Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 47

which describes the descent of a Deity. When the
time of our meeting drew nigh, Ralph called on me first, and let me
know his piece was ready. I told him I had been busy, and, having
little inclination, had done nothing. He then show'd me his piece for
my opinion, and I much approv'd it, as it appear'd to me to have great
merit. "Now," says he, "Osborne never will allow the least merit in
anything of mine, but makes 1000 criticisms out of mere envy. He is
not so jealous of you; I wish, therefore, you would take this piece,
and produce it as yours; I will pretend not to have had time, and so
produce nothing. We shall then see what he will say to it." It was
agreed, and I immediately transcrib'd it, that it might appear in my
own hand.

We met; Watson's performance was read; there were some beauties in it,
but many defects. Osborne's was read; it was much better; Ralph did it
justice; remarked some faults, but applauded the beauties. He himself
had nothing to produce. I was backward; seemed desirous of being
excused; had not had sufficient time to correct, etc.; but no excuse
could be admitted; produce I must. It was read and repeated; Watson
and Osborne gave up the contest, and join'd in applauding it. Ralph
only made some criticisms, and propos'd some amendments; but I
defended my text. Osborne was against Ralph, and told him he was no
better a critic than poet, so he dropt the argument. As they two went
home together, Osborne expressed himself still more strongly in favor
of what he thought my production; having restrain'd himself before, as
he said, lest I should think it flattery. "But who would have
imagin'd," said he, "that Franklin had been capable of such a
performance; such painting, such force, such fire! He has even
improv'd the original. In his common conversation he seems to have no
choice of words; he hesitates and blunders; and yet, good God! how he
writes!" When we next met, Ralph discovered the trick we had plaid
him, and Osborne was a little laughed at.

This transaction fixed Ralph in his resolution of becoming a poet. I
did all I could to dissuade him from it, but he continued scribbling
verses till _Pope_ cured him.[35] He became, however, a pretty good
prose writer. More of him hereafter. But, as I may not have occasion
again to mention the other two, I shall just remark here, that Watson
died in my arms a few years after, much lamented, being

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Page 27
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in the form of letters.
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[42] Here I continued all the rest of my stay in London.
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I objected my want of money.
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