The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 17

this line that which he has coupled with
another, I think, less properly,

"For want of modesty is want of sense."

If you ask, Why less properly? I must repeat the lines,

"Immodest words admit of no defense,
For want of modesty is want of sense."

Now, is not want of sense (where a man is so unfortunate as to want it)
some apology for his want of modesty? and would not the lines stand
more justly thus?

"Immodest words admit but this defense,
That want of modesty is want of sense."

This, however, I should submit to better judgments.

My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a newspaper. It was
the second that appeared in America, and was called the New England
Courant. The only one before it was the Boston News-Letter. I remember
his being dissuaded by some of his friends from the undertaking, as not
likely to succeed, one newspaper being, in their judgment, enough for
America. At this time (1771) there are not less than five-and-twenty.
He went on, however, with the undertaking, and after having worked in
composing the types and printing off the sheets, I was employed to
carry the papers thro' the streets to the customers.

He had some ingenious men among his friends, who amus'd themselves by
writing little pieces for this paper, which gain'd it credit and made
it more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their
conversations, and their accounts of the approbation their papers were
received with, I was excited to try my hand among them; but, being
still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printing
anything of mine in his paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to
disguise my hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it in at night
under the door of the printing-house. It was found in the morning, and
communicated to his writing friends when they call'd in as usual. They
read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the exquisite
pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, in their
different guesses at the author, none were named but men of some
character among us for learning and ingenuity. I suppose

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Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
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