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have acquired before that time, if I had gone on making verses; since the continual search for words of the same import, but of different length to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales in the Spectator, and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again.
I also sometimes jumbled my collection of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavoured to reduce them into the best order before I began to form the full sentences and complete the subject. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of the thoughts. By comparing my work with the original, I discovered many faults, and corrected them; but I sometimes had the pleasure to fancy, that, in certain particulars of small consequence, I had been fortunate enough to improve the method or the language, and this encouraged me to think, that I might in time come to be a tolerable English writer; of which I was extremely ambitious. The time I allotted for writing exercises, and for reading, was at night, or before work began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house, avoiding as much as I could the constant attendance at public worship, which my father used to exact of me when I was under his care, and which I still continued to consider a duty, though I could not afford time to practise it.
When about sixteen years of age, I happened to meet with a book, written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another family.
My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconvenience, and I was frequently chid for my singularity. I made myself acquainted with Tryon's manner of preparing some of his dishes, such as boiling potatoes or rice, making hasty-pudding and a few others, and then proposed to my brother, that if he would give me weekly half the money he paid for my board, I would board myself. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I could save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund for buying of books; but I had another advantage in it. My brother and the rest going from the printing-house to their meals, I remained there alone, and, despatching presently my light repast (which was often no more than a biscuit, or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins, or a tart from the pastry cook's, and a glass of water), had the rest of the time, till their return, for study; in which I made the greater progress from that greater clearness of head, and quicker apprehension, which generally attend temperance in eating and drinking. Now it was, that, being on some occasion made ashamed of my ignorance in figures, which I had twice failed learning when at school, I took Cocker's book on Arithmetic, and went through the whole by myself with the greatest ease. I also read Seller's and Sturny's book on Navigation, which made me acquainted with the little geometry it contains, but I never proceeded far in that science. I read about this time Locke on Human Understanding, and The Art of Thinking by Messrs. de PortRoyal.
While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an English grammar (I think it was Greenwood's), having at the end of it two little sketches on the Arts of Rhetoric and Logic, the latter finishing with a dispute in the Socratic method. And, soon after, I
procured Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there are many examples of the same method. I was charmed with it, adopted it, dropped my abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer. And being then from reading Shaftesbury and Collins made a doubter, as I already was in many points of our religious doctrines, I found this method the safest for myself and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I took delight in it, practised it continually, and grew very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in difficulties, out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories, that neither myself nor my cause always deserved.
I continued this method some few years, but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence, never using, when I advance any thing that may possibly be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I conceive, or apprehend, a thing to be so and so; It appears to me, or I should not think it, so or so, for such and such reasons; or, I imagine it to be so; or, It is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me, when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures, that I have been from time to time engaged in promoting. And as the chief ends. of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning and sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat most
of those purposes for which speech was given to us. In fact, if you wish to instruct others, a positive dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may occasion opposition, and prevent a candid attention. If you desire instruction and improvement from others, you should not at the same time express yourself fixed in your present opinions. Modest and sensible men, who do not love disputation, will leave you undisturbed in the possession of your errors. In adopting such a manner, you can seldom expect to please your hearers, or obtain the concurrence you desire. Pope judiciously observes
"Men must be taught, as if you taught them not,
He also recommends it to us
"To speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence." And he might have joined with this line, that which he has coupled with another, I think, less properly,
"For want of modesty is want of sense."
If you ask, Why less properly? I must repeat the lines,
"Immodest words admit of no defence,
For want of modesty is want of sense.”
Now, is not the want of sense, where a man is so unfortunate as to want it, some apology for his want of modesty? And would not the lines stand more justly thus?
"Immodest words admit but this defence,
That want of modesty is want of sense."
This, however, I should submit to better judgments. My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a newspaper. It was the second that appeared in America, and was called the New England Courant. The only one before it was the Boston News-Letter. I re
member his being dissuaded by some of his friends from the undertaking, as not likely to succeed, one newspaper being in their judgment enough for America.* At this time, 1771, there are not less than five and twenty. He went on, however, with the undertaking. I was employed to carry the papers to the customers, after having worked in composing the types, and printing off the sheets.
He had some ingenious men among his friends, who amused themselves by writing little pieces for this paper, which gained it credit, and made it more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their conversations, and their accounts of the approbation their papers were received with, I was excited to try my hand among them. But, being still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printing any thing of mine in his paper, if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it at night under the door of the printing-house. It was found in the morning, and communicated to his writing friends when they called in as usual. They read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, in their different guesses at the author, none were named but
This was written from recollection, and it is not surprising, that, after the lapse of fifty years, the author's memory should have failed him in regard to a fact of small importance. The New England Courant was the fourth newspaper that appeared in America. The first number of the Boston News-Letter was published April 24th, 1704. This was the first newspaper in America. The Boston Gazette commenced December 21st, 1719; the American Weekly Mercury, at Philadelphia, December 22d, 1719; the New England Courant, August 21st, 1721. Dr. Franklin's error of memory probably originated in the circumstance of his brother having been the printer of the Boston Gazette, when it was first established. This was the second newspaper published in America.EDITOR.