Franklin's Autobiography (Eclectic English Classics)

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 78

no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.


Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.



Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I
judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the
whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I
should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till
I should have gone through the thirteen; and, as the previous
acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain
others, I arranged them with that view as they stand above. Temperance
first, as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head
which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and
guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits
and the force of perpetual temptations. This being acquired and
established, Silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain
knowledge at the same time that I improved in virtue, and considering
that in conversation it was obtained rather by the use of the ears
than of the tongue, and therefore wishing to break a habit I was
getting into of prattling, punning, and joking, which only made me
acceptable to trifling company, I gave Silence the second place. This
and the next, Order, I expected would allow me more time for attending
to my project and my studies. Resolution, once become habitual, would
keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain all the subsequent virtues;
Frugality and Industry, freeing me from my remaining debt, and
producing affluence and independence, would make more easy the
practice of Sincerity and Justice, etc. Conceiving then that,
agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in his "Golden Verses,"[111]
daily examination would be necessary, I contrived the following method
for conducting that examination.

I made a little book,[112] in which I allotted a page for each of the
virtues. I ruled each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns,
one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for
the day. I crossed these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the
beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues, on
which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black
spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed
respecting that virtue upon that day.

I determined to give a week's strict attention to each of the virtues
successively. Thus, in the first week my great

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