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This volume of selections from the writings of Benjamin Franklin begins with a series of extracts from his “ Autobiography." The occasion and motive for the composition of this work are explained in its opening paragraph. It was begun in 1771. Franklin, at that time residing in England as the agent of the American colonies, was enjoying a week's leisure at the country house of his friend Dr. Shipley, the Bishop of St. Asaph's. He was in his sixtysixth year. The contrast between his present position of honor and influence and the narrow circumstances of his boyhood was striking, though the full force of Franklin's personality and his greatest services to his country were yet to be displayed.

It was for the perusal of his own family, apparently, that the memoirs were first undertaken, and there is no evidence that at this time Franklin considered the question of their ultimate publication. The composition was interrupted after he had told the story of his life up to the period of his marriage. Thirteen years later, in 1784, while living in France, he resumed his task. The blank line on page 78 of

the present volume indicates the beginning of the second portion, and its conclusion will be found on page 102.

The third and final section of the memoirs was written in Philadelphia in 1788, in the author's eighty-second year.

He writes under date of October 24th, 1788, to his friend Benjamin Vaughan, who had seen and praised the first part of his manuscript : I am recovering from a long-continued gout, and am diligently employed in writing the History of my Life, to the doing of which the persuasions contained in your letter of January 31st, 1783, have not a little contributed. I am now in the year 1756, just before I was sent to England. To shorten the work, as well as for other reasons, I omit all facts and transactions that may not have a tendency to benefit the young reader, by showing him from my example, and my success in emerging from poverty, and acquiring some degree of wealth, power, and reputation, the advantages of certain modes of conduct which I observed, and of avoiding the errors which were prejudicial to me. writer can judge properly of his own work, I fancy, on reading over what is already done, that the book will be found entertaining, interesting, and useful, more so than I expected when I began it."

Entertaining, interesting, and useful the Autobiography'' surely is. The extracts chosen relate largely to Franklin's early life, and to the formation of his habits and charac

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ter. His “Rules of Conduct," one of the most curious documents in the history of morals, is given entire. Franklin's activity as a citizen of Philadelphia is illustrated by two extracts entitled “ Public Affairs” and “ Civic Pride"although the reader should remember that there are no headings or chapter divisions in the original. The account of his singular friendship with George Whitefield is reprinted in full, and there are two brief passages relating to the famous Franklin stove and to the Doctor's ex. periments with electricity.

Of the literary value of the “ Autobiography'' but little need be said. Its ease and originality, its humor, its combination of shrewd worldliness and overflowing benevolence, have long since given it a place among the great autobiographies. Franklin's own manuscript, it may be added, after surviving singular vicissitudes of fortune, was printed for the first time in 1868, under the editorship of Mr. John Bigelow. This text, differing in many points from the one originally published by William Temple Franklin in 1817, and preserving Franklin's occasionally inconsistent spelling, has been here reprinted by permission.

"he text of “Poor Richard's Almanac,"like- , wise, is believed to be an accurate reproduction of the edition of 1757, which threw into connected form the proverbial sayings that for many years had given spice to Franklin's an. nual “ Almanacs." The motive that led him to


the collection and publication of these curt, wise comments upon life and the world is described in the “ Autobiography," in a passage here printed as an introductory note to the “ Almanac." Franklin's account of the contemporary influence of “ Poor Richard" is no whit exaggerated. Mr. John T. Morse, Jr., one of Franklin's recent biographers, says:

. Poor Richard' was the revered and popular school. master of a young nation during its period of tutelage. His teachings are among the powerful forces which have gone to shaping the habits of Americans. His terse and picturesque bits of the wisdom and the virtue of this world are familiar in our mouths to-day ; they moulded our great-grandparents and their children ; they have informed our popular traditions ; they still influence our actions, guide our ways of thinking, and establish our points of view, with the constant control of acquired habits which we little suspect.'

The shrewd wit that was the salt of the “ Almanac' characterizes also Franklin's essays and miscellaneous writings. They are models of an effective popular style that loses no dignity in becoming colloquial. Carelessly as Franklin often wrote, his acquaintance with the best English prose and a happy instinct that was quite his own kept him as far from affectation as from dulness. His story of “ The Whistle" is perhaps the most famous of these compositions, but they are all delightful.

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Nothing could be more perfect of its kind than Franklin's speech in the Federal Convention of 1787, in favor of opening its daily sessions with prayer. It is decorous, eloquent, irreproachable. Yet it seems to have convinced but very few members of the Convention, and in truth Franklin's real attitude toward that other world whose assistance he then entreated is difficult to determine with any certainty. He was not“ spiritually-minded"-as his friend Whitefield would have understood that phrase. Yet he sought virtue persistently, and in spite of early

"errata” the printer's life was governed by „noble impulses and guided to worthy ends. One of the ablest men of his century, he was also one of the most useful.

Readers of this little volume will miss the story of Franklin the patriot, the diplomatist, the statesman ; they will have merely a glimpse of the scientist ; but the temper of the man is revealed upon every page.

It is betrayed in his casual letters : in the lines about “prudential algebra" to Dr. Priestley ; in the familiar, You are my enemy, and I am Yours," to his friend Strahan the printer; in the admiring, generous sentences addressed to George Washington ; in the account of his peaceful closing years written to his old companion, the Bishop of St. Asaph's. Franklin lived happily and died content, assured of the respect and gratitude of mankind. "Take one thing with another," he wrote to his sister, "and the world is a pretty

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