of the purposes for which speech was given to us.'
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown proposed as things forgot. So long as this can be fairly reconciled with sincerity, this advice may be attended to; but this last line from Pope may probably suggest rather too close a connexion with the art of the courtier to be unequivocally recommended.
When about four years of Franklin's apprenticeship had expired, we find him contributing material assista ance to his brother in the establishment of a newspaper-the New England Courant. This was the second that appeared in the colonies; and Mr James Franklin was seriously dissuaded by many of his friends from undertaking it, on the ground of one paper being enough for America !
It being Benjamin's office to assist in the distribution of the paper, and to communicate between the press and the contributors, he soon imbibed a desire to try his hand amongst the latter, and began by placing anonymous essays, in a disguised handwriting, under the office-door. Great was his delight on finding them attributed to some of the most ingenious and learned men of the town: he returned to his undertaking with fresh vigour, and had even the rare good sense to pause when “ his .fund for such performances was exhausted.” He then avowed his productions, and advanced in the estimation of the Bostonian wits accordingly.
But alas for the propensity of our nature to envy! James Franklin soon considered his brother's authorship in this point of view. It increased the sale of his paper; this was solid pudding : but it brought the poor author empty praise; and this, in James's opinion, was dangerous food for his brother. Disa