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*abit of consulting him in theirprivate 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 at> lention to what was just, prudent, and beneficial in the conduct of life. He never talkedof tiie mean which appeared upon the table, never discussed whether they were wed or ill-diessed, 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 travellmg, [ 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 considerable inoimvenience . while as to myself, I have had nothing to desire.
My mother was likewise possessed of an excellent constitution. She suckled all her ten children, and I never heard either her or my father complain r.f am other disorder than that of which they died: my fa tier at the age of eighty-seven, and my mother aeighty-five. 1 hey are buried together at Boston, where, a few years ago, I placed a marble over tlieii |tave, with this inscription:
■ Josias Franklm and Abiah his wife: They lived "together with reciprocal affection fbrnfty-ninoyears'and without private fortune, without lucrative em-'
"ployment, by assiduous labour and honest industry "decently supported a numerous family, and ed-ici'
■ led with success, thirteen children, and seven pand
* children. Let this example, reader, encourage thee "diligently to discharge the duties of thy calling, and to rely on the support of Divine Providence."He was pious and prudent,
'' She discreet and virtuous.
'Their youngest son, from a sentiment of filial duty,
"consecrates this stone to
I perceive, by my rambling digressions, that I am growing old. But we do not dress for a private company as for a formal ball. This deserves, perhaps, the name of negligence.
To return. I thus continued employed in my fa . therms trade for the space of two years; that is to say, till I arrived at twelve years of age. About this time my brother John, who had servedhis apprenticeship in London, having quitted my father, and being married and settled in business on his own account at Rhode Island, I was destined, to all appearance, to supply his place, and be a candle-maker all my life: but my dislike of this occupation conticuing, my father was apprehensive, that, if a more agreeable..ione were not offered me, I might play the truant and escape to sea; as, to his extreme morf iri-cation, my brother Josias had done. He therefore took me sometimes to see masons, coopers, braziers, joiners, and other mechanics, employed at their work; in order to discover the bent of my inclination, and fix it if he could upon some occupation that might retain me on shore. I have since, in consequence of these visits, derived no small pleasure from seeing skilful workmen handle their tools; and it has proved of considerable benefit, to have acquired thereby sufficient knowledge to be able to make little things for myself, when I have had no mechanic at hand, and to construct small machines for my experiments, while the idea I have conceived has been fresh and strongly impressed on my imagination.
My father at length decided that I should be a cutler, and I was placed for some days upon trial with my cousin Samuel, son of my uncle Benjamin, wna had learned this trade in London, and had established himself at Boston. But the premium he required for my apprenticeship displeasing my father, I was recalled home.
From my earliest years I had been passionately fond of reading, and 1 laid out in books all the money I could procure. I was particularly pleased with accounts of voyages. My first acquisition was Bunyan's collection in small separate volumes. These I afterwards sold in order to boy a historical collection by R. Burton, which consisted of small cheap volumes, amounting in all to about forty or fifty. My father's little library was principally made up of books of practical and polemical theology. I read the greatest part of them. I have since often regretted that at a time when I had so great a thirst for Knowledge, moro eligible books had not fallen into my hands, as it was then a point decided that I should not be educated for the church. There was also among my father's books Plutarch's Lives, in which I read continually, and I still regard as advantageously employed the time I devoted to them. I found besides a work of De Foe's, entitled an Essay on Projects, from which, perhaps, I derived impressions that have since influenced some of the principal events of my life.
My inclination for books at last determined my father to make me a printer, though he had already a son in that profession. My brother had returned from England in I7I7, with a press and types, iiubrier to establish a printing-house at Boston. This business pleased me much better than that of my father, though I had still a predilection for the sea. fo proven' the effects which might result from this inclination, my father was impatient to see me engaged with my brother. I held back for some time; at length, however, I suffered myself to be persuaded, and signed my indentures, Deing then only twelve years of age. It was agreed that I should serve as an apprentice to the age of twenty-one, and should receive journeyman's wages only during the last year.
In a very short time I made great proficiency in this business, and became very serviceable to mf brother. 1 had now an opportunity of procuring better books. The acquaintance I necessarily formed with booksellers' apprentices, enabled me to borrow a volume now and then, which I never failed to return punctually and without injury. How often has it happened to me to pass the greater part of the night in reading by my bed-side, when the book had been lent me in the evening, and was to be returned the next morning, lest it might be missed or wanted.
At length Mr. Matthew Adams, an ingenious tradesman, who had a handsome collection of books, and who frequented our printing-houso, took notice of me. He invited me to see his library, and had the goodness to lend me any books I was desirous of reading. I then took a strange fancy for poetry, and composed several little pieces. My brother, thinking he might find his account in it, encouraged me, and engaged me to write two ballads. One, called the Light-house Tragedy, contained an account of the shipwreck of Captain Wortnilake and his two daughters; the other was a sailor's song on the capture of the noted pirate called Teach, or Black-beard. They were wretched verses in point of style, mere blindmen's ditties. When printed, he dispatched me about town to sell them. The first had a prodigious run, because the event was recent, and had made a great noise.
My vanity was flattered by this success; but my father checked my exultation, by ridiculing my productions, and telling me that versifiers were always poor. I thus escaped the misfortune of being a very wretched poet. But as the faculty of writing prose has been of great service to me in the course of my life, and principally contributed to my advancement, I shall relate by what means, situated as I was, I tcquircd the small skill I may possess in that way. There was in the town another young man, a great lover of books, of thename of John Collins, with whom I was intimately connected. We frequently engaged in dispute, and were indeed so fond of argumentation, that nothing was so agreeable to us as a war of words. Thiscontentious temper, I would observe by the by, is in danger of becoming a very bad habit, and frequently renders a man's company insupportable, as being no otherwise capable of indu) pence than by an indiscriminate contradiction. In* dependent!}' of the acrimony and discord it introduces into conversation, and is often productive of dislike, and even hatred, between persons to whom friendship is indispensably necessary. I acquired it by reading, while I lived with my father, books of religious controversy. I have since remarked, that men of sense seldom fall into this error; lawyers, lellowa cf universities, and persons of every profession educated at Edinburgh, excepted.
Collins and I fell one day into an argument, relative to the education of women; namely, whether it was proper to instruct them in the sciences, and whether they were competent to the study. Collins supported the negative, and affirmed that the task was beyond their capacity. I maintained the opposite opinion, a little perhaps for the pleasure of disputing. He was naturally moreeloquent than I; words flowed copiously from his lips; and frequently I thought myselfvanquished, more by his volubility than by the force of his arguments. We separated without coming to an agreement upon this point, and as we were not to see each other again for some time, I committed my thoughts to paper, made a fair copy, and sent it to him. He answered, and I replied. Three or four letters had been written by each, when my father chanced to light upon my papers and read them. Without entering into the merits of the cause, he embraced the opportunity of speaking to me upon my manner of writing. He observed, that though I had the advantage of my adversary in correct spelling and pointing, which I owed to my occupation, I was greatly his inferior in elegance of expression, in arrangement, and perspicuity. Of this he convinced me by several examples. I felt the justice of his remarks, became more attentive to language, and resolved to make every effort to improve my style. Amidst these resolves an odd volume of the Spectator fell into my hands. This was a publication I had never seen. 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 nowos