« AnteriorContinuar »
KOMONG the earliest books Franklin is known to have read were A several volumes of the Spectator and Locke on the Human
A Understanding." His first essay “On Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain," written when he was very young, owed its inspiration no doubt to Locke rather than to Addison. Of this essay Franklin was far from being proud in later life. He is at his best in short essays in the style of the Spectator and Rambler. In some of his friendly letters he uses the same style admirably, but his masterpiece is unquestionably the « Preliminary Address” he prefixed to Poor Richard's Almanac for 1758. This characteristic production had a wide influence in Franklin's lifetime, and although the national character out of which it grew and with which it harmonized, has wholly changed, its interest is perennial and undiminished. It cannot be truly said that Franklin is a model of style; but in everything he has written, he shows the genius which made him one of the greatest men of modern times.
ON EARLY MARRIAGES Dear Jack: vou desire, you say, my impartial thoughts on the subject of Y an early marriage, by way of answer to the numberless
objections that have been made by numerous persons to your own. You may remember, when you consulted me on the occasion, that I thought youth on both sides to be no objection. Indeed, from the marriages that have fallen under my observation, I am rather inclined to think that early ones stand the best chance of happiness. The temper and habits of the young are not yet become so stiff and uncomplying as when more advanced in life; they form more easily to each other, and, hence, many occasions of disgust are removed. And if youth has less of that prudence which is necessary to manage a family, yet the parents and elder friends of young married persons are generally at hand to afford their advice, which amply supplies that defect; and, by early marriage, youth is sooner formed to regular and useful life; and possibly some of those accidents or connections, that might have injured the constitution, or reputation, or both, are thereby happily prevented. Particular circumstances of particular persons may possibly sometimes make it prudent to delay entering into that state; but, in general, when Nature has rendered our bodies fit for it, the presumption is in Nature's favor, that she has not judged amiss in making us desire it. Late marriages are often attended, too, with this further inconvenience, that there is not the same chance that the parents should live to see their offspring educated. «Late children,” says the Spanish proverb, «are early orphans.” A melancholy reflection to those whose case it may be. With us in America, marriages are generally in the morning of life; our children are therefore educated and settled in the world by noon; and thus, our business being done, we have an afternoon and evening of cheerful leisure to ourselves, such as our friend at present enjoys. By these early marriages we are blessed with more children; and from the mode among us, founded by nature, of every mother suckling and nursing her own child, more of them are raised. Thence the swift progress of population among us, unparalleled in Europe. In fine, I am glad you are married, and congratulate you most cordially upon it. You are now in the way of becoming a useful citizen; and you have escaped the unnatural state of celibacy for life — the fate of many here, who never intended it, but who having too long postponed the change of their conditions, find, at length, that it is too late to think of it, and so live all their lives in a situation that greatly lessens a man's value. An odd volume of a set of books bears not the value of its proportion to the set; what think you of the odd half of a pair of scissors; it can't well cut anything; it may possibly serve to scrape a trencher.
Pray make my compliments and best wishes acceptable to your bride. I am old and heavy, or I should ere this have presented them in person. I shall make but small use of the old man's privilege, that of giving advice to younger friends. Treat your wife always with respect; it will procure respect to you, not only from her, but from all that observe it. Never use a slighting expression to her, even in jest; for slights in jest, after frequent bandyings, are apt to end in angry earnest. Be studious in your profession, and you will be learned. Be industrious and frugal, and you will be rich. Be sober and temperate, and you will be healthy. Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy. At least, you will, by such conduct, stand the best chance for such consequences. I pray God to bless you both!
Complete. To John Alleyn.
POOR RICHARD'S PHILOSOPHY
(Preliminary address in Poor Richard's Almanac for the year 1758)
| HAVE heard that nothing gives an author so great pleasure as | to find his works respectfully quoted by other learned authors.
This pleasure I have seldom enjoyed, for though I have been, if I may say it without vanity, an eminent author (of Almanacs ) annually now a full quarter of a century, my brother authors in the same way (for what reason I know not) have ever been very sparing in their applauses; and no other author has taken the least notice of me: so that, did not my writings produce me some solid pudding, the great deficiency of praise would have quite discouraged me.
I concluded, at length, that the people were the best judges of my merit, for they buy my works; and, besides, in my rambles, where I am not personally known, I have frequently heard one or other of my adages repeated, with “As Poor Richard says,” at the end on't. This gave me some satisfaction, as it showed not only that my instructions were regarded, but discovered likewise some respect for my authority; and I own that, to encourage the practice of remembering and repeating those wise sentences, I have sometimes quoted myself with great gravity.
Judge, then, how much I have been gratified by an incident which I am going to relate to you. I stopped my horse lately where a great number of people were collected at an auction of merchants' goods. The hour of sale not being come, they were conversing on the badness of the times; and one of the company called to a plain, clean, old man, with white locks, “Pray, father Abraham, what think ye of the times? Won't these heavy taxes quite ruin the country? How shall we ever be able to pay them? What would you advise us to do?” Father Abraham stood up, and replied, "If you'd have my advice, I'll give it to you in short; (for a word to the wise is enough, and many words won't fill a bushel,' as Poor Richard says.” They joined in desiring him to speak his mind; and gathering round him, he proceeded as follows: —
«Friends," says he," and neighbors, the taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us, by allowing an abatement. However, let us hearken to good advice, and something may be done for us; 'God helps them that help themselves,' as Poor Richard says in his Almanac.
“It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their time, to be employed in its service; but idleness taxes many of us much more, if we reckon all that is spent in absolute sloth, or doing of nothing, with that which is spent in idle employments, or amusements that amount to nothing. Sloth, by bringing on diseases, absolutely shortens life.
Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the key often used is always bright,' as Poor Richard says. But dost thou love life ? then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of,' as Poor Richard says. How much more than is necessary do we spend in sleep! forgetting that the sleeping fox catches no poultry, and that there will be sleeping enough in the grave,' as Poor Richard says. “If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be,' as Poor Richard says, 'the greatest prodigality'; since, as he elsewhere tells us, “Lost time is never found again; and what we call time enough, always proves little enough. Let us then up and be doing, and doing to the purpose: so by diligence shall we do more with less perplexity. “Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry all easy,' as Poor Richard says; and he that riseth late must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night; while Laziness travels so slowly, that Poverty soon overtakes him,' as we read in Poor Richard; who adds, “Drive thy business, let not that drive thee'; and, (early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
“So what signifies wishing and hoping for better times? We make these times better if we bestir ourselves. 'Industry needs not wish,' as Poor Richard says; and, He that lives upon hope