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The printing-house, I found, consisted of an old, damaged press, and a small, worn-out fount of English types, which he was using himself, composing an Elegy on Aquila Rose, before mentioned; an ingenious young man, of excellent character, much respected in the town, secretary to the Assembly, and a pretty poet. Keimer made verses too, but very indifferently. He could not be said to write them, for his method was to compose them in the types directly out of his head. There being no copy, but one pair of cases, and the Elegy probably requiring all the letter, no one could help him. I endeavoured to put his press (which he had not yet used, and of which he understood nothing,) into order to be worked with; and, promising to come and print off his Elegy, as soon as he should have got it ready, I returned to Bradford's, who gave me a little job to do for the present, and there I lodged and dieted. A few days after, Keimer sent for me to print off the Elegy. And now he had got another pair of cases, and a pamphlet to reprint, on which he set me to work.
These two printers I found poorly qualified for their business. Bradford had not been bred to it, and was very illiterate; and Keimer, though something of a scholar, was a mere compositor, knowing nothing of presswork. He had been one of the French prophets, and could act their enthusiastic agitations. At this time he did not profess any particular religion, but something of all on occasion; was very ignorant of the world, and had, as I afterwards found, a good deal of the knave in his composition. He did not like my lodging at Bradford's while I worked with him. He had a house, indeed, but without furniture, so he could not lodge me; but he got me a lodging at Mr. Read's, before mentioned, who was the owner of his
house; and, my chest of clothes being come by this time, I made rather a more respectable appearance in the eyes of Miss Read, than I had done when she first happened to see me eating my roll in the street.
I began now to have some acquaintance among the young people of the town, that were lovers of reading, with whom I spent my evenings very pleasantly; and gained money by my industry and frugality. I lived very contented, and forgot Boston as much as I could, and did not wish it should be known where I resided, except to my friend Collins, who was in the secret, and kept it faithfully. At length, however, an incident happened, that occasioned my return home much sooner than I had intended. I had a brotherin-law, Robert Homes, master of a sloop that traded between Boston and Delaware. He being at Newcastle, forty miles below Philadelphia, and hearing of me, wrote me a letter mentioning the grief of my relations and friends in Boston at my abrupt departure, assuring me of their good will to me, and that every thing would be accommodated to my mind, if I would return; to which he entreated me earnestly. I wrote an answer to his letter, thanked him for his advice, but stated my reasons for quitting Boston so fully and in such a light, as to convince him that I was not so much in the wrong as he had apprehended.
Sir William Keith, Governor of the province, was then at Newcastle, and Captain Holmes, happening to be in company with him when my letter came to hand, spoke to him of me, and showed him the letter. The governor read it, and seemed surprised when he was told my age. He said I appeared a young man of promising parts, and therefore should be encouraged; the printers at Philadelphia were wretched ones; and, if I would set up there, he made no doubt I should
succeed; for his part he would procure me the public business, and do me every other service in his power. This my brother-in-law Homes afterwards told me in Boston; but I knew as yet nothing of it; when one day, Keimer and I being at work together near the window, we saw the Governor and another gentleman, (who proved to be Colonel French, of Newcastle, in the province of Delaware,) finely dressed, come directly across the street to our house, and heard them at the door.
Keimer ran down immediately, thinking it a visit to him; but the Governor inquired for me, came up, and with a condescension and politeness I had been quite unused to, made me many compliments, desired to be acquainted with me, blamed me kindly for not having made myself known to him, when I first came to the place, and would have me away with him to the tavern, where he was going with Colonel French to taste, as he said, some excellent madeira. I was not a little surprised, and Keimer stared with astonishment. I went however with the Governor and Colonel French to a tavern, at the corner of Third Street, and over the madeira he proposed my setting up my business. He stated the probabilities of my success, and both he and Colonel French assured me, I should have their interest and influence to obtain for me the public business of both governments. And as I expressed doubts that my father would assist me in it, Sir William said he would give me a letter to him, in which he would set forth the advantages, and he did not doubt he should determine him to comply. So it was concluded I should return to Boston by the first vessel, with the Governor's letter to my father. In the mean time it was to be kept a secret, and I went on working with Keimer as usual. The Governor sent for me now and
then to dine with him, which I considered a great honor; more particularly as he conversed with me in a most affable, familiar, and friendly manner.
About the end of April, 1724, a little vessel offered for Boston. I took leave of Keimer, as going to sce my friends. The Governor gave me an ample letter, saying many flattering things of me to my father, and strongly recommending the project of my setting up at Philadelphia, as a thing that would make my fortune. We struck on a shoal in going down the bay, and sprung a leak; we had a blustering time at sea, and were obliged to pump almost continually, at which I took my turn. We arrived safe however at Boston in about a fortnight. I had been absent seven months, and my friends had heard nothing of me; for my brother Homes was not yet returned, and had not written about me. My unexpected appearance surprised the family; all were however very glad to see me, and made me welcome, except my brother. I went to see him at his printing-house. I was better dressed than ever while in his service, having a genteel new suit from head to foot, a watch, and my pockets lined with near five pounds sterling in silver. He received me not very frankly, looked me all over, and turned to his work again.
The journeymen were inquisitive where I had been, what sort of a country it was, and how I liked it. I praised it much, and the happy life I led in it, expressing strongly my intention of returning to it; and, one of them asking what kind of money we had there, I produced a handful of silver, and spread it before them, which was a kind of raree-show they had not been used to, paper being the money of Boston. Then I took an opportunity of letting them see my watch; and lastly (my brother still grum and sullen) gave them
a dollar to drink, and took my leave. This visit of mine offended him extremely. For, when my mother some time after spoke to him of a reconciliation, and of her wish to see us on good terms together, and that we might live for the future as brothers; he said, I had insulted him in such a manner before his people, that he could never forget or forgive it. In this, however, he was mistaken.
My father received the Governor's letter with some surprise; but said little of it to me for some time. Captain Holmes returning, he showed it to him, and asked him, if he knew Sir William Keith, and what kind of man he was; adding that he must be of small discretion, to think of setting a youth up in business, who wanted three years to arrive at man's estate. Holmes said what he could in favor of the project, but my father was decidedly against it, and at last gave a flat denial. He wrote a civil letter to Sir William, thanking him for the patronage he had so kindly offered me, and declining to assist me as yet in setting up, I being in his opinion too young to be trusted with the management of an undertaking so important, and for which the preparation required a considerable expenditure.
My old companion Collins, who was a clerk in the postoffice, pleased with the account I gave him of my new country, determined to go thither also; and, while I waited for my father's determination, he set out before me by land to Rhode Island, leaving his books, which were a pretty collection in mathematics and natural philosophy, to come with mine and me to New York; where he proposed to wait for me.
My father, though he did not approve Sir William's proposition, was yet pleased that I had been able to obtain so advantageous a character from a person of