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The style of these memoirs is uncommonly pleasing. The story is told with the most un. reserved sincerity, and without any false colouring or ornament. We see, in every page, that the author examined his subjects with the eye
of a master, and related no incidents, the springs and origin of which he did not perfectly understand. It is this that gives such exquisite and uncommon perspicuity to the detail and defight in the review. The translator has endea. voured, as he went along, to conceive the probable manner in which Dr. Franklin expressed his ideas in his English manuscript, and he hopes to be forgiven if this enquiry shall occasionally have subjected him to the charge of a style in any respect bald or low; to imitate the admirable simplicity of the author, is no easy task.
The Essays, which are now for the first time, brought together from various resources, will be found to be more miscellaneous than any of Dr. Franklin's that have formerly been collected, and will therefore be more generally amusing. Dr. Franklin tells us, in his Life, that he was an assiduous imitator of Addison; and from some of these papers it will be admitted he was not an unhappy one. The public will be amused with following a great philosopher in his relaxation, and observe in what respects philosophy tends to elucidate and improve the most common subject. The editor has purposely avoided such papers, as by their scientifical
nature, were less adapted for general perusal. These he may probably hereafter publish in a volume by themselves.
He subjoins a letter from the late celebrated and amiable Dr. Price, to a gentleman in Philadelphia, upon the subject of Dr. Franklin's memoirs of his own life.
Hackney, June 19, 1790.
“ I am hardly able to tell you how kindly I take the letters with which you favour me. Your last containing an account of the death of our excellent friend, Dr. Franklin, and the circumstances attending it, deserves my particular gratitude. The account which he has left of his life will show, in a striking example, how a man by talents, indústry, and integrity, may rise from obscurity to the first eminence and consequence in the world; but it brings bis history no lower than the year 1757, and I understand that since he sent over the copy, which I have read, he has been able to make no additions to it. It is with a melancholy regret I think of his death; but to death we are all bound by the irreversible order of nature; and in looking forward to it, there is comfort in being able to reflect--that we have not lived in vain, and that all the useful and virtuous shall meet in a better country beyond the grave.
“ Dr. Franklin, in the last letter I received from him, after mentioning his age and infirmi. ties, observes, that it has been kindly ordered by the Author of nature, that, as we draw nearer the conclusion of life, we are furnished with more helps to wean us from it, among which, one of the strongest is the loss of dear friends. I was delighted with the account you gave in your letter of the honours shewn to his memory at Phi. ladelphia, and by Congress; and yesterday I received a high additional pleasure, by being informed that the National Assembly of France had determined to go in mourning for him.What a glorious scene is opened there! The annals of the world furnish no parallel to it. One of the honours of our departed friend is, that he has contributed much to it.
I am, with great respect,
DR. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,
MY DEAR SON, I
HAVE amused myself with collecting some little anecdotes of my family. You may remember the enquiries I made, when you were with me in England, among such of my relations as were then living; and the journey I undertook for that purpose. To be acquainted with the particulars of my parentage and life, many of which are unknown to you, I fatter myself, will afford the same pleasure to you as to me.
I shall relate then upon paper : it will be an agreeable employment of a week's uninterrupted leisure, which I promise myself during my present retirement in the country. There are also other motives which induce me to the undertaking. From the bosom of poverty and obscurity, in which I drew my first breath and spent my earliest years, I have raised myself to a state of opulence and to some degree of celebrity in the world. A constant good fortune has attended me through every period of life to my present advanced age ; and my descendants may be desirous of learning
what were the means of which I made use, and which, thanks to the assisting hand of Providence, have proved so eminently successful. They may also, should they
, ever be placed in a similar situation, derive some advantage from my narrative.
When I reflect, as I frequently do, upon the felicity I have enjoyed, I sometimes say to myself, that, were the offer made me, I would engage to run again, from beginning to end, the same career of life. All I would ask would be the privilege of an author, to correct in a second edition, certain errors of the first. I could wish, likewise, if it were in my power, to change some trivial incidents and events for others more favourable. Were this however denied me, still would I not decline the offer. But since a repetition of life cannot take place, there is nothing which, in my opinion, so nearly resembles it, as to call to mind all its circumstances, and, to render their remembrance more durable, commit them to writing. By thus employing myself, I shall yield to the inclination, so natural to old men, to talk of themselves and their exploits, and may freely follow my bent, without being tiresome to those who, from respect to my age, might think them. selves obliged to listen to me; as they will be at liberty to read me or not as they please. In fine--and I may well avow it, since nobody would believe me were I to deny it-I shall perhaps, by this employment, gratify my vanity. Scarcely indeed have I ever heard or read the introductory phrase, “ I may say without vanity," but some striking and characteristic instance of vanity has immediately followed. The generality of men hate vanity in others, however strongly they may be tinctured with it themselves; for myself, I pay obeisance to it wherever I meet with it, persuaded that it is advantageous, as well to the individual whom it
governs, as to those who are within the sphere of its influence. Of Consequence, it would in many cases, not be wholly absurd, that a man should count his vanity among the other sweets of life, and give thanks to providence for the blessing.