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From Boyhood to Manhood
by William M. Thayer
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"I will wait to see it before I pass judgment on it," answered John. "It is risking more than I want to risk to say you can't do it; for there is no telling what you can do."

"You will see it in a few days; it will not take long to make it. I will notify you when it is ready, and we will try it. In the mean time keep it a secret, and we will astonish the boys."

Within a few days John Collins was notified that the swimming apparatus was ready, and would be tried at a certain time appointed. Other boys were invited to meet at the pond at the same time.

Benjamin appeared on the scene with two oval palettes of wood, resembling those used by painters, ten inches long and six broad. A hole was cut in each for the thumb, so that they could be bound to the palms of the hands. A kind of sandal, shaped somewhat like the palettes, was fastened tightly to each foot. When rigged for a swim, Benjamin presented a very singular appearance, and the boys looked on astonished.

"That is you, all over, Ben," exclaimed Fred; "no one in creation except you would ever have thought of such an apparatus. But I wouldn't wish myself in the water with such a rig. You are a sort of skipper on legs, now."

"I do not expect to skip much on the water, but I expect to swim much faster with this device than would be possible without it," replied Benjamin.

"It is different from what I thought it was from your description," said John Collins, who had been looking on with particular interest. "It looks as if you might do something with it. Go ahead, Ben, sink or swim, spread your sails and prove that your ingenuity is genuine."

Benjamin plunged into the water, and a more interested and excited company did not watch Robert Fulton when he started up Hudson river with his new steamer, eighty years later, than watched him with his new mode of swimming. He struck right out into deep water easily, and moved forward much more rapidly than he ever did before, the cheers and shouts of the boys making the welkin ring. Taking a circuit around the pond for a fair trial, the boys had a good opportunity to watch every movement and to judge of the practicability of such an invention.

"That is wonderful," exclaimed one, as he came around to the shore where they stood.

"You are a genius, Ben," shouted another.

"Capital," added John Collins. "King George ought to make a duke of you. But does it work easy?"

"Not so easily as I expected," answered Benjamin. "The apparatus is hard on the wrists, and makes them ache. The sandals on the feet do not help much. I think I could swim just as well without them."

"Then you do not consider it a complete success?" said John, inquiringly.

"Not entirely so. I can swim very much faster with it, but it is harder work, and the wrists will not hold out long. I do not think I shall apply to King George for a patent."

The swimming invention was pretty thoroughly discussed by the boys, one and another suggesting improvements, Benjamin evidently satisfied that swimming at less speed in the usual way was preferable to these artificial paddles and increased rapidity. But their interest was awakened anew when Benjamin informed them that he had another invention that he proposed to try at a future day.

"What is it?" inquired two or three at the same time.

"You shall see; it is more simple than this apparatus," replied Benjamin. "It will not be so tiresome to use."

"When will you let us see it on trial?" asked John Collins, who, perhaps, appreciated Benjamin's spirit and talents more than any of the boys.

"Any time you will all agree to be here. You will not know what it is until you see it."

The time was appointed for the trial of the unknown device, and the boys separated with their curiosity on tiptoe as to the nature of the other improved method of swimming. They had no idea that it was a humbug, for "Ben" never practised sham. He was so much of a genius that, no doubt, he had something that would surprise them.

John Collins was more like Benjamin than other boys in Boston, and he was his most intimate companion. John was talented, and a great reader. He had a craving thirst for knowledge, and used his leisure moments to improve his mind. He frequently discussed profitable subjects with Benjamin, who enjoyed his company very much for this reason. In their tastes, love of books, and high aims, they were suited to each other. Benjamin thought as highly of John as John did of Benjamin.

When the time for trying the other device arrived, Benjamin appeared on the scene with a new kite.

"A kite!" exclaimed John Collins, in surprise. "I see it now. That is simple." He saw at once that Benjamin was going to make a sail of his kite, and cross the pond.

"'T will hinder more than it will help, I think," remarked one of the boys.

"We shall know whether it will or not, very soon," responded another. "Ben isn't hindered very often."

While this parleying was going on, Benjamin was disrobing and getting ready for the trial.

"Fred, you carry my clothes around to the other side of the pond, and I will swim across," said Benjamin, as he sent his kite up into the air.

"All right," answered Fred; "I will do it to the best of my ability; and I will be there to see you land." So saying he caught up the clothes and started off upon the run.

The kite was high up in the air, when, holding the string with both hands, Benjamin dropped into the water upon his back, and at once began to skim the surface. Without an effort on his part, not so much as the moving of a muscle, the sailing kite pulled him along faster than his arms and feet could have done in the old way of swimming.

"That is better than the paddles and sandals," shouted John Collins, who was intensely interested in the simplicity of the method. "Ben is only a ship, now, and the kite is his sail. Nobody but him would ever thought of such a thing."

"Not much skill in that way of swimming," suggested another youth; "nor much fatigue, either. Nothing to do but to keep on breathing and swim."

"And hold on to the kite," added another. "He must not let go of his sail; he and his kite must be close friends."

The boys kept up their watch and conversation while Benjamin crossed the pond, which he accomplished in a few minutes. Dressing himself, while Fred drew in his kite, he hastened to join his companions and receive their congratulations. The boys were extravagant in their expressions of delight, and some of them predicted that so "cute" a mode of swimming would become universal, while others thought that the lack of skill in the method would lead many to discard it. Benjamin said:

"The motion is very pleasant indeed, and I could swim all day without becoming fatigued. But there is no skill in it, as you say."

Benjamin expressed no opinion as to the adoption of the method by others, and the boys separated to tell the story of Benjamin's exploits on the water over town. Many years afterwards, when Benjamin was a public man, famous in his own country and Europe, he wrote to a Frenchman by the name of Dubourg, of both of these experiments as follows:

"When I was a boy, I made two oval palettes, each about ten inches long and six broad, with a hole for the thumb, in order to retain it fast in the palm of my hand. They much resembled a painter's palettes. In swimming, I pushed the edges of these forward, and I struck the water with their flat surfaces as I drew them back. I remember I swam faster by means of these palettes, but they fatigued my wrists. I also fitted to the soles of my feet a kind of sandals; but I was not satisfied with them, because I observed that the stroke is partly given by the inside of the feet and the ankles, and not entirely with the soles of the feet.

* * * * *

"You will not be displeased if I conclude these hasty remarks by informing you that, as the ordinary method of swimming is reduced to the act of rowing with the arms and legs, and is consequently a laborious and fatiguing operation when the space of water to be crossed is considerable, there is a method in which a swimmer may pass to great distances with, much facility, by means of a sail. This discovery I fortunately made by accident, and in the following manner.

"When I was a boy I amused myself one day with flying a paper kite; and, approaching the bank of a pond, which was nearly a mile broad, I tied the string to a stake, and the kite ascended to a very considerable height above the pond, while I was swimming. In a little time, being desirous of amusing myself with my kite, and enjoying at the same time the pleasure of swimming, I returned; and, loosing from the stake the string with the little stick which was fastened to it, went again into the water, where I found that, lying on my back and holding the stick in my hands, I was drawn along the surface of the water in a very agreeable manner. Having then engaged another boy to carry my clothes around the pond, to a place which I pointed out to him on the other side, I began to cross the pond with my kite, which carried me quite over without the least fatigue, and with the greatest pleasure imaginable. I was only obliged occasionally to halt a little in my course, and resist its progress, when it appeared that, by following too quick, I lowered the kite too much; by doing which occasionally, I made it rise again. I have never since that time practised this singular mode of swimming, though I think it not impossible to cross in this manner from Dover to Calais. The packet-boat, however, is still preferable."

Doctor Franklin wrote another long letter to a man in mature life, advising him to learn to swim. The man was not inclined to do it on account of his age, whereupon Doctor Franklin wrote:

"I can not be of opinion with you, that it is too late in life for you to learn to swim. The river near the bottom of your garden affords a most convenient place for the purpose. And, as your new employment requires your being often on the water, of which you have such a dread, I think you would do well to make the trial; nothing being so likely to remove those apprehensions as the consciousness of an ability to swim to the shore in case of an accident, or of supporting yourself in the water till a boat could come to take you up."

It is probable that Benjamin's experiment with his kite in swimming was the seed-thought of his experiment in drawing lightning from the clouds with a kite, thirty years thereafter,—an experiment that startled and electrified the scientific world. The story is a familiar one, and should be repeated here.

He believed that lightning and electricity were identical. Experiments for six years had led him to this conclusion. But how could he prove it? He conceived the idea of an electrical kite by which he could settle the truth or falsity of his theory. Having prepared the kite, he waited for a thunder-shower; nor did he wait long. Observing one rising, he took the kite, and with his son, twenty-one years of age, stole away into a field near by, where there was an old cow-shed. He had not informed any one but his son of his purpose, because he wished to avoid ridicule in case the experiment proved a failure.

The kite was sent up in season for the coming storm to catch, and, with intense anxiety, Franklin held the string, which was hempen, except the part in the hand, which was silk. He was so confident of success that he brought along with him a Leyden bottle, in which to collect electric fluid from the clouds for a shock. It was a moment of great suspense. His heart beat like a trip-hammer. At first a cloud seemed to pass directly over the kite, and the thunder rattled, and the lightnings played around it, and yet there was no indication of electricity. His heart almost failed him. But in silence he continued the experiment as the storm increased and drew nearer, and the artillery of heaven grew louder and more vivid. Another moment, and he beheld the fibers of the hempen cord rise as the hair of a person does on the insulated stool. What a moment it was! The electric fluid was there! His experiment was successful! Electricity and lightning are identical! Pen nor poesy can describe his emotion. Eagerly he applied his knuckles to the key, attached to the extremity of the hempen cord, and drew a spark therefrom. His joy was immeasurable! Another spark, and then another, and still another, until further confirmation was unnecessary! The Leyden bottle was charged with the precious fluid, from which both father and son received a shock as unmistakable as that from his electric battery at home. Franklin's fame was secured throughout the world. He went home with feelings of indescribable satisfaction.

Doctor Franklin was a very modest man, and he wrote a letter to Peter Collinson, member of the Royal Society of London, dated Philadelphia, Oct. 16, 1752, describing the experiment without even hinting that he was the experimenter. As that letter described his electrical kite, and his method of using it, we insert it here:

"As frequent mention is made in public papers from Europe of the success of the Philadelphia experiment for drawing the electric fire from clouds by means of pointed rods of iron erected on high buildings, etc., it may be agreeable to the curious to be informed that the same experiment has succeeded in Philadelphia, though made in a different and more easy manner, which is as follows:

"Make a small cross of two light strips of cedar, the arms so long as to reach the four corners of a large thin silk handkerchief when extended; tie the corners of the handkerchief to the extremities of the cross, so you have the body of a kite; which being properly accommodated with a tail, loop, and string, will rise in the air like those made of paper; but this, being of silk, is fitter to bear the wet and wind of a thunder-gust without tearing. To the top of the upright stick of the cross is to be fixed a very sharp-pointed wire, rising a foot or more above the wood. To the end of the twine next the hand is to be tied a silk ribbon, and where the silk and twine join a key may be fastened.

"This kite is to be raised when a thunder-gust appears to be coming on, and the person who holds the string must stand within a door or window, or under some cover, so that the silk ribbon may not be wet; and care must be taken that the twine does not touch the frame of the door or window. As soon as any of the thunder-clouds come over the kite, the pointed wire will draw the electric fire from them, and the kite, with all the twine, will be electrified, and the loose filaments of the twine will stand out every way, and be attracted by an approaching finger. And when the rain has wetted the kite and twine, so that it can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the approach of your knuckle. At this key the vial may be charged; and from the electric fire thus obtained spirits may be kindled, and all other electric experiments be performed which are usually done by the help of a rubbed glass globe or tube, and thereby the sameness of the electric matter with that of lightning completely demonstrated."

We have spoken of the discussions between Benjamin and John Collins upon important subjects. When other boys were accustomed to spend their time in foolish talking and jesting, they were warmly discussing some question in advance of their years, and well suited to improve their minds. One of the subjects was a singular one for that day—female education. Legislators, statesmen, ministers, and teachers did not believe that girls should be educated as thoroughly as boys. Fewer advantages should be accorded to them. John Collins accepted the general view; but Benjamin struck out boldly in favor of liberal female education, being about a hundred years in advance of his times.

"It would be a waste of money to attempt to educate girls as thoroughly as boys are educated," said John; "for the female sex are inferior to the male in intellectual endowment."

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Benjamin; "you know better than that. The girls are not as simple as you think they are. I believe that females are not a whit inferior to males in their mental qualities."

"I would like to know where you discover evidence of it?" replied John. "There is no proof of it in the works they have written."

"That may be true, and still they stand upon an equality in respect to intellect. For not half as much is done to educate them as there is to educate the male sex. How can you tell whether they are mentally inferior or not, until they are permitted to enjoy equal advantages?"

"As we tell other things," answered John. "Females do not need so high mental endowments as males, since they are not required to lead off in the different branches of business, or to prosecute the sciences. I can see no wisdom in bestowing talents upon them which they never use, and it is often said that 'nothing is made in vain.'"

"Well, I must go," said Benjamin; "but I think you have a weak cause to defend. If I had the time I could make out a case."

"A poor one, I guess," quickly added John. "We will see, the next time we meet, who can make out a case."

"It will be some time before we meet again," replied Benjamin, "and our ardor will be cooled before that time, I am thinking. But it will do us no harm to discuss the subject."

"If we keep our temper," said John, tacking his sentence to the last word of Benjamin's reply. And so saying, they parted.

After Benjamin had revolved the subject still more in his mind, he became anxious to commit his argument to writing. Accordingly, with pen and paper in hand, he sat down to frame the best argument he could in favor of educating the female sex. He wrote it in the form of a letter, addressed to his friend Collins, and, after having completed, he copied it in a fair hand, and sent it to him. This brought back a long reply, which made it necessary for Benjamin to pen an answer. In this way the correspondence continued, until several letters had passed between them, and each one had gained the victory in his own estimation.

Benjamin was anxious that his father should read this correspondence, as he would be a good judge of its quality; and, after a little, he took it to him, saying: "John and I have had some correspondence, and I want you should read our letters."

There is little question that Benjamin was so well satisfied with his own argument that he expected his father would give him much credit. Perhaps his father believed, with most men of that day, that the education of females was an unnecessary expense, and Benjamin expected to convert him to his belief. Whether it was so or not, his father replied:

"I should like to read it; what is it about?"

"You will find out when you read the letters."

Mr. Franklin improved the first opportunity to read the correspondence, and report to Benjamin.

"I have been very much pleased and profited by this correspondence. It is able for two boys like you and John; but I think John has the advantage of you."

"John the advantage!" exclaimed Benjamin, with considerable surprise and anxiety. "How so?"

"In some respects, not in all, I mean," added his father.

"Tell me of one thing in which he has advantage," and Benjamin manifested disappointment when he made the request.

"Well, John's style of composition seems to me more finished, and he expresses himself with more clearness."

"I rather think you are prejudiced, father" Benjamin said this for the want of something better to say.

"I rather think not," answered his father. "You have the advantage of John in correct spelling, and in punctuation, which is the consequence of working in the printing office. But I can convince you that less method and clearness characterize your letters than his."

"I am ready to be convinced," answered Benjamin. "I hardly think I have attained perfection in writing yet."

His father proceeded to read from the letters of each, with the design of showing that John's composition was more perspicuous, and that there was more method in his argument. Nor was it a very difficult task.

"I am convinced," acknowledged Benjamin, before his father had read all he intended to read. "I can make improvement in those things without much trouble. There is certainly a good chance for it."

"That is what I want you should see. I am very much pleased with your letters, for they show that you have talents to improve, and that you are an original, independent thinker. My only reason in calling your attention to these defects is to assist you in mental improvement."

Benjamin was just the boy to be benefited by such friendly criticism. It would discourage some boys, and they would despair of any future excellence. The rank and file of boys would not be aroused by it to overcome the difficulty and go up higher. But Benjamin was aroused, and he resolved that his composition should yet be characterized by elegance and perspicuity. He set about that improvement at once. We shall see, in another chapter, how he purchased an old copy of the Spectator for a model, and set about improving his style.

It is quite evident that Mr. Franklin thought well of Benjamin's argument on female education, for he did not criticise it. Perhaps it was here that he found proof that his son was "an original and independent thinker." It is somewhat remarkable that a boy at that time should hold and advocate views of female education that have not been advanced generally until within forty years. Looking about now, we see that females stand side by side with males, in schools and colleges, in ability and scholarship; that they constitute a large proportion of teachers in our land now, when, before the American Revolution, it was not thought proper to employ them at all; that many of them are now classed with the most distinguished authors, editors, and lecturers; and that not a few occupy places of distinction in the learned professions, while many others are trusty clerks, book-keepers, saleswomen, and telegraph-operators. Young Franklin's views, the Boston printer-boy, a hundred and seventy years ago, are illustrated and confirmed to-day by the prominence and value of educated females.

That a printer-boy of fifteen years could accomplish so much when he was obliged to work from twelve to fifteen hours each day at his trade, seems almost incredible. But he allowed no moments to run to waste. He always kept a book by him in the office, and every spare moment was employed over its pages. In the morning, before he went to work, he found some time for reading and study. He was an early riser, not, perhaps, because he had no inclination to lie in bed, but he had more time to improve his mind. He gained time enough in the morning, by this early rising, to acquire more knowledge than some youth and young men do by going constantly to school. In the evening he found still more time for mental improvement, extending his studies often far into the night. It was his opinion that people generally consume more time than is necessary in sleep, and one of his maxims, penned in ripe manhood, was founded on that opinion: "The sleeping fox catches no poultry."

It is not surprising that a boy who subjected himself to such discipline for a series of years should write some of the best maxims upon this subject when he became a man. The following are some of them:

"There are no gains without pains; then help, hands, for I have no lands."

"Industry pays debts, while despair increaseth them."

"Never leave that till to-morrow which you can do to-day."

"Leisure is time for doing something useful."

"A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things."

"Be ashamed to catch yourself idle."

"Handle your tools without mittens; remember, a cat in gloves catches no mice."

"There is much to be done, and perhaps you are weak-handed; but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects, for constant dropping wears away stones, and by diligence and patience the mouse ate into the cable."

We have spoken of what the printer-boy accomplished as remarkable. And yet it is not remarkable when we consider the work some men have done in leisure hours alone. Just here is one of the most important lessons to be learned from the example and life of Benjamin Franklin. A similar example is before us here in New England; that of Charles G. Frost, of Brattleboro', Vermont, who was a shoemaker by trade. He died a few years since. He wrote of his own life:

"When I went to my trade, at fourteen years of age, I formed a resolution, which I have kept till now—extraordinary preventives only excepted—that I would faithfully devote one hour each day to study, in some useful branch of knowledge."

Here was the secret of his success—one hour a day. Almost any boy can have that. He was forty-five when he wrote the above, a married man, with three children, still devoting one hour a day, at least, to study, and still at work at his trade. He had made such attainments in mathematical science, at forty-five, it was claimed for him that not more than ten mathematicians could be found in the United States in advance of him. He wrote further of himself:

"The first book which fell into my hands was Hutton's Mathematics, an English work of great celebrity, a complete mathematical course, which I then commenced, namely, at fourteen. I finished it at nineteen without an instructor. I then took up those studies to which I could apply my knowledge of mathematics, as mechanics and mathematical astronomy. I think I can say that I possess, and have successfully studied, all the most approved English and American works on these subjects."

After this he commenced natural philosophy and physical astronomy; then chemistry, geology, and mineralogy, collecting and arranging a cabinet. Mr. Frost continues:

"Next, natural philosophy engaged my attention, which I followed up with close observation, gleaning my information from a great many sources. The works that treat of them at large are rare and expensive. But I have a considerable knowledge of geology, ornithology, entomology, and conchology."

Not only this; he added to his store of knowledge the science of botany, and made himself master of it. He made extensive surveys in his own state, of the trees, shrubs, herbs, ferns, mosses, lichens, and fungi. He had the third best collection of ferns in the United States. He, also, directed his attention to meteorology, and devoted much of his time to acquire a knowledge of the law of storms, and the movements of the erratic and extraordinary bodies in the air and heavens. He took up the study of Latin, and pursued it until he could read it fluently. He read all the standard poets, and had copies of their works in his library. Also, he became proficient in history, while his miscellaneous reading was very extensive. Of his books he wrote:

"I have a library which I divide into three departments—scientific, religious, literary—comprising the standard works published in this country, containing five or six hundred volumes. I have purchased these books from time to time with money saved for the purpose by some small self-denials."

Benjamin Franklin's record, on the whole, may surpass this. Both of them show, however, what the persistent and systematic improvement of spare moments will accomplish. If a girl or boy can command one hour a day for reading, twenty pages could be read thoughtfully in that time, or one hundred and forty pages in a week. In a single year more than seven thousand pages, which is equal to eighteen large duodecimo volumes! In twenty years, one hundred and fifty thousand pages, or three hundred and sixty-five volumes of the size named above! Divide this amount of reading among history, philosophy, chemistry, biography, and general literature, and the reader will be well versed in these several departments of knowledge.

The old adage is, "Time is money," but the leisure time of Franklin was worth vastly more than money, as it is to every youth; for it was culture, usefulness, and character.



XI.

STARTING A NEWSPAPER.

Benjamin had been in the printing office about three years when his brother decided to publish a newspaper. It was a doubtful enterprise from the outset, and friends tried to dissuade him from it. But he viewed the matter from his own standpoint, as the Franklins were wont to do, and the paper was started. It was called "THE NEW ENGLAND COURANT," and the first number was issued Aug. 21, 1721. Only three papers in the whole country were published before this. The first one was The Boston News-letter, established April 24, 1704, two years before the birth of Benjamin. It was only a half-sheet of paper, about the size of an eight by twelve inch pane of glass, "in two pages folio, with two columns on each page." It could not have contained more printed matter than is now compressed into one-third or one-half page of one of our Boston dailies. The other papers were The Boston Gazette, established Dec. 21, 1719; and The American Weekly Mercury, of Philadelphia, Dec. 22, 1719.

There was not a little commotion when James Franklin launched The New England Courant. It was regarded generally as a wild project. It was not thought that three newspapers could live in America. The field was not large enough. This fact, considered in contrast with the supply of papers and journals now, daily, weekly, and monthly, shows the wonderful growth of the country. At that time, there was not a daily paper in the land; now, there are over one thousand,—eight of them in the city of Boston, having a daily circulation of from three to four hundred thousand. The papers and magazines of the United States, of all descriptions, reach the surprising aggregate of nearly twenty thousand, and their circulation is almost fabulous. One hundred thousand, and even two hundred thousand, daily, is claimed for some journals. Some weekly issues reach three hundred thousand, and even four and five hundred thousand. Bind the daily issues of Boston into volumes, containing one hundred sheets each, and we have an enormous library of daily newspapers, numbering about ONE MILLION VOLUMES, the annual production of the Boston daily press now! And this is the aggregate of only the eight dailies, while Boston has nearly two hundred papers and periodicals of all sorts, and the State of Massachusetts nearly four hundred!

If the eight Boston dailies measure one yard each in width, when opened, on the average, and they are laid end to end, we have more than three hundred thousand yards of newspapers laid each day, which is equal to one hundred and seventy miles daily, over one thousand miles in a week, and FIFTY-ONE THOUSAND, ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SIX in a year! More than enough papers to reach twice around the earth!

Or, suppose we weigh these papers: If ten of them weigh a single pound, then each day's issue weighs thirty thousand pounds, each week's issue one hundred and eighty thousand, the aggregate of the year amounting to NINE MILLION POUNDS! Load this yearly production upon wagons, one ton on each, and we have a procession of FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED wagons, that reaches, allowing one rod to a team, over FOURTEEN MILES!

And the New England Courant third in the procession! Benjamin was much given to prophesying, but no prophecy from his lips ever covered such a growth as this. He was in favor of starting the paper, but he could not have had the faintest conception of what was going to follow.

"I want to set up the paper," he said to James; "I think I can make the best looking paper."

"I think you can; and it is going to require much attention and planning to make it a success. I may fail in the attempt, but I'll have the satisfaction of trying."

"I will do all I can to make it succeed, if I have to sit up nights," Benjamin continued. "It will give your office notoriety to publish a paper. But how will you dispose of it?"

"Sell it on the street; and you will be a good hand to do that. No doubt there will be some regular subscribers, and you can deliver copies to them from week to week."

"And be collector, too, I suppose," added Benjamin, who had no objection to any part of the work named.

"As you please about that. Doubtless it will be convenient to have you attend to that, at times at least."

"You won't make me editor yet, I conclude," remarked Benjamin, facetiously, thinking that about all the work on the paper, except the editorship, had been assigned to him.

"Not yet, I think," responded James; "printer, news-dealer, news-carrier, and collector will be as much honor as any one of the Franklins can withstand at once"; and he had as little idea of the part Benjamin would play in the enterprise as the boy himself.

There is no doubt that Benjamin had an idea that the paper might have in its columns some of his fugitive pieces, sooner or later. He had been cultivating his talents in this direction, and never was enjoying it more than he was at the time the New England Courant was established.

"How many copies shall you publish in the first issue?" inquired Benjamin.

"I am not quite decided about that; anywhere from two to three hundred. We will see how it goes first."

"How about articles for it? Will you have any trouble about getting articles?"

"None at all. I am to have several articles at once for the first number, from parties who can write well; and when the paper is well under way there will be a plenty of volunteer contributors. I have no fears about that."

Benjamin might have responded, "Here is one," for there is no doubt that he was already flattering himself with the idea that he would be a contributor to its columns, known or unknown. Here was the real secret of his enthusiastic interest in the enterprise.

On the day mentioned the new paper was issued, as had been announced, and great was the anxiety of the publisher. Many citizens awaited its coming with lively anticipations; and, on the whole, it was a memorable occasion. No one's interest surpassed that of the printer-boy, Benjamin, who had no hesitation in selling the paper on the street, and rather liked that part of the business. In his view, it was an honorable and enterprising venture, that challenged the respect and support of every citizen.

The reception of the Courant was all that James anticipated. It sold as well as he expected, and the comments upon its ability and character were as favorable as the times and circumstances would warrant. There were criticisms, of course, and severe ones, too, for, in that day, all sorts of projects were subjected to a crucial test. The Courant was no exception to the rule.

Now that the newspaper is launched, and there is new interest and activity in consequence in the printing office, we will recur to an episode in Benjamin's career, that occurred two years before; for it sustains a very close relation to the newspaper enterprise and what followed:

Benjamin had been in the printing office about a year when he surprised his brother by the inquiry:

"How much will you allow me a week if I will board myself?"

"Do you think I pay more for your board than it is worth?" replied James, Yankee-like, by asking another question, instead of answering the one propounded.

"No more than you will be obliged to pay in any other family, but more than I shall ask you. It costs you now more than you need to pay." James was still boarding Benjamin in a family near by.

"Then you think of opening a boarding-house for the special accommodation of Benjamin Franklin, I see," which was treating the subject rather lightly.

"I propose to board myself," answered Benjamin, distinctly and emphatically. "I do not eat meat of any kind, as you know, so that I can board myself easily, and I will agree to do it if you will give me weekly one-half the money you pay for my board."

"Of course I will agree to it," answered James. "It will be so much in my pocket, and the bargain is made. When will you begin to keep your boarder?"

"To-morrow," was Benjamin's quick reply. "A vegetarian can open a boarding-house for himself without much preparation."

"To-morrow it is, then; but it will not take you long to become sick of that arrangement. Keeping boarders is not a taking business, even if you have no boarder but yourself."

"That is my lookout," continued Benjamin. "I have my own ideas about diet and work, play and study, and some other things; and I am going to reduce them to practice."

Benjamin had been reading a work on "vegetable diet," by one Tryon, and it was this which induced him to discard meats as an article of food. He was made to believe that better health and a clearer head would be the result, though from all we can learn he was not lacking in either. Mr. Tryon, in his work, gave directions for cooking vegetables, such dishes as a vegetarian might use, so that the matter of boarding himself was made quite simple.

The great object which Benjamin had in view was to save money for buying books. It seemed to be the only way open to get money for that purpose. At the same time, he would have more hours to read. He had been trying the "vegetable diet" at his boarding place for some time, and he liked it. He was really one of Tryon's converts. Other boarders ridiculed his diet, and had considerable sport over his "oddity"; but he cared nothing for that. They could eat what they pleased, and so could he. He was as independent on the subject of diet as he was on any other. He did not pin his faith in any thing upon the sleeve of another; he fastened it to his own sleeve, and let it fly.

The incident illustrates the difference between the two brothers. If James had been as unselfish and generous as Benjamin was, he would have paid the latter the full amount of his board weekly. He would have said:

"You have a passion for reading and study. You do this for self-improvement. You want to know more, and make the most of yourself that you can. In these circumstances I will not make any money out of you. If I give you the whole amount I pay for board I shall lose nothing, and you will gain considerable. It will help you, and I shall be kept whole in my finances. You shall have it all."

But the fact was, James was avaricious, and was bent on making money, though he made it out of his younger brother. On the other hand, Benjamin was large-hearted and generous, or he never would have offered, in the outset, to take half James paid for his board. Had he been as niggardly as James, he could have made a better bargain than that for himself. But it was not a good bargain that he was after; he was after the books.

James was curious to see how Benjamin would succeed with his new method of living. So he watched him closely, without saying any thing in particular about it; perhaps expecting that his brother would soon tire of boarding himself. Weeks passed by, and still Benjamin was hale, strong, and wide-awake as ever. His actions indicated that he was well satisfied both with his bargain and his board. Finally, however, James' curiosity grew to such proportions that he inquired one day,—

"Ben, how much do you make by boarding yourself?"

"I save just half the money you pay me, so that it costs me just one-quarter as much as you paid for my board."

"You understand economy, I must confess," remarked James. "However, I ought to be satisfied if you are." Perhaps his conscience might have troubled him somewhat, and caused him to think how much better off his young brother would have been, if he had given him the full amount of the board, as he should have done. If Benjamin had been a common boy, without high aspirations and noble endeavors, or a spendthrift, or idler, there might have been some excuse for driving a close bargain with him; but, in the circumstances, the act was unbrotherly and ungenerous.

"The money I save is not the best part of it," added Benjamin after a little. "I save a half-hour and more usually every noon for reading. After I have eaten my meal, I usually read as long as that before you return from dinner."

"Not a very sumptuous dinner, I reckon; sawdust pudding, perhaps, with cold water sauce! When I work I want something to work on. Living on nothing would be hard on me." James indicated by this remark that he had no confidence in that sort of diet.

"I live well enough for me. A biscuit or a slice of bread, with a tart or a few raisins, and a glass of water, make a good dinner for me; and then my head is all the lighter for study."

"Yes, I should think you might have a light head with such living," retorted James, "and your body will be as light before many weeks, I prophesy."

"I will risk it. I am on a study now that requires a clear head, and I am determined to master it."

"What is that?"

"Cocker's Arithmetic."

"Begin to wish that you knew something of arithmetic by this time! Making up for misspent time, I see. Paying old debts is not interesting business."

James meant this last remark for a fling at Benjamin's dislike for arithmetic when he attended school. Not devoting himself to it with the enthusiasm he gave to more congenial studies, he was more deficient in that branch of knowledge than in any other. He regretted his neglect of the study now, and was determined to make up his loss. This was very honorable, and showed a noble aim, which merited praise, instead of a fling, from his brother.

"I think it must be a sort of luxury to pay old debts, if one has any thing to pay them with," remarked Benjamin. "If I can make up any loss of former years now, I enjoy doing it, even by the closest economy of time."

"Well, you estimate time as closely as a miser counts his money, Ben."

"And I have a right to do it. As little time as I have to myself requires that I should calculate closely. Time is money to you, or else you would allow me a little more to myself; and it is more than money to me."

"How so?"

"It enables me to acquire knowledge, which I can not buy with money. Unless I were saving of my time, I should not be able to read or study at all, having to work so constantly."

Perhaps, at this time, Benjamin laid the foundation for that economy which distinguished him in later life, and about which he often wrote. Among his wise sayings, in the height of his influence and fame, were the following:

"If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as of getting."

"What maintains one vice would bring up two children."

"Many a little makes a mickle."

"A small leak will sink a ship."

"At a great penny worth pause awhile."

"Silks and satins, scarlets and velvets, put out the kitchen fire."

"Always taking out of the meal-tub, and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom."

"It is easier to build two chimneys than to keep one in fuel."

"A penny saved is a penny earned."

"A penny saved is two-pence clear."

"A pin a day is a groat a year."

"He that wastes idly a groat's worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using one hundred pounds each day."

"In short, the way to wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do, and with them every thing. He that gets all he can honestly, and saves all he gets (necessary expenses excepted), will certainly become rich—if that Being who governs the world, to whom all should look for a blessing on their honest endeavors, doth not, in his wise providence, otherwise determine."

The reader may desire to know just how Franklin himself speaks of the "vegetable diet" experiment in his "Autobiography"; so we quote it here:

"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."



XII.

THE RUSE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.

Mr. Parton says of the Courant, "It was a most extraordinary sheet. Of all the colonial newspapers, it was the most spirited, witty, and daring. The Bostonians, accustomed to the monotonous dullness of the News-letter, received, some with delight, more with horror, all with amazement, this weekly budget of impudence and fun. A knot of liberals gathered around James Franklin, physicians most of them, able, audacious men, who kept him well supplied with squibs, essays, and every variety of sense and nonsense known in that age. The Courant was, indeed, to borrow the slang of the present day, a 'sensational paper.' Such a tempest did it stir up in Boston that the noise thereof was heard in the remote colony of Pennsylvania."

The "knot of liberals" who wrote articles for it, met often at the office to discuss their contributions, and the state of public sentiment more or less affected by this venture. The News-letter came in for a large share of the opposition, and they declared war against many of the existing customs,—governmental, political, and social. The scope and circulation of the paper was a frequent topic of remark.

Benjamin's ears were always open to their conversation. He heard the merits of different articles set forth, and learned that certain ones were quite popular and elicited favorable remarks from readers generally. This excited his ambition, and he strongly desired to try his own ability in writing for the paper. He feared, however, that his composition would not be regarded favorably, if it were known who was the author; so he resorted to the following expedient:

"I will write an anonymous article," he said within himself, "in the best style I can, and get it into James' hand in some way that will not arouse his suspicions. I will disguise my handwriting, and give it some fictitious name, so that he will not dream that it was written in the office."

Accordingly the article was prepared, describing his ideal of character, and that was the character he himself formed, and was forming then; and he signed it SILENCE DOGOOD. This article he slipped under the printing office door at night, where James found it in the morning, and read it with evident satisfaction, as Benjamin thought, who narrowly watched him. In a little while some of the "knot of liberals" came in, and the article was read to them.

"It is a good article, and it was slipped under the door last night," said James. "It is signed 'Silence Dogood.'"

"You have no idea who wrote it, then?" inquired one.

"Not the least whatever."

"It is capital, whoever the author may be," remarked one of the critics.

"Somebody wrote it who knows how to wield his pen," said another.

"Ordinarily I shall not publish articles without knowing who the author is," remarked James; "but this is so good that I shall not stop to inquire. I shall put it into the next issue."

"By all means, of course," replied one. "No doubt we shall soon learn who the author is; it is a difficult matter to keep such things secret for a long time."

"The author is evidently a person of ability," added another; "every sentence in the article is charged with thought. I should judge that he needed only practice to make him a writer of the first class."

"Publishing the article will be as likely as any thing to bring out the author," suggested James.

"That is so; and the sooner it is published the better," remarked one of the company approvingly.

Much more was said in praise of the article. The names of several prominent citizens of Boston were mentioned as the possible author. James himself named one or two, who were Boston's most intelligent and influential citizens, as the possible author.

All approved the insertion of the article in the next issue of the paper, much to the satisfaction of Benjamin, who was the most deeply interested party in the office. He scarcely knew how to act in regard to the article, whether to father it at once, or still conceal its parentage. On the whole, however, he decided to withhold its authorship for the present, and try his hand again in the same way.

The reader may judge of Benjamin's emotions when he came to put his own article in type for the paper. It was almost too good to be real. Fact was even stranger than fiction to him. In the outset he dreamed that somehow and sometime the columns of the Courant might contain a contribution of his own; and here he was setting up his first article with the approval of James and the whole "knot of liberals." This was more than he bargained for; and his heart never came so near beating through his jacket as then. Never was a printer-boy so happy before. He was happy all over and all through—a lump of happiness. Not one boy in a hundred could have managed to keep the secret as he did, in the circumstances. Their countenances would have exposed it on the spot. But Benjamin possessed his soul in patience, and carried out his ruse admirably.

The issue containing Benjamin's article appeared on time, and was greatly praised. "Who is 'Silence Dogood'?" was the most common inquiry. "I wonder who 'Silence Dogood' can be," was a frequent remark, showing that the article attracted much attention. Benjamin wondered as much as any of them. "A queer signature to put to an article," he said. "What in the world could suggest such a nom de plume to a writer?" He enjoyed his ruse more and more: it became the choicest fun of his life. It was so crammed with felicity that he resolved to continue it by writing more articles as well-chosen and good.

He was able to prepare a better article for the second one, because he brought to its preparation the enthusiasm and encouragement awakened by the favorable reception of the first. Besides, the many remarks he had heard about it gave him points for another communication, so as to make it sharper, better adapted to the times, and hence more timely. Within a short time, the second article was slipped under the door at night for James to pick up in the morning.

"Another article from 'Silence Dogood,'" exclaimed James, as he opened it and read the signature.

"I thought we should hear from that writer again," was all the remark that Benjamin vouchsafed.

"A good subject!" added James, as he read the caption. "I will read it," and he proceeded to read the article to Benjamin.

The latter listened with attention that was somewhat divided between the excellent reception the article was having and the grand success of his ruse.

"Better even than the first article," remarked James after having read it. "We must not rest until we find out who the author is. It is somebody of note."

The second article was submitted to the "knot of liberals," the same as the first one, and all approved it highly.

"It is sharper than the first one, and hits the nail on the head every time," said one of the number. "Dogood is a good name for such a writer."

"And we shall have more of them, no doubt," suggested James; "it is quite evident that the writer means to keep on."

"I hope he will; such articles will call attention to the paper, and that is what we want," added another.

"In the mean time, let us find out if possible who the writer is," suggested still another. "It will be a help to the paper to have it known who is the author, if it is one of the scholars."

Charles Dickens was a poorer boy than Benjamin ever was, knowing what it was to go to bed hungry and cold; but his young heart aspired after a nobler life, and, while yet a boy, he wrote an article for the press, disclosing the fact not even to his mother, and then, on a dark night, he dropped it "into a dark letter box, in a dark office, up a dark court in Fleet street." His joy was too great for utterance when he saw it in print. It was the beginning of a career as a writer unparalleled in English or American history. And he told the secret of it when he wrote, "While other boys played, I read Roderick Random, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Bias, and other books. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time."

Benjamin heard all that was said, and still kept his secret. It would not have been strange if his vanity had been inflated by these complimentary remarks. Ordinary humanity could scarcely be exposed to so high praise without taking on a new sense of its importance. But Benjamin kept down his pride, and his heart continued to abide under his jacket though it beat mightily. Was it any wonder?

Without stopping to narrate details, it is sufficient to say that Benjamin wrote several articles, and sent them forward to James under the door; and they were all pronounced good by James and his friends. He began to think that it was almost time to let out the secret. James was fairly committed to the excellence of all the articles, and so were the other critics. This was important to the success of Benjamin's plan. He had feared, as he had continued industriously to set up type, that a disclosure would knock all his plans into "pi"; but he had no fears now. But how should he disclose? That was the question. It was not long, however, before the question was settled. His brother made some remark about the last article slipped under the door, and wondered that the author had not become known.

"I know who the author is," said Benjamin under such a degree of excitement as even an older person would experience on the eve of an important revelation.

"You know!" exclaimed James in great surprise. "If you know, why have you not disclosed it before?"

"Because I thought it was not wise. It is not best to tell all we know always."

"But you have heard us discuss this matter over and over, and take measures to discover the author, and yet you have never intimated that you knew any thing about it."

"Well, the author did not wish to be known until the right time came, and that is a good reason for keeping the matter secret, I think."

"Will you tell who the author is now?" asked James, impatient to obtain the long-sought information.

"Perhaps I will if you are very anxious to know."

"Of course I am, and every one else who is interested in the paper."

That was the crisis to James. We can scarcely conceive of its interest to the boy-writer. His time of triumph had come. James had not treated him very well, and we think he enjoyed that moment of victory a little more for that reason. That would have been human, and Benjamin was human. His ruse had proved successful, and his talents, too. Now he could startle his brother as much as would a thunder-bolt out of a clear sky. So he answered his inquiry by saying,—

"Benjamin Franklin "; and he said it with emphasis and an air of triumph.

If James' countenance could have been photographed at that moment, it would have shown a mixture of amazement, incredulity, and wonder. It was several moments before he so far recovered from the shock as to be able to speak.

"What! Do you mean to say that you wrote those articles?" Benjamin might have discovered some doubt in James' tone and appearance when he spoke.

"Certainly I do."

"But it is not your handwriting."

"It is my handwriting disguised. I wa' n't fool enough to let you have the articles in my own handwriting without disguise, when I wished to conceal the authorship."

"What could possibly be your object in doing so?"

"That the articles might be fairly examined. If I had proposed to write an article for your paper, you would have said that I, a printer-boy, could write nothing worthy of print."

"But if I had seen and read the articles, knowing them to be yours, I should have judged them fairly," James insisted, evidently feeling somewhat hurt by his brother's last remark. Nevertheless, Benjamin was right. It is probable that his articles would have been rejected, had he offered them in his own name to the critics.

"Well, that was my plan, and the articles have had a fair show, and I am satisfied, whether you are or not," was Benjamin's reply in an independent spirit.

Here the conversation dropped. James bestowed no words of commendation upon his brother's ability. Perhaps he thought that he had praised the articles enough when he did not know who the author was. But he appeared to be abstracted in thought until some of the "knot of liberals" came in.

"I have discovered who 'Silence Dogood' is," he said.

"You have? Who can it be?" and the speaker was very much surprised.

"No one that you have dreamed of."

"Is that so? I am all the more anxious to learn who it is," he continued.

"There he is," replied James, pointing to Benjamin, who was setting type a little more briskly than usual, as if he was oblivious to what was going on.

"What! Benjamin? You are joking, surely," replied one.

"Your brother out there!" exclaimed another, pointing to Benjamin; "you do not mean it!"

"Yes, I do mean it. He is the author, and he has satisfied me that he is. You can see for yourselves."

The "knot of liberals" was never so amazed, and now they all turned to Benjamin, and he had to speak for himself. They were not entirely satisfied that there was not some mistake or deception about the matter. But he found little difficulty in convincing them that he was the real author of the communications, whereupon they lavished their commendations upon him to such an extent as to make it perilous to one having much vanity in his heart.

From that time Benjamin was a favorite with the literary visitors at the office. They showed him much more attention than they did James, and said so much in his praise, as a youth of unusual promise, that James became jealous and irritable. He was naturally passionate and tyrannical, and this sudden and unexpected exaltation of Benjamin developed his overbearing spirit. He found more fault with him, and became very unreasonable in his treatment. Probably he had never dreamed that Benjamin possessed more talents than other boys of his age. Nor did he care, so long as his brother was an apprentice, and he could rule over him as a master. He did not appear to regard the blood-relationship between them, but only that of master and apprentice. In other words, he was a poor specimen of a brother, and we shall learn more about him in the sequel.

In his "Autobiography," Franklin tells the story of his ruse as follows:

"James 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 men of some character among us for learning and ingenuity. I suppose that I was rather lucky in my judges, and that they were not really so very good as I then believed them to be. Encouraged, however, by this attempt, I wrote and sent in the same way to the press several other pieces, that were equally approved; and I kept my secret till all my fund of sense for such performances was exhausted, and then discovered it, when I began to be considered a little more by my brother's acquaintance.

"However, that did not quite please him, as he thought it tended to make me too vain. This might be one occasion of the differences we began to have about this time. Though a brother he considered himself as my master, and me as his apprentice, and accordingly expected the same services from me as he would from another, while I thought he degraded me too much in some he required of me, who from a brother expected more indulgence."

The foregoing was one of the incidents of Benjamin's boyhood that decided his future eminent career. It was a good thing to bring out his talents as a writer thus early, and it introduced him to an exercise that was of the first importance in the improvement of his mind. From the time he wrote the first article for the Courant, he did not cease to write for the public. Probably no other American boy began his public career so early—sixteen. He had written much before, but it was not for the press. It was done for self-improvement, and not for the public eye. The newspaper opened a new and unexpected channel of communication with the public that was well suited to awaken his deepest interest and inspire his noblest efforts.

The incident reminds us of Canning's Microcosm. He, the great English statesman, was scarcely as old as Benjamin when he established a boy's periodical in the school at Eton, whither he was sent. It was christened Microcosm, which means, literally, "the little world." It was a weekly publication issued from Windsor. It was conducted "after the plan of the Spectator"—a work that was of immense value to Benjamin, as we shall see,—"the design being to treat the characteristics of the boys at Eton as Addison and his friends had done those of general society." In this paper several members of the school figured with credit to themselves, though no one was more prominent and capable than Canning.

It became one of the prominent influences that decided his future course, as he always affirmed, developing his talents, and stimulating his mind to labor in this honorable way. It also exerted a decided influence upon the character of another boy, named Frere, who afterwards shone as a writer on the pages of the Anti-Jacobin.

Examples of industry, enterprise, despatch, promptness, punctuality, and circumspection are inspiring to both old and young; and nowhere do these noble qualities appear to better advantage than they do where busy brains and hands make the newspaper in the printing office. It is a remarkably useful school. It was so when Benjamin was a boy. It was a far better school for him than that of Williams or Brownwell. Here he laid the foundation of his learning and fame. The same was true of Horace Greeley, who founded the New York Tribune, and of Henry J. Raymond, who made the Times what it is. The late Vice-President Schuyler Colfax was schooled in a printing office for his honorable public career; and the same was true of other distinguished statesmen. But none of these examples are so remarkable as the following, that was made possible by Benjamin Franklin's example.

A waif two years of age was taken from a benevolent institution in Boston, and given to a childless sailor, on his way from a voyage to his home in Maine on the Penobscot River. The sailor knew not from what institution the child was taken, nor whence he came. He carried it home, without a name, or the least clue to his ancestry. The sailor's wife was a Christian woman, and had prayed for just such a gift as that. She resolved to train him for the Lord. At twelve years of age he became a Christian, and, from that time, longed to be a minister. But poverty stood in his way, and there was little prospect of his hopes being realized.

At length, however, he read the life of Benjamin Franklin; and he learned how the printing office introduced him into a noble life-work. "I will go through the printing office into the ministry," he said to his adopted mother. So, at fifteen, he became a printer in Boston. After a while, his health broke down, and the way to regain it seemed to be through service to a wealthy man on his farm in the country. There his health was restored, and his benevolent employer got him into Andover Academy, where he led the whole class. Near the close of his preparatory course, on a Saturday night, the author met him under the following circumstances:

He was then nineteen years of age. On that day he had learned from what institution he was taken, and, going thither, he ascertained that he had a sister three years older than himself, living thirty miles north of Boston. It was the first knowledge he had received about any of his relatives. He was ten years old when his adopted parents informed him that he was taken, a waif, from an institution in Boston. From that time he was curious to find the institution and learn something of his ancestry. He was too young, when he was taken away, to remember that he had a sister. But on that day he learned the fact; and he took the first train to meet her. The author took the train, also, to spend the Sabbath with the minister who reared the sister. We met in the same family. What a meeting of brother and sister! The latter had mourned, through all these years, that she knew not what had become of her baby-brother, whom she well remembered and loved; but here he was, nineteen years of age, a manly, noble, Christian young man! Could she believe her eyes? Could we, who were lookers on, think it real? We received the story of his life from his own lips.

He was the best scholar in his class through academy, college, and theological seminary, and is now an able and useful minister of the Gospel, indebted TO THE EXAMPLE AND EXPERIENCE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN IN THE PRINTING OFFICE FOR WHAT HE IS!



XIII.

BOOKS OF HIS BOYHOOD.

Coleridge divided readers into four classes, thus: "The first may be compared to an hour-glass, their reading being as the sand; it runs in, and it runs out, and leaves not a vestige behind. A second class resembles a sponge, which imbibes every thing, and returns it merely in the same state, only a little dirtier. A third class is like a jelly-bag, which allows all that is pure to pass away, and retains only the refuse and the dregs. The fourth class may be compared to the slave in the diamond mines of Golconda, who, casting aside all that is worthless, preserves only the pure gem."

Benjamin belonged to the fourth class, which is the smallest class of all. The "hour-glass" class, who simply let what they read "run in and run out," is very large. It is not entitled to much respect, however, for it will bring no more to pass than the class who do not read at all.

Benjamin sought the "pure gem." If he had any thing, he wanted diamonds. Nor did he accept "a stone for bread." He knew what bread was, which is not true of many readers; and so he had bread or nothing. His mind was a voracious eater, much more of an eater than his body. It demanded substantial food, too, the bread, meat, and potato of literature and science. It did not crave cake and confectionery. There was no mincing and nibbling when it went to a meal. It just laid in as if to shame starvation; it almost gobbled up what was on the table. It devoured naturally and largely. It was fortunate for him that his mind was so hungry all the time; otherwise, his desire to go to sea, his love of sport, and his unusual social qualities might have led him astray. Thousands of boys have been ruined in this way, whom passionate fondness of reading might have made useful and eminent. Thomas Hood said: "A natural turn for reading and intellectual pursuits probably preserved me from the moral shipwrecks so apt to befall those who are deprived in early life of their parental pilotage. My books kept me from the ring, the dog-pit, the tavern, and saloon. The closet associate of Pope and Addison, the mind accustomed to the noble though silent discourse of Shakespeare and Milton, will hardly seek or put up with that sort of company."

It was probably as true of Benjamin Franklin as it was of Thomas Hood, that reading saved him from a career of worldliness and worthlessness. In his manhood he regarded the habit in this light, and said: "From my infancy I was passionately fond of reading, and all the money that came into my hands was laid out in the purchasing of books." If he had laid out his money in billiards, boating, theatre-going, and kindred pleasures, as so many do, he might have been known in manhood as Ben, the Bruiser, instead of "Ben, the Statesman and Philosopher."

The first book Benjamin read was "Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress." He was fascinated with it, and read it over and over, much to the gratification of his parents.

"What is there about it that interests you so much?" inquired his father, hoping that it might be the subject alone.

"The dialogues that are carried on in it," replied Benjamin.

"Then you think more of the style than you do of the matter?" remarked his father, evidently somewhat disappointed that he was not specially taken with Christian's journey.

"It is all interesting. I should never get tired of reading such a book." This reply reassured his father, and he got considerable comfort out of it, after having set before the boy the true idea of Christian's flight from the City of Destruction.

"It was written in Bedford jail, England," continued his father. "There was much persecution in his day, and he was thrust into prison to keep him from preaching the Gospel; but the plan did not succeed very well, for he has been preaching it ever since through that book, that he never would have written had he not been imprisoned."

"Then he was a minister, was he?" said Benjamin.

"No, he was not a minister; he was a tinker, and a very wicked man, so profane that he was a terror to good people. But he was converted and became a Christian, and went about doing good, as Christ did, preaching the Gospel in his way, in houses, by the way side, anywhere that he could, until he was sent to prison for doing good."

"A strange reason for sending a man to jail," remarked Benjamin.

"They thought that he was doing evil, no doubt. I mean the enemies of the Gospel. They did not believe in the Christian religion which Bunyan had embraced; they thought it would stir up the people to strife and contention, and prove a curse instead of a blessing." Mr. Franklin knew that such information would increase the interest of his son in the book; and it did. The impression wrought upon him by reading this book lasted through his life, and led him to adopt its style in much of his writing when he became a man. He said in manhood:

"Narrative mingled with dialogue is very engaging, not only to the young, but to adults, also. It introduces the reader directly into the company, and he listens to the conversation, and seems to see the parties. Bunyan originated this colloquial style, and Defoe and Richardson were his imitators. It is a style so attractive, conveying instruction so naturally and pleasantly, that it should never be superseded."

Mr. Franklin owned all of Bunyan's works, his "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners," and his "Holy War," and "Pilgrim's Progress" just spoken of. Benjamin read them all, but "Pilgrim's Progress" was the one that charmed his soul and more or less influenced his life.

"Defoe's Essay upon Projects" was another volume of his father's, written in the same style as "Pilgrim's Progress," and, for that reason, very interesting to him. He devoured its contents. Its subject-matter was much above the capacity of most boys of his age; but the dialogue method of imparting instruction made it clear and attractive to him. One subject which it advocated was the liberal education of girls; and it was here, without doubt, that Benjamin obtained his views upon advanced female education, which he advocated in his discussion with John Collins.

"Plutarch's Lives" was still another volume his father owned, one of the most inspiring books for the young ever published. He read this so much and carefully that he was made very familiar with the characters therein—information that was of great service to him, later on, in his literary labors and public services.

"There was another book in my father's little library, by Doctor Mather, called, 'An Essay to do Good,'" said Doctor Franklin, in his "Autobiography," "which, perhaps, gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life." He wrote to a son of Doctor Mather about it, late in life, as follows:

"When I was a boy, I met with a book, entitled 'Essays to do Good,' which I think was written by your father (Cotton Mather). It had been so little regarded by a former possessor that several leaves of it were torn out; but the remainder gave me such a turn of thinking as to have an influence on my conduct through life; for I have always set a greater value on the character of a doer of good than on any other kind of reputation; and if I have been, as you seem to think, a useful citizen, the public owe the advantage of it to that book."

The "Essays to do Good" consisted of twenty-two short essays of a practical character, inculcating benevolence as a duty and privilege, and giving directions to particular classes. It had lessons for ministers, lawyers, doctors, merchants, magistrates, teachers, mechanics, husbands, wives, gentlemen, deacons, sea-captains, and others. The style was quaint, earnest, and direct, exactly suited to appeal to such a boy as Benjamin; and withal it was so practical that it won his heart.

Mr. Parton records a singular incident about this Doctor Mather, as follows: "How exceedingly strange that such a work as this should have been written by the man who, in 1692, at Salem, when nineteen people were hanged and one was pressed to death for witchcraft, appeared among the crowd, openly exulting in the spectacle! Probably his zeal against the witches was as much the offspring of his benevolence as his 'Essays to do Good.' Concede his theory of witches, and it had been cruelty to man not to hang them. Were they not in league with Satan, the arch-enemy of God and man? Had they not bound themselves by solemn covenant to aid the devil in destroying human souls and afflicting the elect? Cotton Mather had not the slightest doubt of it."

When Benjamin had exhausted the home stock of reading, he showed his sound judgment by saying to his father:

"I wish I could have 'Burton's Historical Collections'; it would be a great treat to read those books."

"It would, indeed; they are very popular, and I should like to have you read them. But how to get them is more than I can tell."

"Would you be willing that I should exchange Bunyan's works for them?"

"I did not suppose that you would part with 'Pilgrim's Progress' for Burton's books or any others," was Mr. Franklin's reply.

"I should rather keep both; but I have read 'Pilgrim's Progress' until I know it by heart, so that I would be willing to part with it for Burton's books, if I can get them in no other way."

"Well, you can see what you can do. I am willing to do 'most any thing to keep you in good books, for they are good companions. I know of no better ones, from all I have heard and read about them, than 'Burton's Collections.'"

"Perhaps I can sell Bunyan's books for enough to buy Burton's," suggested Benjamin. Doubtless he had canvassed the matter, and knew of some opportunity for a trade like that.

"Well, you may do that, if you can; I have no objection. I hope you will succeed."

The result was that Benjamin sold the works of Bunyan, and bought Burton's books in forty small volumes, quite a little library for that day. He was never happier than when he became the owner of "Burton's Historical Collections," famous in England and America, and extensively sold, not only by book-sellers, but also by pedlars. They contained fact, fiction, history, biography, travels, adventures, natural history, and an account of many marvels, curiosities, and wonders, in a series of "twelve-penny books."

Doctor Johnson referred to these books in one of his letters: "There is in the world a set of books which used to be sold by the book-sellers on the bridge, and which I must entreat you to procure me. They are called Burton's books. The title of one is, 'Admirable Curiosities, Rarities, and Wonders in England.' They seem very proper to allure backward readers."

He might have added, also, forward readers; for they lured Benjamin, who was, perhaps, the most thoughtful and ready reader of his age in Boston In them he discovered a rich mine of thought and information, and he delved there. He found even nuggets of gold to make his mind richer and his heart gladder.

His father's books were chiefly theological; yet Benjamin's love of reading caused him to read them. He possessed, also, a collection of religious tracts, called the "Boyle Lectures," because Robert Boyle, the youngest son of an Irish earl, a very pious man, originated them, "designed to prove the truth of the Christian religion among infidels." Benjamin read all of these, and his father was delighted to have him read them at the time, thinking that the moral results would be good. But the sequel will show that the effect of reading them was bad. In order to refute the arguments of deists, it was necessary to print them in the tracks. So Benjamin read both sides, and he thought, in some respects, that the deists had the best argument.

Not long after Benjamin became a printer, a prominent citizen of Boston, Matthew Adams, who had heard of his talents and love of reading, met him in the printing office, and entered into conversation with him.

"You are a great reader, I learn," he said.

"Yes, sir, I read considerable every day."

"Do you find all the books you want to read?"

"Not all. I should like to read some books I can't get."

"Perhaps you can find them in my library; you can come and take out of it any book you would like."

"Thank you very much," answered Benjamin, exceedingly gratified by this unexpected offer. "I shall take the first opportunity to call."

"Boys who like to read as well as you do, ought to have books enough," continued Mr. Adams. "I think you will find quite a number of entertaining and useful ones. You will know when you examine for yourself."

"That I shall do very soon, and be very grateful for the privilege," answered Benjamin.

Within a few days, the printer-boy paid Mr. Adams a visit. The latter gave him a cordial welcome, causing him to feel at ease and enjoy his call. He examined the library to his heart's content, and found many books therein he desired to read.

"Come any time: take out any and all the books you please, and keep them till you have done with them," was Mr. Adams' generous offer. He had great interest in the boy, and wanted to assist him; and Benjamin fully appreciated his interest and kindness, and paid the library many visits. As long as he lived he never forgot the generous aid of this man, of whom he wrote in his "Autobiography":

"After some time, a merchant, an ingenious, sensible man, Mr. Matthew Adams, who had a pretty collection of books, frequented our printing office, took notice of me, and invited me to see his library, and very kindly proposed to lend me such books as I chose to read."

The printing office was frequented by book-sellers' apprentices, whose employers wanted jobs of printing done. Benjamin made their acquaintance, and they invited him to call at their stores to examine the books. There were several book-stores in Boston at that time, although the number of books was very limited as compared with the present time.

"I will lend you that book to-night," said one of these apprentices to Benjamin, who was manifesting a deep interest in a certain volume. "You can return it in the morning before customers come in."

"Very much obliged. I shall be glad to read it. I think I can read it through before I go to bed, and I can leave it when I go to the office in the morning."

"You won't have much time for sleep if you read that book through before going to bed. But you are used to short naps, I expect."

"I can afford to have a short nap whenever I have the reading of such a book as this," answered Benjamin. "I shall return it in just as good a condition as it is now."

"The book is for sale, and we might have a customer for it to-morrow, or I would let you have it longer. If you do not read it through to-night, and we do not sell it to-morrow, you can take it again to-morrow night. I frequently read a volume through, a little at a time, before we have a chance to sell it."

This offer of the apprentice was very generous, and Benjamin suitably expressed his appreciation of it.

"Your favor is so great that I shall feel myself under special obligation to return the book in season for any customer to-morrow who may want it. If I were in a book-store, as you are, I fear that my love of reading would overcome my love of work. It would just suit me to be in the company of so many books all the time."

"You could not have your evenings here for reading, as you do now. Our busiest time is in the evening; so that I catch only fragments of time to read—pretty small fragments, some days," said the apprentice.

"Well, it might be only an aggravation to live among so many books, without time to read them," responded Benjamin. "I am content where I am,—a printing office has some advantages over all other places for me."

Benjamin made the most of this new opportunity. Borrowing the first book was followed by borrowing many of the apprentices at the book-stores. All the stores were patronized by him, and many a night was shortened at both ends, that he might devour a book. He fairly gorged himself with book-knowledge.

The reader must not forget that books were very few in number at that time, and it was long before a public library was known in the land. In Boston there were many literary people, who had come hither from England, and they had a limited supply of books. So that Boston was then better supplied with books than any other part of the country, though its supply was as nothing compared with the supply now. Book-stores, instead of being supplied with thousands of volumes to suit every taste in the reading world, offered only a meagre collection of volumes, such as would be scarcely noticed now. There were no large publishing houses, issuing a new book each week-day of the year, as there are at the present time, manufacturing hundreds of cords of them every year, and sending them all over the land. Neither were there any libraries then, as we have before said. Now the Public Library of Boston offers three or four hundred thousand volumes, free to all the citizens, and that number is constantly increasing. With the Athenaeum, and other large libraries for public use, Boston offers a MILLION volumes, from which the poor printer-boy, and all other boys, can make their choice. In almost every town, too, of two thousand inhabitants, a public library is opened, where several hundred or thousand volumes are found from which to select, while private libraries of from one to thirty thousand volumes are counted by the score. The trouble with boys now is, not how to get books to read, but what they shall select from the vast number that load the shelves of libraries and book-stores. Benjamin had no trouble about selecting books; he took all he could get, and was not overburdened at that.

Another book that was of great benefit to Benjamin was an old English grammar which he bought at a book-store. He said of it, in manhood:

"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 on the Socratic method."

"What do you want of such a book as that?" inquired John Collins, when he saw it in the printing office.

"To study, of course; I did not study grammar at school, and I want to know something about it," was Benjamin's answer.

"I expect that some knowledge of it will not come amiss," said John. "You mean to make the most of these things you can."

"I wanted the volume, too, for the chapters on Rhetoric and Logic at the end," added Benjamin.

"Of what use are Rhetoric and Logic? Perhaps they may be of service to you; they would not be to me." John spoke thus because he knew nothing about them; he had never studied them.

"Every body ought to know something about them, even a printer," added Benjamin. "They have already helped me to form a better opinion of the style and value of some things I have read."

"Well, I can't get time to learn every thing. You seem to learn 'most all there is to learn, with very little time. I wish I could, but I can't, and so I won't try." John was always thus complimentary to Benjamin. He gave him full credit for all his achievements.

"I mean to learn to speak and write the English language with propriety," continued Benjamin, "and I do not know how it can be done without a knowledge of grammar; do you?"

"I know nothing about it, any way whatever. I shall not begin now; am too old. Can't teach old dogs new tricks." John's remark expressed his real views of these things. Although he was a bookish fellow, he was not inclined to go deep into literature or science.

Other books that Benjamin read were Locke's "Essay on the Understanding"; "The Art of Thinking," by Messrs. de Port-Royal; Sellers & Stumey's book on "Navigation," with many others of equal merit.

Benjamin cultivated the habit of taking notes when he read, jotting down notable facts and striking thoughts for future use. It is a capital practice, and one that has been followed by nearly all learners who have distinguished themselves in scholarship. He realized the advantages of the method to such a degree that, in manhood, he addressed the following letter from London to a bright girl in whose education he was very much interested:

"CRAVEN STREET, May 16, 1760.

"I send my good girl the books I mentioned to her last night. I beg her to accept of them as a small mark of my esteem and friendship. They are written in the familiar, easy manner for which the French are so remarkable, and afford a good deal of philosophic and practical knowledge, unembarrassed with the dry mathematics used by more exact reasoners, but which is apt to discourage young beginners.

"I would advise you to read with a pen in your hand, and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious, or that may be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready, either for practice on some future occasion, if they are matters of utility, or, at least, to adorn and improve your conversation, if they are rather points of curiosity; and, as many of the terms of science are such as you can not have met with in your common reading, and may therefore be unacquainted with, I think it would be well for you to have a good dictionary at hand, to consult immediately when you meet with a word you do not comprehend the precise meaning of.

"This may, at first, seem troublesome and interrupting; but it is a trouble that will daily diminish, as you will daily find less and less occasion for your dictionary, as you become more acquainted with the terms; and, in the mean time, you will read with more satisfaction, because with more understanding. When any point occurs in which you would be glad to have further information than your book affords you, I beg you would not in the least apprehend that I should think it a trouble to receive and answer your questions. It will be a pleasure, and no trouble. For though I may not be able, out of my own little stock of knowledge, to afford you what you require, I can easily direct you to the books where it may most readily be found.

"Adieu, and believe me ever, my dear friend,

"B. FRANKLIN."

Reading with pen or pencil in hand fixes the attention, assists method, strengthens purpose, and charges memory with its sacred trust. A note-book for this purpose is the most convenient method of preserving these treasures. Professor Atkinson, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, advises students thus:

"Gather up the scraps and fragments of thought on whatever subject you may be studying—for, of course, by a note-book I do not mean a mere receptacle for odds and ends, a literary dust-bin—but acquire the habit of gathering every thing, whenever and wherever you find it, that belongs in your lines of study, and you will be surprised to see how such fragments will arrange themselves into an orderly whole by the very organizing power of your own thinking, acting in a definite direction. This is a true process of self-education; but you see it is no mechanical process of mere aggregation. It requires activity of thought—but without that what is any reading but mere passive amusement? And it requires method. I have myself a sort of literary bookkeeping. I keep a day-book, and, at my leisure, I post my literary accounts, bringing together in proper groups the fruits of much casual reading."

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