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ing to ideal standards, are broad, human, and practical.
I have always,” wrote he, late in life, “set a greater value on the character of a doer of good, than any other kind of reputation.” And again, at the most critical epoch of his life, when beset with menace, jealousy, and injustice, he said, “My rule is to go straight forward in doing what appears to me to be right, leaving the consequences to Providence."
It has been well observed of Franklin, that "he never spoke a word too soon, nor a word too late, nor a word too much, nor failed to speak the right word at the right season.” He was the incarnation of simple common-sense:
“Rich in saving common-sense, And, as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublime." Franklin's literary works are voluminous; yet few men who have written so much have written so little that may not profitably be read. The ten volumes collected by Dr. Sparks comprise, in addition to the Autobiography, (1) Essays on Religious and Moral Subjects, (2) Essays on General Politics and Political Economy, (3) Historical and Political Essays, Tracts, and Papers, (4) Letters and Papers on Electricity, (5) Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects, and (6) Correspondence.
Franklin was master of a style suited to every need,- to the lucid exposition of deep subjects, to the homely utterances of “Poor Richard,” to the polished fence of diplomacy, to the caustic exhibition of folly, and to the sparkling and graceful interchange of thought in the form of epistolary correspondence.
1.- MY EARLY LITERARY STUDIES.
[The following is an extract from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. This memoir was written by Franklin partly in England in 1771, and partly in Paris in 1785, and brings the story of his life down to 1757, the year in which he first went to England as agent for the Colony of Pennsylvania. The Autobiography ranks as one of the inost delightful and instructive revelations of an individual life ever written, and should be read by all the youth of America. Though Franklin's mode of writing does not always come up to the standard of our rigid modern rules, his style is always clear, sparkling, and limpid.]
FROM a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books. Pleased with the Pilgrim's Progress, my first collection 1 was of John Bunyan's works, in separate little volumes. I afterwards sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton's Historical Collections : 2 they were small chapmen's 3 books, and cheap, forty or fifty in all. My father's little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic divinity,4 most of which I read, and have since often regretted, that, at a time when I had such a thirst 5 for knowledge, more proper books
1 collection. See Glossary. ing of which is price, barter, – the
2 Burton's, etc. The Historical modern meaning being at a low Collections bearing the name of R. price. Our word “chap,” meaning Burton were compiled in the latter | a fellow, is an abbreviation of part of the seventeenth and early chapman.” part of the eighteenth centuries by 4 polemic divinity, theological an Englishman named Nathaniel controversies: a kind of reading Crouch.
much relished by our hard-headed 3 chapman: originally a mer- ancestors in the eighteenth century. chant; later a peddler. The word 5 thirst. Used figuratively: subis related to cheap, the literal mean-Istitute a plain term.
had not fallen in my way, since it was now resolved 1 I should not be a clergyman. Plutarch's Lires 3 there was in which I read abundantly," and I still think that time spent to great advantage. There was also a book of De Foe's, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Mather's, called Essays to Do Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life.
This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a printer, though he had already one son (James) of that profession. In 1717 my brother James returned from England with a press and letters, to set up his business in Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father, but still had a hankering for the sea.
To prevento the apprehended effect of such an inclination, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother. I stood out some time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the indentures when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to serve as an apprentice till I was twenty-one years of age, only I was to be allowed journeyman's wages during the last year. In a little time I made great proficiency in the business, and became a useful hand to my brother. I now had access to better books. An acquaintance with the apprentices of booksellers enabled me sometimes to borrow a small one, which I was careful to return soon and clean. Often I sat up in my room reading the greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening and to be returned early in the morning, lest it should be missed or wanted.
1 resolved. Give a synonym. | 1728), a famous theological writer.
2 clergyman. Franklin in his In a letter written by Franklin from Autobiography says, “I was put to Paris in 1784 to Samuel Mather, the grammar school at eight years son of Cotton Mather, Franklin of age; my father intending to says, “The Essays to Do Good gave devote me, as the tithe of his sons, me such a turn of thinking as to to the service of the Church." have an influence on my conduct
8 Plutarch: a Greek who four- through life; and if I have been, ished in the latter half of the first as you seem to think, a useful citicentury, A.D., renowned as the zen, the public owes the advantage author of the "parallel lives” of of it to that book.” forty-six Greeks and Romans. 7 letters: i.e., type.
4 abundantly. See Webster. 8 that of my father. Franklin's
5 De Foe: author of Robinson father was a tallow-chandler and Crusoe.
soap-boiler; i.e., he made candles 6 Dr. Mather: i.e., Rev. Cotton and soap. Mather (born in Boston 1665, died 9 prevent. See Glossary.
And after some time an ingenious 2 tradesman, Mr. Matthew Adams, who had a pretty collection of books, and who frequented our printing-house, took notice of me, invited me to his library, and very kindly lent me such books as I chose to read. I now took a fancy to poetry, and made some little pieces. My brother, thinking it might turn to account, encouraged me, and put me on 4 composing' occasional ballads. One was called “The Light-house Tragedy," and contained an account of the drowning of Captain Worthilake, with his two daughters; the other was a sailor's song, on the taking of “Teach” (or Blackbeard), the pirate.
1 bound to my brother: i.e., ap- 2 ingenious, having some culprenticed; the contract by which a ture. lad thus apprenticed himself for a 3 pretty, considerable. term of years was called his inden- put me on, set me to. tures.
composing. See Webster.
They were wretched stuff, in the Grub-street ballad style;1 and when they were printed he sent me about the town to sell them. The first sold wonderfully, the event, being recent, having made a great noise. This flattered my vanity ; but my father discouraged me by ridiculing my performances, and telling me versemakers were generally beggars. So I escaped being a poet, most probably a very bad one; but as prose-writing has been of great use to me in the course of my life, and was a principal means of my advancement, I shall tell you how, in such a situation, I acquired what little ability I have in that way. ...
About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator 3 It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it.
With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentimento in each sentence, laid them by a few days; and then, without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers again by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words
1 Grub-street style. Grubs in the eighteenth century (1711), Street in London was in the eigh- and containing literary criticism, teenth century much inhabited by sketches of character, and light sohack writers. “Whence,” says Dr. cial chit-chat. It was in this paper Johnson, “any mean production is that Addison, the principal concalled Grub-street" style.
tributor, first displayed the charms 2 event. See Glossary.
of his graceful humor and agreeable Spectator. The Spectator was a style. small daily periodical started early
4 sentiment. Give a synonym.