Franklin's Autobiography (Eclectic English Classics)

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 16

he sent me about the town to sell them. The first
sold wonderfully, the event being recent, having made a great noise.
This flattered my vanity; but my father discouraged me by ridiculing
my performances and telling me verse makers were generally beggars. So
I escaped being a poet, most probably a very bad one; but as prose
writing has been of great use to me in the course of my life, and was
a principal means of my advancement, I shall tell you how, in such a
situation, I acquired what little ability I have in that way.

There was another bookish lad in the town, John Collins by name, with
whom I was intimately acquainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond
we were of argument and very desirous of confuting each other; which
disputatious turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad habit,[n]
making people often extremely disagreeable in company by the
contradiction that is necessary to bring it into practice; and thence,
besides souring and spoiling the conversation, is productive of
disgusts and perhaps enmities where you may have occasion for
friendship. I had caught it by reading my father's books of dispute
about religion. Persons of good sense, I have since observed, seldom
fall into it, except lawyers, university men, and men of all sorts
that have been bred at Edinburgh.

A question was once, somehow or other, started between Collins and me,
of the propriety of educating the female sex in learning, and their
abilities for study. He was of opinion that it was improper, and that
they were naturally unequal to it. I took the contrary side, perhaps a
little for dispute's sake. He was naturally more eloquent, had a ready
plenty of words, and sometimes, as I thought, bore me down more by his
fluency than by the strength of his reasons. As we parted without
settling the point, and were not to see each other again for some time,
I sat down to put my arguments in writing, which I copied fair and sent
to him. He answered, and I replied. Three or four letters of a side had
passed, when my father happened to find my papers and read them. Without
entering into the discussion, he took occasion to talk to me about the
manner of my writing. He observed that, though I had the advantage of my
antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I owed to the
printing house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method,
and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. I

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These might be all good things; but, as they were not the kind of good things that I expected from that text, I despaired of ever meeting with them from any other, was disgusted, and attended his preaching no more.
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Wherein have I transgressed? What have I done? What duty have I omitted? So shall we measure our lives by rules.
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This for some time gave an easy access to the market, dry-shod; but, the rest of the street not being paved, whenever a carriage came out of the mud upon this pavement, it shook off and left its dirt upon it, and it was soon covered with mire, which was not removed, the city as yet having no scavengers.
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power of the king.
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My son, who had in the preceding war been an officer in the army raised against Canada, was my aid-de-camp, and of great use to me.
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Watson drew up a summary account of them, and of all I had afterward sent to England on the subject, which he accompanied with some praise of the writer.
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=Irving's= Sketch Book--Selections (St.