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(Like the cover of an old book,
And stript of its lettering and gilding,)
But the work shall not be lost,
For it will, as he believed, appear once more,
Revised and corrected
It had before been printed somewhat differently in Mr. Vaughan's edition. The variation is in the following lines, which are thus
printed by Mr. Vaughan.
"Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will, as he believed, appear once more,
In a new
And more beautiful edition,
Corrected and amended
In a note Mr. Vaughan adds; “A newspaper, in which I have seen this copy of Dr. Franklin's epitaph on himself, says, that it first appeared in a Boston newspaper, established and printed by Dr. Franklin." As a copy of Mr. Vaughan's edition was examined by Dr. Franklin, after a full impression was taken off, and before the work was published, it is presumed that the epitaph as here printed and this note, passed under his eye. He made several corrections, which Mr. Vaughan included in the errata, but no error is noted in his remark on the epitaph. Hence the date must have been earlier than is mentioned by William Temple Franklin, because the New England Courant, the only newspaper in which Dr. Franklin was concerned in Boston, ceased in the year 1727, when he was only twenty-one years old.
It is intimated in the Edinburgh Review, (Vol. II. p. 448,) that he took the first hint of this epitaph from one in Latin, written on Jacob Tonson, the bookseller, by an Eton scholar, which was printed, with an English translation, in the Gentleman's Magazine for February, 1736. The translation is an unsuccessful paraphrase. The original is likewise inserted in the biographical notice of Ton
son, in the Memoirs of the Kit-Cat Club. The last four lines are all that bear on the subject.
"Hic jacet Bibliopola,
Folio vitæ dilapso,
Auctiorem et emendatiorem."
There is certainly a striking resemblance between these lines and the closing part of Franklin's epitaph; but, as this latter was written nine or ten years at least before the other, it is obvious, that, if there is any plagiarism in the case, it must lie at the door of the Eton scholar.
It has been supposed, also, that an epitaph on the celebrated John Cotton, written by Mr. Woodbridge, about the year, 1653, may have suggested the first hint to Franklin.
"A living, breathing Bible; tables where
Both covenants at large engravers were;
Gospel and law in's heart had each its column,
Others again have imagined, that they have discovered the origin of Franklin's epitaph in the following lines on the death of John Foster, who set up the first printing-press in Boston, written by Joseph Capen, and published in 1681.
"Thy body, which no activeness did lack,
'T will have at length a far more active state.
A fair edition, and of matchless worth,
Free from errata, new in Heaven set forth;
"T is but a word from God, the great Creator,
That Franklin had seen one or both of these pieces is probable; it is moreover possible, that he may have derived from them the first thought of the epitaph; yet, even if this could be proved, which
it cannot be, the resemblance between them is so very remote, that it would not detract from the claim which the epitaph may justly have to be considered as an original composition.
I, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, of Philadelphia, printer, late Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America to the Court of France, now President of the State of Pennsylvania, do make and declare my last will and testament as follows.
To my son, William Franklin, late Governor of the Jerseys, I give and devise all the lands I hold or have a right to in the Province of Nova Scotia, to hold to him, his heirs and assigns for ever. I also give to him all my books and papers, which he has in his possession, and all debts standing against him on my accountbooks, willing that no payment for, nor restitution of, the same be required of him by my executors. The part he acted against me in the late war, which is of public notoriety, will account for my leaving him no more of an estate he endeavoured to deprive me of.
Having since my return from France demolished the three houses in Market Street, between Third and Fourth Streets, fronting my dwelling-house, and erected two new and larger houses on the ground, and having also erected another house on the lot which formerly was the passage to my dwelling, and also a printing-office between my dwelling and the front houses; now I do give and devise my said dwelling-house, wherein I now live, my said three new houses, my printing-office, and the lots of ground thereto respectively belonging; also my small house and lot in Sixth Street, which I bought of the Widow Henmarsh; also my pasture ground, which I have in Hickory Lane, with the buildings thereon; also my house and lot on the north side of Market Street, now occupied by Mary Jacobs, together with two houses and lots behind the same, and fronting on Pewter-Platter Alley; also my lot of ground in Arch Street, opposite the Church burying-ground, with the buildings thereon erected; also all my silver plate, pictures, and household goods, of every kind, now in my said dwelling
house, to my daughter, Sarah Bache, and to her husband, Richard Bache, to hold to them for and during their natural lives, and the life of the longest liver of them. And from and after the decease of the survivor of them, I do give, devise, and bequeath the same to all children already born, or to be born of my said daughter, and to their heirs and assigns for ever, as tenants in common, and not as joint tenants.
And, if any or either of them shall happen to die under age, and without issue, the part and share of him, her, or them, so dying, shall go to and be equally divided among the survivors or survivor of them. But my intention is, that, if any or either of them should happen to die under age, leaving issue, such issue shall inherit the part and share that would have passed to his, her, or their parent, had he, she, or they been living. And, as some of my said devisees may, at the death of the survivor of their father and mother, be of age, and others of them under age, so as that all of them may not be of capacity to make division; I in that case request and authorize the Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Pennsylvania, for the time being, or any three of them, not personally interested, to appoint by writing, under their hands and seals, three honest, intelligent, impartial men to make the said division, and to assign and allot to each of my devisees their respective share, which division, so made and committed to writing under the hands and seals of the said three men, or of any two of them, and confirmed by the said Judges, I do hereby declare shall be binding on, and conclusive between, the said devisees.
All the lands near the Ohio, and the lots near the centre of Philadelphia, which I lately purchased of the State, I give to my son-in-law, Richard Bache, his heirs and assigns for ever. I also give him the bond I have against him, of two thousand one hundred and seventy-two pounds, five shillings, together with the interest that shall or may accrue thereon, and direct the same to be delivered up to him by my executors cancelled, requesting that, in consideration thereof, he would immediately after my decease manumit and set free his negro man Bob. I leave to him, also, the money due to me from the State of Virginia for types. I also give to him the bond of William Goddard and his sister, and the counter bond of the late Robert Grace, and the bond and judgment of Francis Childs, if not recovered before my decease, or any other bonds then due, except the bond due from Killan,
of Delaware State, which I give to my grandson, Benjamin Frank
lin Bache. I also discharge him, my said son-in-law, from all claim of rent and moneys due to me, on book account or otherwise. I also give him all my musical instruments.
The King of France's picture, set with four hundred and eight diamonds, I give to my daughter, Sarah Bache, requesting, however, that she would not form any of those diamonds into ornaments, either for herself or daughters, and thereby introduce or countenance the expensive, vain, and useless fashion of wearing jewels in this country; and that those immediately connected with the picture may be preserved with the same.
I give and devise to my dear sister, Jane Mecom, a house and lot I have in Unity Street, Boston, now or late under the care of Mr. Jonathan Williams, to her and to her heirs and assigns for ever. I also give her the yearly sum of fifty pounds sterling, during life, to commence at my death, and to be paid to her annually out of the interest or dividends arising on twelve shares, which I have since my arrival at Philadelphia purchased in the Bank of North America, and, at her decease, I give the said twelve shares in the bank to my daughter, Sarah Bache, and her husband, Richard Bache. But it is my express will and desire, that, after payment of the above fifty pounds sterling annually to my said sister, my said daughter be allowed to apply the residue of the interest or dividends arising on those shares to her sole and separate use, during the life of my said sister, and afterwards the whole of the interest or dividends thereof as her private pocket money.
I give the right I have to take up three thousand acres of land in the State of Georgia, granted to me by the government of that State, to my grandson, William Temple Franklin, his heirs and assigns for ever. I also give to my grandson, William Temple Franklin, the bond and judgment I have against him of four thousand pounds sterling, my right to the same to cease upon the day of his marriage; and, if he dies unmarried, my will is, that the same be recovered and divided among my other grandchildren, the children of my daughter, Sarah Bache, in such manner and form as I have herein before given to them the other parts of my estate.
The philosophical instruments I have in Philadelphia I give to my ingenious friend, Francis Hopkinson.
To the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of my brother, Samuel Franklin, that may be living at the time of my decease, I give fifty pounds sterling, to be equally divided among