Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

stain from animal food. I doubt, said he, whether my constitution will be able to support it. I assured him on the contrary, that he would find himself the better for it. He was naturally a glutton, and I wished to amuse myself by starving him. He consented to make trial of this regimen, if I would bear him company; and in reality we continued it for three months. A woman in the neighborhood prepared and brought us our victuals, to whom I gave a list of forty dishes ; in the composition of which there entered neither flesh nor fish. This fancy was the more agreeable to me, as it turned to good account; for the whole expense of our living did not exceed for each, eighteen pence a week.

I have since that period observed several Lents with the greatest strictness, and have suddenly returned again to my ordinary diet, without experiencing the smallest inconvenience; which has led me to regard as of no importance the advice commonly given of introducing gradually such alterations of regimen.

I continued it cheerfully; but poor Keimer suffer ed terribly. Tired of the project, he sighed for the flesh pots of Egypt. At length he ordered a roast pig, and invited me and two of our female acquaintance to dine with him ; but the pig being ready a little too soon, he could not resist the temptation, and eat it all up before we arrived.

During the circumstances I have related, I had paid some attentions to Miss Read. I entertained for her the utmost esteem and affection ; and I had reason to believe that these sentiments were mutual. But we were both young, scarcely more than eighteen years of age : and as I was on the point of undertaking a long voyage, her mother thought it prudent to prevent matters being carried too far for the present, judging that if marriage was our object, there would be more propriety in it after my return, when, as at least I expected, I should be established in my

busi

ness. Perhaps also she thought that my expectations were not so well founded as I imagined.

My most intimate acquaintance at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph ; young men who were all fond of reading. The two first were clerks to Mr. Charles Brockdon, one of the principal attornies in the town, and the other clerk to a merchant. Watson was an upright, pious, and sensible young man ; the others were somewhat more loose in their principles of religion, particularly Ralph, whose faith, as well as that of Collins, I had contributed to shake; each of whom made me suffer a very adequate punishment. Osborne was sensible, and sincere, and affectionate in his friendships, but too much inclined to the critic in matters of literature. Ralph was ingenious and shrewd, genteel in his address, and extremely eloquent. I do not remember to have met with a more agreeable speaker. They were both enamoured of the muses, and had already evinced their passion by some small poetical productions.

It was a custom with us to take a charming walk on Sundays, in the woods that border on the Schuylkill. Here we read together, and afterwards conversed on what we read. Ralph was disposed to give himself up entirely to poetry. He flattered himself that he should arrive at great eminence in the art, and even acquire a fortune. The sublimest poets, he pretended, when they first began to write, committed as many faults as himself. Osborne endeavored to dissuade him from it, by assuring him that he had no genius for poetry, and advised him to stick to the trade in which he had been brought up. In the road of commerce, said he, you will be sure, by diligence and assiduity, though you have no capital, of so far succeeding as to be employed as a factor, and may thus, in time, acquire the means of setting up for yourself. I concurred in these sentiments, but at the same time

of vers

expressed my approbation of amusing ourselves sometimes with poetry, with a view to improve our style. In

consequence of this it was proposed, that, at our next meeting, each of us should bring a copy es of his own composition. Our object in this competition was to benefit each other by our mutual remarks, criticisms, and corrections; and as style and expression were all we had in view, we excluded every idea of invention, by agreeing that our task should be a version of the eighteenth psalm, in which is described the descent of the deity.

The time of our meeting drew near, when Ralph called upon me and told me his piece was ready.. I informed him that I had been idle, and, not much liking the task, had done nothing. He showed me bis piece, and asked what I thought of it. I expressed myself in terms of warm approbation, because it really appeared to have considerable merit. He then said: Osborne will never acknowledge the smallest degree of excellence in any production of mine. Envy alone dictates to him a thousand animadversions. Of you he is not so jealous : I wish therefore you would take the verses and produce them as your own. I will pretend not to have had leisure to write any thing. We shall then see in what manner he will speak of them. I agreed to this little artifice, and immediately transcribed the verses to prevent all suspicion.

We met. Watson's performance was the first that was read. It had some beauties, but many faults.-We next read Osborne's, which was much better.Ralph did it justice, remarking a few imperfections, and applauding such parts as were excellent. He had himself nothing to show. It was now my turn. I made some difficulty ; seemed as if I wished to be excused; pretended that I had had no time to make corrections, &c. No excuse, however, was admissible, and the piece must be produced. It was read and re-read. Watson and Osborne immediately resigned

the palm, and united in applauding it. Ralph alone made a few remarks, and proposed some alterations ; but I defended my text. Osborne agreed with me, and told Ralph he was no more able to criticise than he was able to write.

When Osborne was alone with me, he expressed himself still more strongly in favor of what he onsidered as my performance. He pretended that he had put some restraint on himself before, apprehensive of my construing his commendation into flattery. But who would have supposed, said he, Franklin to be capable of such a composition ? What painting, what energy, what fire! He has surpassed the original. In his common conversation he appears not to have choice of words ; he hesitates, and is at a loss; and yet, good God, how he writes !

At our next meeting Ralph discovered the trick we had played Osborne, who was rallied without mercy.

By this adventure Ralph was fixed in his resolution of becoming a poet. I left nothing unattempted to divert him from his purpose ; but he persevered, till at last the reading of Pope* effected his cure : he became, however, a very tolerable prose writer. I shall speak more of him hereafter ; but as I shall probably have no farther occasion to mention the other two, I ought to observe here, that Watson died a few years after in my arms. He was greatly regretted, for he was the best of our society. Osborne' went to the islands, where he gained considerable reputation as a barrister, and was getting money ; but he died young, We had seriously engaged, that whoever died first should return, if possible, and pay a friendly visit to the

* Probably the Dunciad, where we find him thus immortalized by the author:

Silence ye wolves, while RALPH to Cynthia howls,
And makes night hideous; answer him, ye owls?

survivor, to give him an account of the other world ; but he has never fulfilled his engagement.

The govečnor appeared to be fond of my company, and frequently invited me to his house. He always spoke of his intention of settling me in business, as a point that was decided. I was to take with me letters of recommendation to a number of friends; and particularly a letter of credit, in order to obtain the necessary sum for the purchase of my press, types,

and

ра• per.

He appointed various times for me to come for these letters, which would certainly be ready; and when I came, always put me off to another day.

These successive delays continued till the vessel whose departure had been several times deferred, was on the point of setting sail; when I again went to Sir William's house, to receive my letters and take leave of him. I saw his secretary, Dr. Bard, who told me that the governor was extremely busy writing, but that he would be down at Newcastle before the vessel, and that the letters would be delivered to me there.

Ralph, though he was married and had a child, determined to accompany me in this voyage. His object was supposed to be the establishing a correspon** dence with some mercantile houses, in order to sell goods by commission ; but I afterwards learned, that, having reason to be dissatisfied with the parents of his wife, he proposed to himself to leave her on their hands, and never return to America again.

Having taken leave of my friends, and interchanged promises of fidelity with Miss Read, I quitted Philadelphia. At Newcastle the vessel came to anchor. The governor was arrived, and I went to his lodgings. His secretary received me with great civility, told me on the part of the governor, that he could not see me then, as he was engaged in affairs of the utmost importance, but that he would send the letters on board, and that he wished me, with all his heart, a good voyage and speedy return. I returned, somewhat aston

« ZurückWeiter »