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h; some friend, my reliance on in and I stil)
ment of important affairs. But Sir William, upon reading his letter, thought him too prudent. There was a difference, he said, between individuals: years of maturity were not always accompanied with discretion, neither was youth in every instance devoid of it
Since your father,” added he, “ will not set you up in business, I will do it myself. Make out a list of what will be wanted from England, and I will send for the articles. You shall repay me when you can. I am determined to have a good printer here, and I am sure you will succeed." This was said with so much seeming cordiality, that I suspected not for an instant the sincerity of the offer. I had hitherto kept the preject, with which Sir William had inspired me, of set. tling in business, a secret at Philadelphia, and I still continued to do so. Had my reliance on the governor been known, some friend, better acquainted with his character than myself, would doubtless have advised me not to trust him ; for I afterwards learned that he was universally known to be liberal of promises, when he had no intention to perform. But having never solicited him, how could I suppose his offers to be deceitful ? On the contrary, I believed him to be the best man in the world.
I gave him an inventory of a small printing-office; the expense of which I had calculated at about a hundred pounds sterling. He expressed his approbation ; but asked if my presence in England, that I might choose the characters myself, and see that every article was good in its kind, would not be an advantage? “You will also be able,” said he,“ to form some acquaintance there, and establish a correspondence with stationers and booksellers.” This I acknowledged was desirable. "That being the case,” added he,“ hold yourself in readiness to go with the Annis." This was the annual vessel, and the only one, at that time, which made regular voyages between the ports of London and Philadelphia. But the Annis was not to sail for some months. I therefore continued to work with Keimer, unhappy respecting the sum which Collins had drawn from me, almost in continual agony at the thoughts of Vernon, who fortunately made no demand of his money till several years after.
In the account of my first voyage from Boston to Philadelphia, I omitted, I believe, a trifling circumstance, which will not, perhaps, be out of place here. During a calm, which stopped us above Block Island, the crew employed themselves in fishing for cod, of which they caught a great number. I had hitherto adhered to my resolution of not eating any thing that had
possessed life ; and I considered, on this occasion, agreeably to the maxims of my master, Tyron, the capture of every fish as a sort of murder, committed without provocation, since these animals had neither done, nor were capable of doing, the smallest injury to any one that should justify the measure. This mode of reasoning I conceived to be unanswerable. Meanwhile, I had formerly been extremely fond of fish; and, when one of these cod was taken out of the fryingpan, I thought its flavour delicious. I hesitated some time between principle and inclination, till at last recollect ing, that when the cod had been opened, some small fish were found in its belly, I said to myself, if you eat one another, I see no reason why we may not eat you. I accordingly dined on the cod with no small degree of pleasure, and have since continued to eat like the rest of mankind, returning only occasionally to my vegetable plan. How convenient does it prove to be a rational animal, that knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination so to do.
I continued to live upon good terms with Keimer, who had not the smallest suspicion of my projected establishment. He still retained a portion of his for mer enthusiasm; and, being fond of argument, we frequently disputed together. I was so much in the habit of using my Socratic method, and had so frequently puzzled him by my questions, which appeared at first very distant from the point in debate, yet nevertheless, led to it by degrees, involving him in difficulties and contradictions from which he was unable to extricate himself, that he became at last ridiculously cautions, and would scarcely answer the most plain and familiar question without previously asking me-What would you infer from that? Hence he formed so high an opinion of my talents for refutation, that he seriously proposed to me to become his colleague in the establishment of a new religious sect. He was to propagate the doctrine by preaching, and I to refute every opponent.
When he explained to me his tenets, I found many absurdities which I refused to admit, unless he would agree in turn to adopt some of my opinions. Keimer wore his beard long, because Moses had somewhere said, “Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard.” He likewise observed the Sabbath ; and these were with him two very essential points. I disliked them both ; but I consented to adopt them, I provided he would agree to abstain from animal food." I doubt,” said he, whether my constitution will be able to sup port it. I assured him on the contrary, that he would find himself the better for it. He was naturally a glut
ton, 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 neighbourhood 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 eighteenpence 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 suffered 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 business. Perhaps also she thought that my expectations were not so well founded as I imagined.
My most intmate 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 attorneys 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 ingenuous 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 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 endeavoured to dissuade him, 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 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 of verses of his own composition. Our object in this competition was to benefit each other hy 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 that his performance was ready. "I informed him that I had been idle, and, not much liking the task, had done nothing. He showed me his piece, and asked me 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 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 that 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 favour of what he considered as my performance. He pretended that he had put some restraint on himself before, apprehensive of my construing his commendations 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 a 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 survivor, to give him an account of the other world; but he has never fulfilled his engagement. a The governor appeared to be fond of ny company, and frequently invited me to his house. He always
Protably the Dunciad, where we find him thus iinmortalized by the author :
3." Silence, ye wolves, while Ralph to Cynthia howls, *** And makes night hideous ; auswer him ye owls!”,