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GREATLY EXTENDED AND IMPROVED.
SEEST THOU A MAN DILIGENT IN HIS CALLING, HE SHALL STAND BEFORE KINGS, HE SHALL NOT
Various editions of the Philosophical Papers of Franklin appeared before the year 1766 ; collections, comprehending political and miscellaneous pieces, were issued in different forms in 1779 and 1787; and in 1793, appeared for the first time that well-known miscellany, which has been so often printed, under the title of the Life and Essays of Dr Franklin.
In 1806, a much larger collection was published by two London bookselling houses, under the title of “ The Complete Works, in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals, of the late Dr Benjamin Franklin,” forming threo volumes octavo; and in the editor's preface the following remarkable statement was made, with reference to the nonpublication of an authentic edition of the works of the American philosopher by the individual to whom he entrusted the task on his deathbed :
“ In bequeathing his papers, it was no doubt the intention of the testator, that the world should have the chance of being benefited by their publication. It was so understood by the person in question, his grandson, who, accordingly, shortly after th death of his great relative, hastened to London, the best mart for literary property, employed an amanuensis for many months in copying, ransacked our public libraries that nothing might escape, and at length had so far prepared the works of Dr Franklin for the press, that proposals were made by him to several of our principal booksellers for the sale of them. They were to form three quarto volumes, and were to contain all the writings, published and unpublished, of Franklin, with Memoirs of his Life, brought down by himself to the year 1757, and continued to his death by the legatee. They were to be published in three different languages, and the countries corresponding to those languages, France, Germany, and England, on the same day. The terms asked for the copyright of the edition were high, amounting to several thousand pounds, which occasioned a little demur; but eventually they would have no doubt been obtained. Nothing more was heard of the proposals or the work, in this its fair market. The proprietor, it seems, had found a bidder of a different description in some emissary of government, whose object was to withhold the manuscripts from the world, not to benefit it by their publication ; and they thus either passed into other hands, or the person to whom they were bequeathed received a remuneration for suppressing them. This, at least, has been asserted by a variety of persons, both in this country and America, of whom some were at the time intimate with the grandson, and not wholly unacquainted with the machinations of the ministry; and the silence which has been preserved for so many years respecting the publication, gives additional credibility to the report. What the manuscripts contained, that should have excited the jealousy of government, we are unable, as we have never seen them, positively to affirm; but from the conspicuous part acted by the author in the American Revolution and the wars connected with it, it is by no means difficult to guess ; and of this we are sure, from his character, that no disposition of his writings could have been more contrary to his intentions or wishes."
Whatever truth there may be in this statement—and we have never heard of its being contradicted—the authentic edition ultimately did appear in 1817, under the care of Dr Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin.
Such is a brief outline of the history of Dr Franklin's writings. It remains that a few words be said respecting the present edition.
It is designed as an improvement upon the popular miscellany which was first published in 1793. The British Booksellers have printed that work over and over again, without making any attempt to remedy its deficiencies, or to accommodate it to the present state of information on the subjects it embraces. In this edition, an effort has been made to render the work, in these respects, more worthy of the public patronage.
1. The life of the Author by himself, from his birth to 1731, has received some additional notes, marked by bcing enclosed within brackets.
2. Instead of the continuation of the Life, usually given, and which now appcars meagre and unsatisfactory, a very ample Memoir has been prepared. It not only details his philosophical and political career with considerable minuteness, but presents notices of the chief associates of Franklin, besides many historical and geographical notes which seem necessary for the British reader of the present day. In the preparation of this narrative, and its notes, besides various historical works, recourse has been had to the pages of the North American Review, the American Encyclopedia, Watson's Annals of Philadelphia, Lord Woodhouselee's Life of Kames, the Biographie Universelle, and some other European and American publications. Care has also been taken that the Memoir should be consistent with such parts of the publication of 1817 as bear upon the subject. With these advantages, it may be confidently described as the most complete account of Franklin which has ever been given to the British public.
3. The Miscellany which follows the Life has received several important additions.
Altogether, the publishers allow themselves to hope, that, in the present edition, the wisdom which Franklin has bequeathed to mankind, in the example of his life, and in his writings, will carry more meaning to the understandings of the great bulk of men, than it has ever done in any previous form.
EDINBURGH, March 1, 1833.
LIFE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
and that has crowned them with success. My faith,
in this respect, leads me to hope, though I cannot count MY DEAR Son,
upon it, that the Divine goodness will still be exercised I Have amused myself with collecting some little anec- towards me, either by prolonging the duration of my dates of my family. You may remember the inquiries happiness to the close of life, or by giving me fortitude I made, when you were with me in England, among to support any melancholy reverse, which may happen such of my relations as were then living ; and the to me as to so many others. My future fortune is unjourney I undertook for that purpose. To be acquainted known but to Him in whose hand is our destiny, and who with the particulars of my parentage and life, many of can make our very afflictions subservient to our benefit. which are unknown to you, I flatter myself will afford One of my uncles, desirous, like myself, of collecting the same pleasure to you as to me. I shall now relate anecdotes of our family, gave me some notes, from them : it will be an agreeable employment of a week's which I have derived many particulars respecting our uninterrupted leisure, which I promise myself during ancestors. From these I learn, that they had lived in my present retirement in the country. There are also the same village (Eaton in Northamptonshire), upon a other motives which induce me to the undertaking. freehold of about thirty acres, for the space at least of From the bosom of poverty and obscurity, in which I three hundred years. How long they had resided there drew my first breath, and spent my earliest years, I prior to that period, my uncle had been unable to dishave raised myself to a state of opulence and to some cover; probably ever since the institution of surnames, degree of celebrity in the world. A constant good when they took the appellation of Franklin, which had fortune has attended me through every period of life formerly been the name of a particular order of indito my present advanced age ; and my descendants may viduals.* be desirous of learning what were the means of which This petty estate would not have sufficed for their I made use, and which, thanks to the assisting hand of subsistence, had they not added the trade of blacksmith, Providence, have proved so eminently successful. They which was perpetuated in the family down to my uncle's may also, should they ever be placed in a similar situa- time, the eldest son having been uniformly brought up tion, derive some advantage from my narrative. to this employment-a custom which both he and my
When I reflect, as I frequently do, upon the felicity father observed with respect to their eldest sons. I have enjoyed, I sometimes say to myself, that, were In the researches I made at Eaton, I found no acthe offer made to me, I would engage to run again, count of their births, marriages, and deaths, earlier from beginning to end, the same career of life. All I than the year 1555 ; the parish register not extending would ask, should be the privilege of an author, to farther back than that period. This register informed correct, in a second edition, certain errors of the first. me, that I was the youngest son of the youngest branch I could wish, likewise, if it were in my power, to change of the family, counting five generations. My grandsome trivial incidents and events for others more fa- father, Thomas, was born in 1598; lived at Eaton till vourable. Were this, however, denied me, still would he was too old to continue his trade, when he retired I not decline the offer. But since a repetition of life to Banbury, in Oxfordshire, where his son John, who cannot take place, there is nothing which, in my opi- was a dyer, resided, and with whom my father was nion, so nearly resembles it, as to call to mind all its apprenticed. He died and was buried there ; we saw circumstances, and, to render their remembrance more his monument in 1758. His eldest son lived in the durable, commit them to writing. By thus employing family house at Eaton, which he bequeathed, with the myself, í shall yield to the inclination, so natural in old land belonging to it, to his only daughter; who, in conmen, to talk of themselves and their exploits, and may cert with her husband, Mr Fisher of Wellingborough, freely follow my bent, without being tiresome to those afterwards sold it to Mr Estead, the present proprietor. who, from respect to my age, might think themselves My grandfather had four surviving sons, Thomas, obliged to listen to me; as they will be at liberty to John, Benjamin, and Josias. I shall give you such parread me or not as they please.
ticulars of them as my memory will furnish, not having In fine--and I may as well avow it, since nobody my papers here, in which you will find a more minute would believe me were I to deny it-I shall, perhaps, account, if they are not lost during my absence. by this employment, gratify my vanity. Scarcely, in- Thomas had learned the trade of a blacksmith under deed, have I ever heard or read the introductory phrase, his father ; but, possessing a good natural understand“I may say without vanity,” but some striking and ing, he improved it by study, at the solicitation of a characteristic instance of vanity has immediately fol- gentleman of the name of Palmer, who was at that lowed. The generality of men hate vanity in others, time the principal inhabitant of the village, and who however strongly they may be tinctured with it them- encouraged, in like manner, all my uncles to cultivate selves; for myself, I pay obeisance to it wherever I their minds. Thomas thus rendered himself compemeet with it, persuaded that it is advantageous, as well to the individual whom it governs, as to those who are
* In early times in England, franklin was a title of honour, within the sphere of its influence. Of consequence, it equivalent to the term country gentleman. Chaucer calls his
country gentleman a franklin ; and, after describing his good would, in many cases, not be wholly absurd, that a man
house-keeping, thus characterises him :should count his vanity among the other sweets of life,
This worthy franklin bore a purse of silk and give thanks to Providence for the blessing.
Fix'd to his girdle, white as morning milk; And here let me with all humility acknowledge, that Knight of the shire, first justice at th' assize, to Divine Providence I am indebted for the felicity I To help the poor, the doubtful to advise. have hitherto enjoyed. It is that Power alone which In all employments generous, just, he proved, has furnished me with the means I have employed, Renown'd for courtesy, by all beloved.