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ing, from his earliest years, a passion for reading, he now laid out all the money he could procure in books. His father's little library consisted chiefly of practi. cal and polemical theology. Among them, however, were Plutarch's
> and De Foe's “ Essay on Projects ;” these were his text books; these he read over and over again. Franklin has since acknowledged that from the latter he 6 derived impressions which have since influenced some of the principal events of his life.” This inclination determined his father to make him a printer, tho' his elder brother James was already of that profession.
He was accordingly bound apprentice to his brother, and by his rapid proficency in the art, soon became of great use to him; yet he often treated him unnaturally and rather tyrannically. Franklin now began to write poetry, particularly ballads, which his brother printed and then dispatched our young rhymer about the town to sell them. This success flattered his vanity, but his father convinced him that his talent was not for poetry.
About this time he met with an odd volume of the Spectator, with which he was enchanted, and wished he had the power to imitate it. With this view, he selected some of the papers, made short summaries of the ideas of each period, and laid them aside for a few days.
He then, without referring to the original, endeavoured to en large those ideas in polished style. He afterwards made a comparison, and thereby perceived his incorrections, and deficiencies, which originated chiefly in the want of a fund of words, and a facility of recollecting and employing them. He says, "I thought if I had proceeded in making verses, the continual need of words of the same meaning, but of different lengths for the measure, of of different sounds for the rhyme, would have obliged me to seek for a 1a riety of synonyms, and have rendered me master of them. From this belief, I took some of the tales of the Spectator and turned them into verse; and after a time, when I had sufficiently forgotten them, I a gain converted them into prose.
Sometimes also I mingled all my summaries together; and a few weeks after endeavoured to arrange them in the best order, before I attempted to form the periods and complete the essays. This I did with a view of acquiring method in the arrangement of my thoughts. On comparing afterwards my performance with the original, many faults were apparent, which I corrected; but I had sometimes the satisfaction to think, that, in certain particulars of little importance, Í had been fortunate enough to improve the order of thought or the style, and this encouraged me to hope that I should succeed, in time, in writing de. cently in the English language, which was one of the great objects of my ambition. The time which I devoted to these exercises, and to reading, was the evening after my day's labour was finished, the morning before it began, and Sundays, when I could es. cape attending divine service."
With a passion for reading and writing, he imbibed the kindred one of disputing. This met with fuel from his familiarity with a youth of similar turn, and he was for a time a very doughty and dogmatic polemic. The perusal of a translation of Xenophon's Memorabilia,” softened him into a Socratic, and he became very dex. terious in the sly mode of confuting or confounding an antagonist by a series of questions. In such a course of mental exercise he became a sceptic with respect to the religion in which he had been educated; and with the zeal of a convert, took all opportunities of
propagating his unbelief. These doubts he appears never to have been able to remove; but he took care strongly to fortify himself with such moral principles of conduct as directed him to the most valuable ends by honourable means.
66 When about sixteen years of age," says he “ Tryon's “ Way to Health, Long Life and Happiness,” fell into my hands, in which he recommends vegetable diet. I determined to observe it. My brother being a bachelor, did not keep house, but boarded with his apprentices in a neighbouring family. My refusing to eat animal food was found inconvenient, and I was often abused for my singularity. I attended to the mode in which Tryon prepared some of his dishes, particularly how to boil potatoes and rice, and make hasty-puddings. I then said to my brother, that if he would allow me per week half of what he paid for my board, I would un. dertake to maintain myself. The offer was instantly embraced, and I soon found that of what he gave me I was able to save half. This was a new fund for the purchase of books; and other advantages resulted to me from the plan. When my brother and his work. men left the printing house to go to dinner, I remained behind; and dispatching my frugal meal, which frequently consisted of a biscuit only, or a slice of bread and a bunch of raisins, or a bun from the pastrycook's with a glass of water. I had the rest of the time, till their return, for study; and my progress therein was proportioned to that clearness of ideas, and quickness of conception, which are the fruits of temperance in eating and drinking."
His mother being asked why her son had adopted so singular a plan of diet, replied, “ Because he had read a foolish phil. osopher called Plutarch; however,” added she, I let him take his own way.” During this time Frank.
lin improved himself in arithmetic and other branch. es of science, as well as in composition, by writing anonymous essays for his brother's paper,
The New England Courant,” and which, being much admired, were for some time of advantage to it. But one of them, on a political subject, happening to give offence to the assembly, his brother was taken up, imprisoned for a month, and prohibited from printing his newspaper. The paper was then continued under the name of Benjamin Franklin, whose indentures were resigned, and a new secret contract agreed on. length," says our author, in the account of his own life, a new difference arising between my brother and me,
I ventured to take advantage of my liberty, présuming that he would not dare to produce the new contract. It was undoubtedly dishonourable to avail myself of this circumstance, and I reckon this action as one of the first errors of my life; but I was little ca. pable of estimating it at it's true value, embittered as my mind has been by the recollection of the blows I had received. Exclusively of his passionate treat. ment of me, my brother was by no means a man of an ill temper, and perhaps my manners had too much of impertinence not to afford it a very natural pretext.” At the age of seventeen, therefore, Franklin emigrated to Philadelphia, where he arrived after several trifling accidents in the passage, escaping the danger of being taken up as a run-away servant, &c. and without knowing a single individual in the place.
We cannot omit here an anecdote which discovers the native unostentatious simplicity of his manners. Walking through Market-street, he met a child with a loaf of bread, and he enquired where they were sold, for he had often made a dinner of dry bread. He asked for three penny-worth.
The baker gave him three large rolls.
He had no room in his pockets, so put one roll under each arm, and walked on, eating the third. After taking some water, he found himself well satisfied with his first roll, he gave the other two to a poor woman and her child. At Philadelphia, he soon obtained employment from Bradford and Keimer, the only printers then in the city. He here contracted an acquain. tance with several young men attached to literary pursuits, in whose society he spent many of his evenings.
He was afterwards introduced, by his brother in law, Captain Holmes, to Sir Wm. Keith, governor of the province, who promised to do much for him, but, except entertaining him occasionally, in his own house, or at a tavern, performed nothing. Towards the end of April 1724, he set out to pay a visit to his parents. On his return, “At Newport," says Franklin, “ we took on board a number of passengers; among whom were two young women,
and a grave, sensible, quaker lady, with her servants. I had shewn an obliging forwardness in rendering the quaker some trilling services, which lead her, proba. bly, to feel an interest in my welfare; for when she saw a familiarity take place, and every day increase, between the two young women and me, she took me aside and said, “Young man, I am in pain for thee. Thou hast no parent to watch over thy conduct, and thou seemest to be ignorant of the world.
Rely on what I tell thee; those are women of bad characters; I perceive it in all their actions. If thou dost not take care they will lead thee into danger. I advise thee to form no connection with them.” As I appeared at first, not to think so ill of them as she did, she related many things which she had seen and heard, that had escaped my attention, but which