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Poor Richard's Almanack & other writings
By BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Bob Blaisdell
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
From his Autobiography, "My Almanack" (1732)
In 1732 I first published my Almanack, under the Name of Richard Saunders; it was continu'd by me about 25 Years, commonly call'd Poor Richard's Almanack. I endeavor'd to make it both entertaining and useful, and it accordingly came to be in such Demand that I reap'd considerable Profit from it, vending annually near ten Thousand. And observing that it was generally read, scarce any Neighborhood in the Province being without it, I consider'd it as a proper Vehicle for conveying Instruction among the common People, who bought scarce any other Books. I therefore filled all the little Spaces that occurr'd between the Remarkable Days in the Calendar, with Proverbial Sentences, chiefly such as inculcated Industry and Frugality, as the Means of procuring Wealth and thereby securing Virtue, it being more difficult for a Man in Want to act always honestly, as (to use here one of those Proverbs) it is hard for an empty Sack to stand upright. These Proverbs, which contained the Wisdom of many Ages and Nations, I assembled and form'd into a connected Discourse prefix'd to the Almanack of 1757, as the Harangue of a wise old Man to the People attending an Auction. The bringing all these scatter'd Counsels thus into a Focus, enabled them to make greater Impression. The Piece being universally approved was copied in all the Newspapers of the Continent, reprinted in Britain on a Broadside to be stuck up in Houses, two Translations were made of it in French, and great Numbers bought by the Clergy & Gentry to distribute gratis among their poor Parishioners and Tenants. In Pennsylvania, as it discouraged useless Expense in foreign Superfluities, some thought, it had its share of Influence in producing that growing Plenty of Money which was observable for several Years after its Publication.
—The Autobiography, Part 3
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From his Autobiography, "a reasonable creature" (1723)
[Franklin left his hometown Boston in 1723; he had become a vegetarian in 1722.]
I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage from Boston, being becalmed off Block Island, our people set about catching cod, and hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion I considered, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs. Then thought I, "If you eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat you." So I dined upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.
—From Autobiography, Part 1
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From his Autobiography, "strong beer" (c. 1725)
[Franklin sailed to London in 1724 and worked in two printing shops there before returning to Philadelphia in 1726.]
At my first admission into this printing-house I took to working at press, imagining I felt a want of the bodily exercise I had been us'd to in America, where presswork is mix'd with composing. I drank only water; the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of beer. On occasion, I carried up and down stairs a large form of types in each hand, when others carried but one in both hands. They wondered to see, from this and several instances, that the Water-American, as they called me, was stronger than themselves, who drank strong beer! We had an alehouse boy who attended always in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon about six o'clock, and another when he had done his day's work. I thought it a detestable custom; but it was necessary, he suppos'd, to drink strong beer, that he might be strong to labor. I endeavored to convince him that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water of which it was made; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of bread; and therefore, if he would eat that with a pint of water, it would give him more strength than a quart of beer.—He drank on, however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday night for that muddling liquor; an expense I was free from.—And thus these poor devils keep themselves always under.
—From Autobiography, Part 1
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A Query, "How shall we judge of the goodness of a writing?" (c. 1728)
How shall we judge of the goodness of a writing? or what qualities should a writing on any subject have, to be good and perfect in its kind?
Answer. To be good it ought to have a tendency to benefit the reader, by improving his virtue or his knowledge. The method should be just; that is, it should proceed regularly from things known to things unknown, distinctly, clearly, and without confusion. The words used should be the most expressive that the language affords, provided they are the most generally understood. Nothing should be expressed in two words that can as well be expressed in one; that is, no synonyms should be used, but the whole be as short as possible, consistent with clearness. The words should be so placed as to be agreeable to the ear in reading: summarily, it should be smooth, clear and short; for the contrary qualities are displeasing.
—From "Proposals and Queries for the Consideration of the Junto"
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Printer's Errors, "this Omission of the letter (n) in that Word, gave us as much Entertainment as any Part of your Paper" (March 13, 1730)
To the Publisher of The Pennsylvania Gazette Printerum est errare.
As your last Paper was reading in some Company where I was present, these Words were taken Notice of in the Article concerning Governor Belcher, "After which his Excellency, with the Gentlemen trading to New-England, died elegantly at Pontack's." The Word died should doubtless have been dined, Pontack's being a noted Tavern and Eating-house in London for Gentlemen of Condition; but this Omission of the letter (n) in that Word, gave us as much Entertainment as any Part of your Paper. One took the Opportunity of telling us, that in a certain Edition of the Bible, the Printer had, where David says I am fearfully and wonderfully made, omitted the Letter (e) in the last Word, so that it was, I am fearfully and wonderfully mad; which occasion'd an ignorant Preacher, who took that Text, to harangue his Audience for half an hour on the Subject of Spiritual Madness. Another related to us, that when the Company of Stationers in England had the Printing of the Bible in their Hands, the Word (not) was left out in the Seventh Commandment, and the whole Edition was printed off with Thou shalt commit Adultery, instead of Thou shalt not, &c. This material Erratum induc'd the Crown to take the Patent from them which is now held by the King's Printer. The Spectator's Remark upon this Story is, that he doubts many of our modern Gentlemen have this faulty Edition by 'em, and are not made sensible of the Mistake. A Third Person in the Company acquainted us with an unlucky Fault that went through a whole Impression of Common-Prayer-Books; in the Funeral Service, where these Words are, We shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an Eye, &c. the Printer had omitted the (c) in changed, and it read thus, We shall all be hanged, &c. And lastly, a Mistake of your Brother News-Printer was mentioned, in The Speech of James Prouse written the Night before he was to have been executed, instead of I die a Protestant, he has put it, I died a Protestant. Upon the whole you came off with the more favourable Censure, because your Paper is most commonly very correct, and yet you were never known to triumph upon it, by publicly ridiculing and exposing the continual Blunders of your Contemporary. Which Observation was concluded by a good old Gentleman in Company, with this general just Remark, That whoever accustoms himself to pass over in Silence the Faults of his Neighbours, shall meet with much better Quarter from the World when he happens to fall into a Mistake himself; for the Satyrical and Censorious, whose Hand is against every Man, shall upon such Occasions have every Man's Hand against him.
I am, Sir, your Friend, &c.
—The Pennsylvania Gazette
Excerpted from Poor Richard's Almanack & other writings by BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Bob Blaisdell. Copyright © 2013 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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