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to imitate it. With this view I selected some of the papers, made short summaries of the sense of each period, and put them for a few days aside. I then, without looking at the book, endeavoured to restore the essays to their due form, and to express each thought at length, as it was in the original, employing the most appropriate words that occurred to my mind. I afterwards compared my Spectator with the original; I perceived some faults, which I corrected but I found that I wanted a fund of words, if I may so express myself, and a facility of recollecting and employing them, which I thought I should by that time have acquired, had I continued to make verses. The continual need of words of the same meaning, but of different lengths for the measure, or of different sounds for the rhyme, would have obliged me to seek for a variety of synonymes, and have rendered me master of them. From this belief, I took some of the tales of the Spectator and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had sufficiently forgotten them, I again converted them into prose.
Sometimes also I mingled all my summaries together; and, a few weeks after, endeavoured tu arrange them in the best order, before I attempted to form the periods and complete the essays. This I did with a view of acquiring method in the arrangement of my thoughts. On comparing, afterwards, my performance with the original, many faults were apparent, which I corrected; but I had sometimes the satisfaction to think, that, in certain particulars of little importance, I had been fortunate enough to improve the order of thought or the style; and this encouraged me to hope that I should succeed, in time, in writing decently in the English language, which was one of the great objects of my ambition.
The time which I devoted to these exexises, an4 to reading, was the evening after my day's labour wai finished, the morning before it began, and Sundays when I could escape attending Divine service. While I lived with my father, he had insisted on my punctual attendance on public worship, and I still indeed considered it as a duty, but a duty which I thought I had no time to pracuse.
When about sixteen years of age, a work of Tryon fell into my hands, in which he recommends vegetaole diet I determined to observe it. My brother being a bachelor, did not keep house, but boarded with his apprentices in a neighbouring family. My refusing to eat animal food was found inconvenient, and Iwu often scolded for my singularity. I attended to the mode in which Tryon prepared some of his dishes particularly how to boil potatoes and rice, and maka fasty puddings. I then said to my brother, that if he would allow me per week half what he paid for my board, I would undertake to maintain myself. The offer was instantly embraced, and I soon found that of what he gave me I was able to save half. This was a new fund for the purchase of books; and other advantages resulted to me from the plan. When my brother and his workmen left the printinghouse to go to dinner, I remained behind; and dispatching my frugal meal, which frequently consisted of a biscuit only, or a slice of bread and a bunch of raisins, or a bun from the pastry-cook's, with a glass of water, I had the rest of the time, till their return, for study; and my progress therein was proportioned to that clearness of ideas, and quickness of conception, which are the fruit of temperance in eating and drinking.
It was about this period that, having one day been put to the blush for my ignorance in the art of calculation, which I had twice failed to learn while at school, I took Cocker's Treatise of Arithmetic, and went through it myself with the utmost ease. I also read a book of Navigation by Seller and Sturmy, and made myself master of the little geometry it contains, but I never proceeded far in this science. Nearly at the same time I read Locke on the Human Understanding, and the Art of Thinking, by Messrs. D« Port Royal.
While labouring to form and improve my style, I met with an English Grammar, which I believe was Greenwood's, having at the end of it two little essays on rhetoric and logic. In the latter I found a model of disputation after the manner of Socrates. Shortly after I procured Xenophon's work, entitled, Memonv
tie Things of Socrates, in which are various examples of the same method. Charmed to a degree of enthusiasm with this mode of disputing, I adopted it, and renouncing blunt contradiction, and direct and positive argument, I assumed the character of a humble questioner. The perusal of Shaftsbury and Collins had made me a sceptic; and, being previously so as to many doctrines of Christianity, I tour.d Socles' method to be both the safest for myself, as well as the most embarrassing to those against whom I employed it. It soon afforded me singular pleasure; I incessantly practised it; and became very adroit in obtaining, even from persons of superior understanding, concessions of which they did not foresee the consequence. Thus I involved them in difficulties from which they were unable to extricate themselves, and sometimes obtained victories, which neither my cause nor my arguments merited.
This method I continued to employ for some years -, but I afterwards abandoned it by degrees, retaining only the habit of expressing myself with modest diffidence, and never making use, when I advanced any proposition which might be controverted, of the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that might give the appearance of being obstinately attached to my opinion. I rather said, I imagine, I suppose, or it appears to me, that such a thing is so or so, for such and such reasons; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit has, I think, been of considerable advantage to me, when I have had occasion to impress my opinion on the minds of others, and persuade them to the adoption of the measures I have suggested. And since the chief ends of conversation are, to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I could wish that intelligent and well-meaning men would no themselves diminish the power they possess of beinj useful, by a positive and presumptuous manner of expressing themselves, which scarcely ever fails to disgust the hearer, and is only calculated to excite opposition, and defeat every purpose for which the faculty of speech has been bestowed on man. In short, if you wish to inform, a positive and dogmatical manner of advancing your opinion may provokecontradiction, and prevent your being heard with attention. On the other hand, if, with a desire of twins mformed, and of benefitmg hy the knowledge of others, you express yourself as being strongly attached to your own opinions, modest and sensible men, who do not love disputation, will leave you in tranquil possession of your errors. By following such a method, you can rarely hope to please your auditors, conciliate their good-will, or work conviction on those whom you may be desirous of gaining over to your views. Pope judiciously observes, Men must be taught as ifyou taught them not, And things unknown proposed as things forgot. And in the same poem he afterwards advises us, To speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence. He might have added to these lines, one that he has coupled elsewhere, in my opinion, with less propriety. It is this:
For want of modesty is want of sense.
It you ask why I say with less propriety, I must give you the two lines together:
Immodest words admit of no defence.
Now want of sense, when a man has the misfortune to be so circumstanced, is it not a kind of excuse for want of modesty? And would not the verses have been more accurate, if they had been consuuctej iriuV:
Immodest words admit bat fine defence.
Hut I leave the decision of this to better judges than myself. In I720, ot I72I, my brother began to print a new public paper. It was the second that made its appea rn nee in America, and was entitled the "New England Courant." The only one that existed before was the i. Boston News Letter." Some of his friends, I remember, would have dissuaded him from this undertaking, as a thing that was not likely to succeed; a single newspaper being, in their opinion, sufficient for all America. At present, however, in I77I,t'ere arc no less than twenty-five. But he carried his project into execution, and I was employed in distributing the copies to his customers, after having assisted in composing and working them off.
Among his friends he had a number of literary characters, who, as an amusement, wrote short essays for the paper, which gave it reputation,and increased the sale. These gentlemen frequently came to our house. I heard the conversation that passed, and the accounts they gave of the favourable reception of their writings with the public. I was tempted to try my hand among them; but, being still a child as it were, I was fearful that my brother might Ik; unwilling to
frint in his paper any performance of which he should know me to be the author. I therefore contrived to disguise my hand, and having written an anonymous piece, I placed it at night under the door ofthe printmg-house, where it was found the next morning. My brother communicated it to his friends, when they came as usual to see him, who read it, commented upon it within my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure to find that it met with their approbation, and that in their various conjectures they made respecting the author, no one wasmentioned who did not enjoy a high reputation in the country for talents and genius. I now supposed myself fortunate in my judges, and began to suspect that they were not such excellent writers as I had hitherto supposed them. Be this as it may, encouraged by this little adventure, I wrote and sent to press, in the same way, many other pieces, which were equally approved: keeping (lie secret till my slender stock of information and knowledge for such performances was pre"'y com* pleteiy exhausted, when I made myself known.
My brother, upon this discovery, began to entertain a little more respect for me; but he still regarded bat*-' %