Lapas attēli


Our hero little Ben, coming on the carpet-Put to school very young-Learns prodigiously-Taken home and set to candle-making-Curious capers, all proclaiming "the Achilles in petticoats."

DR. FRANKLIN's father married early in his own coun try, and would probably have lived and died there, but for the persecutions against his friends the Presbyterians, which so disgusted him, that he came over to New England, and settled in Boston about the year 1682. He brought with him his English wife and three children. By the same wife he had four children more in America; and ten others afterwards by an American wife. The doctor speaks with pleasure of having seen thirteen sitting together very lovingly at his father's table, and all married. Our little hero, who was the fif teenth child, and last of the sons, was born at Boston the 17th day of January, 1706, old style.

That famous Italian proverb, "The Devil tempts every man, but the Idler tempts the Devil," was a favourite canto with wise old Josias; for which reason, soon as their little lips could well lisp letters and syllables, he had them all to school.

Nor was this the only instance with regard to them, wherein good Josias "sham'd the Devil;" for as soon as their education was finished they were put to useful trades. Thus no leisure was allowed for bad company and habits. Little Ben, neatly clad and comb'd, was pack'd off to school with the rest; and as would seem, at a very early age, for he says himself that, "he could not recollect any time in his life when he did not know how to read," whence we may infer that he hardly ever knew any thing more of childhood than its innocency and playfulness. At the age of eight he was sent to a grammar school, where he made such a figure in learning, that his good old father set him down at once for the church, and used constantly to call him his "little chaplain." He was confirmed in this design, not only

by the extraordinary readiness with which he learned, but also by the praises of his friends, who all agreed that he would certainly one day or other become a mighty scholar. His uncle Benjamin too, greatly approved the idea of making a preacher of him; and by way of encouragement, promised to him all his volumes of sermons, written as before said in his own short hand.

This his rapid progress in learning he ascribed very much to an amiable teacher who used gentle means only, to encourage his scholars, and make them fond of their books.

But in the midst of this gay career in his learning, when in the course of the first year only, he had risen from the middle of his class to the head of it; thence to the class immediately above it; and was rapidly overtaking the third class, he was taken from school! His father having a large family, with but a small income, and thinking himself unable, consistently with what he owed the rest of his children, to give him a collegiate education, took Ben home to assist him in his own humble occupation, which was that of a SOAP-BOILER and TALLOW CHANDLER; a trade he had taken up of his own head after settling in Boston; his original one of a DYER being in too little request to maintain his family.

I have never heard how Ben took this sudden reverse in his prospects. No doubt it put his little stock of philosophy to the stretch. To have seen himself, one day, on the high road to literary fame, flying from class to class, the admiration and envy of a numerous school; and the next day, to have found himself in a filthy soapshop; clad in a greasy apron, twisting cotton wicks! and in place of snuffing the sacred lamps of the Muses to be bending over pots of fetid tallow, dipping and moulding candles for the dirty cook wenches! Oh, it must have seem'd a sad falling off! Indeed, it appears. from his own account that he was so disgusted with it that he had serious thoughts of going to sea. But his father objecting to it, and Ben having virtue enough to be dutiful, the notion was given up for that time. But the ambition which had made him the first at his school, and which now would have hurried him to sea, was not to be extinguished. Though diverted from its favourite

course, it still burned for distinction, and rendered him the leader the juvenile band in every enterprize, where danger was to be confronted, or glory to be won. In the neighbouring mill-pond he was the foremost to lead the boys to plunge and swim; thus teaching them an early mastery over that dangerous element. And when the ticklish mill-boat was launching from the shore laden with his timid playmates, the paddle that served as rudder, was always put into his hands, as the fittest to steer her course over the dark waters of the pond. This ascendancy which nature had given him over the companions of his youth was not always so well used as it might have been He honestly confesses that, once at least, he made such an unlucky use of it as drew them into a scrape that cost them dear. Their favourite fishing shore on that pond was, it seems very miry. To remedy so great an inconvenience he proposed to the boys to make a wharf. Their assent was quickly obtained: but what shall we make it of, was the question. Ben pointed their attention to a heap of stones, hard by, of which certain honest masons were building a house. The proposition was hailed by the boys, as a grand discovery; and soon as night had spread her dark curtains around them, they fell to work with the activity of young beavers, and by midnight had completed their wharf The next morning the masons came to work; but, behold! not a stone was to be found! The young rogues, however, detected by the track of their feet in the mud, were quickly summoned before their parents, who not being so partial to Ben as they had been, chastised their folly with a severe flogging. Good old Josias pursued a different course with his son. To deter him from such an act in future, he endeavoured to reason him into a sense of its immorality. Ben on the other hand, just fresh and confident from his school, took the field of argument against his father, and smartly attempted to defend what he had done, on the principle of its utility. But, the old gentleman who was a great adept in moral philosophy, calmly observed to him, that if one boy were to make use of this plea to take away his fellows' goods, another might; and thus contests would arise, filling the world with blood and murder without end. Convinced, in this

simple way, of the fatal consequences of "doing evil that good may come." Ben let drop the weapons of his rebellion and candidly agreed with his father that what was not strictly honest could never be truly useful. This discovery he made at the tender age of nine. Some never made it in the course of their lives. The grand angler, Satan, throws out his bait of immedinte gain; and they like silly Jacks, snap at it at once; and in the moment of running off, fancy they have got a delicious morsel. But alas! the fatal hook soon convinces them of their mistake, though sometimes too late. And then the lamentation of the prophet serves as the epilogue of their tragedy-"Twas honey in the mouth, but gull in the bowels."


Picture of a wise father-To which is added a famous receipt for health and long life.

THE reader must already have discovered that Ben was uncommonly blest in a father. Indeed from the portrait of him drawn by this grateful son, full fifty years afterwards, he must have been an enviable old


As to his person, though that is but of minor consideration in a rational creature-I say, as to his person, it was of the right standard, i. e. medium size and finely formed-his complexion fair and ruddy-black, intelligent eyes-and an air uncommonly graceful and spirited, In respect of mind, which is the true jewel of our nature, he was a man of the purest piety and morals, and consequently cheerful and amiable in a high degree. Added to this, he possessed a considerable taste for the fine arts, particularly drawing and music; and having a voice remarkably sonorous and sweet, whenever he sung a hymn accompanied with his violin, which he usually did at the close of his day's labours, it was delightful to hear him. He possessed also an extraordinary sagacity in things relating both to public and private life, inso

much that not only individuals were constantly consulting him about their affairs, and calling him in as an arbiter in their disputes; but even the leading men of Boston would often come and ask his advice in their most important concerns, as well of the town as of the church.

For his slender means he was a man of extraordinary hospitality, which caused his friends to wonder how he made out to entertain so many. But whenever this was mentioned to him, he used to laugh and say, that the world was good natured and gave him credit for much more than he deserved; for that, in fact, others entertained ten times as many as he did. By this, 'tis thought he alluded to the ostentatious practice common with some, of pointing their hungry visitant to their grand buildings, and boasting how many thousands this or that bauble cost; as if their ridiculous vanity would pass with them for a good dinner. For his part, he said he preferred setting before his visitors a plenty of wholesome fare, with a hearty welcome. Though to do this he was fain to work hard and content himself, with a small house and plain furniture. But it was always his opinion that a little laid out in this way, went farther both with God and man too, than great treasures lavished on pride and ostentation.

But though he delighted in hospitality as a great virtue, yet he always made choice of such friends at his table as were fond of rational conversation. And he took great care to introduce such topics as would, in a pleasant manner, lead to ideas useful to his family, both in temporal and eternal things. As to the dishes that were served up, he never talked of them; never discussed whether they were well or ill dressed; of a good or bad flavor, high seasoned or otherwise.

For this manly kind of education at his table, Dr. Franklin always spoke as under great obligations to his father's judgment and taste. Thus accustomed, from infancy, to a generous inattention to the palate, he became so perfectly indifferent about what was set before him, that he hardly ever remembered, ten minutes after dinner, what he had dined on. In travelling, particularly, he found his account in this. For while those who had been more nice in their diet could enjoy nothing they met with; this one growling over the daintiest

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »