The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 1 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 25

the chief ends of conversation are, to inform or
be informed, to please or to persuade, I could wish that intelligent
or well-meaning men would not themselves diminish the power they
possess of being useful, by a positive and presumptuous manner of
expressing themselves, which scarcely ever fails to disgust the
hearer, and is only calculated to excite opposition, and defeat every
purpose for which the faculty of speech has been bestowed on man. In
short, if you wish to inform, a positive and dogmatical manner of
advancing your opinion may provoke contradiction, and prevent your
being heard with attention. On the other hand, if, with a desire of
being informed, and of benefiting by the knowledge of others, you
express yourselves as being strongly attached to your own opinions,
modest and sensible men, who do not love disputation, will leave you
in tranquil possession of your errors. By following such a method,
you can rarely hope to please your auditors, conciliate their
good-will, or work conviction on those whom you may be desirous of
gaining over to your views. Pope judiciously observes,

Men must be taught, as if you taught them not,
And things unknown propos'd--as things forgot.

And in the same poem he afterwards advises us

To speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence.

He might have added to these lines, one that he has coupled
elsewhere, in my opinion, with less propriety. It is this:

For want of modesty is want of sense.

If you ask why I say with _less propriety_, I must give you the two
lines together:

Immodest words admit of _no defence_,
For want of decency is want of sense.

Now want of sense, when a man has the misfortune to be so
circumstanced, is it not a kind of excuse for want of modesty?
And would not the verses have been more accurate if they had been
constructed thus:

Immodest words admit _but this defence_,
That want of decency is want of sense.

But I leave the decision of this to better judges than myself.

In 1720, or 1721, my brother began to print a new public paper. It
was the second that made its appearance in America, and was entitled,
"The New England Courant." The only one that existed before was the
"Boston News Letter." Some of his friends, I remember, would have
dissuaded him from this undertaking, as a thing that was not likely
to succeed; a single newspaper

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

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_ Sold by W.
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& T.
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COURTEOUS READER, I HAVE heard that nothing gives an author so great pleasure, as to find his works respectfully quoted by others.
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--How much more than is necessary do we spend in sleep! forgetting that, "the sleeping fox catches no poultry, and that there will be sleeping enough in the grave," as Poor Richard says.
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It is true, there is much to be done, and, perhaps, you are weak-handed: but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects; for "Constant dropping wears away stones; and by diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable; and little strokes fell great oaks.
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Octr.
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" And again, "At a great pennyworth pause a while:" he means, that perhaps the cheapness is apparent only, and not real; or the bargain, by straitening thee in thy business, may do thee more harm than good.
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" And it is as truly folly for the poor to ape the rich, as for the frog to swell, in order to equal the ox.
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And when you have got the Philosopher's stone, sure you will no longer complain of bad times, or the difficulty of paying taxes.
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* * * * * Transcriber's Notes: Only the most obvious and clear punctuation errors repaired.