The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 36

considerations of invention
by agreeing that the task should be a version of the eighteenth Psalm,
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 any thing 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 laught 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. He became, however, a pretty good prose
writer.

Last Page Next Page

Text Comparison with Franklin's Way to Wealth; or, "Poor Richard Improved"

Page 0
Darton, 58, Holborn Hill.
Page 1
& T.
Page 2
' They joined in desiring him to speak his mind, and, gathering round him, he proceeded as follows: 'Friends,' says he, 'the taxes are indeed very heavy; and, if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us.
Page 3
Then plow deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.
Page 4
The diligent spinner has a large shift; and now I have a sheep and a cow, every body bids me good-morrow.
Page 5
Darton, Junr.
Page 6
"If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some; for he that goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing," as Poor Richard says; and, indeed, so does he that lends to such people, when he goes to get it in again.
Page 7
" When you have bought one fine thing, you must buy ten more, that your appearance may be all of a piece; but Poor Dick says, "It is easier to suppress the first desire, than to satisfy all that follow it.
Page 8
yet you are about to put yourself under that tyranny, when you run in debt for such dress! Your creditor has authority, at his pleasure, to deprive you of your liberty, by confining you in gaol for life, or by selling you for a servant, if you should not be able to pay him.
Page 9
The people heard it, and approved the doctrine, and immediately practised the contrary, just as if it had been a common sermon; for the auction opened, and they began to buy extravagantly.