Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

" Because to be a libeller

I hate it with my heart.
From Sherbon Town where now I dwell,

My name I do put here;
Without offence your real friend,

It is Peter Folger.” My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades. I was put to the grammar school at eight years of age; my father intending to devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the church. My early readiness in learning to read, — which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read, — and the opinion of all his friends that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his. My Uncle Benjamin too approved of it, and proposed to give me his short-hand volume of sermons to set up with, if I would learn his short-hand. I continued, however, at the grammar school rather less than a year, though in that time I had risen gradually from the middle of the class of that year to be at the head of the same class, and was removed into the next class, whence I was to be placed in the third at the end of the year.

But my father, burdened with a numerous family, was unable without inconvenience to support the

expense

of a college education. Considering, moreover, as he said to one of his friends in my presence, the little encouragement that line of life afforded to those educated for it, he gave up his first intentions, took me from the grammar school, and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a then famous man, Mr. George Brownwell. He was a skilful master, and successful in his profession, employing the mildest and most encouraging methods. Under him I learned to write a good hand pretty soon ; but I failed entirely in arithmetic. At ten years old was taken to help my father in his business, which was that of a tallow-chandler and soap-boiler; a business to which he was not bred, but had assumed on his arrival in New England, because he found that his dyeing trade, being in little request, would not maintain his family. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wicks for the candles, filling the moulds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of errands, &c. I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination to go to sea; but my father declared against it. But, residing near the water, I was much in it and on it. I learned to swim well and to manage boats; and, when embarked with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions I was generally the jeader among the boys, and sometimes led them into scrapes, of

was.

which I will mention one instance, as it shows an early projecting public spirit, though not then justly conducted.

There was a salt marsh, which bounded part of the mill-pond, on the edge of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish for minnows. By much trampling we had made it a mere quag, mire. My proposal was to build a wharf there for us to stand upon; and I showed my comrades a large heap of stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would very well suit our purpose. Accordingly in the evening, when the workmen were gone home, I assembled a number of my playfellows, and we worked diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, till we brought them all to make our little wharf. The next morning, the workmen were sur prised at missing the stones which had formed our wharf. Inquiry was made after the authors of this transfer ; we were discovered, complained of, and corrected by our fathers; and, though I demonstrated the utility of our work, mine convinced me that that which was not honest could not be truly useful. I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father

He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and very strong. He could draw prettily, and was skilled a little in music. His voice was sonorous and agreeable, so that when he played on his violin, and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and on occasion was very handy with other tradesmen's tools. But his great excellence was his sound understanding, and his solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate, and the straitness of his circumstances, keeping him close to his trade; but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading men, who consulted bim for his opinion in public affairs, and those of the church he belonged to ; and who showed a great respect for his judgment and advice. He was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs, when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties.

At his table he liked to have, as often as he sensible friend or neighbor to converse with; and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just and prudent, in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of wbat related to the victuals on the table; whether it was well or

some

ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind; so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters, as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was set before me. Indeed, I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell, a few hours after dinner, of what dishes it consisted. This has been a great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites.

My mother had likewise an excellent constitution; she suck<d all her ten children. I never knew either

my

father mother to have any sickness, but that of which they died; he at eighty-nine, and she at eighty-five years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble over their grave, with this inscription :

or

JOSIAH FRANKLIN

and
ABIAH his wife

Lie here interred.
They lived lovingly together in wedlock,

Fifty-five years ;
And without an estate, or any gainful employment,
By constant labor, and honest industry

(With God's blessing),
Maintained a large family comfortably ;
And brought up thirteen children and seven grandchildren

Reputably.
From this instance, reader,
Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling,

And distrust not Providence.
He was a pious and prudent man,
She a discreet and virtuous woman.

Their youngest son,
In filial regard to their memory,

Places this stone.
J. F. born 1655; died 1744. Æt. 89.
A. F. born 1667; died 1752. Æt. 85.*

By my rambling digressions, I perceive myself to be grown old. I used to write more methodically. But one does not dress for private company as for a public ball. Perhaps it 18 only negligence. To return : I continued thus employed in my

father's business for two years,

that is, till I was twelve years old; and my brother John, who was bred to that business, having left my

* The marble having become dilapidated, the citizens of Boston replaced it in 1827 by a granite obelisk.

father, married, and set up for himself at Rhode Island, there was every appearance that I was destined to supply his place, and become a tallow-chandler. But my dislike to the trade continuing, my father had apprehensions that, if he did not put me to one more agreeable, I should break loose and go to sea, as my brother Josiah had done, to his great vexation. In consequence, he took me to walk with him, and see joiners, bricklayers, turners, braziers, &c., at their work, that he might observe my inclination, and endeavor to fix it on some trade or profession that would keep me on land. It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools. And it has been often useful to me to have learned so much by it as to be able to do some trifling jobs in the house when a workman was not at hand, and to construct little machines for my experiments at the moment when the intention of making these was warm in my mind. My father determined at last for the cutler's trade, and placed me for some days on

trial with Samuel, son to my Uncle Benjamin, who was bred to that trade in London, and had just established himself in Boston. But the sum he exacted as a fee for my apprenticeship displeased my father, and I was taken home again.

From my infancy I was passionately fond of reading, and all the money that came into my hands was laid out in the purchasing of books. I was very fond of voyages. My first acquisition was Bunyan's works in separate little volumes. I afterwards sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton's Historical Collections. They were small chapmen's books, and cheap; forty volumes in all. My father's little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic divinity, most of which I read. I have often regretted that, at a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen in my way, since it was resolved I should not be bred to divinity. There was among them Plutarch's Lives, which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage. There was also a book of Defoe's, called An Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Mather's, called An Essay to do Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life. This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a printer, though he had already one son, James, of that profession.

In 1717 my brother James returned from England with a press and letters, to set up his business in Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father, but still had a hankering for the sea.

To prevent the apprehended effect of such an in.

clination, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother. I stood out some time, but at last was persuaded and signed the indenture, when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to serve an apprenticeship till I was twenty one years of age, only I was to be allowed journey.men's wages during the last year. In a little time I made a great progress in the business, and became a useful hand to my brother. I now had access to better books. An acquaintance with the apprentices of booksellers enabled me sometimes to borrow a small one, which I was careful to return soon, and clean. Often I sat up in my chamber reading the greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening and to be returned in the morning, lest it should be found missing.

After some time, a merchant, an ingenious, sensible man, Mr. Matthew Adams, who had a pretty collection of books, frequented our printing-office, took notice of me, and invited me to see his library, and very kindly proposed to lend me such books as I chose to read. I now took a strong inclination for poetry, and wrote some little pieces. My brother, supposing it might turn to account, encouraged me, and induced me to compose two occasional ballads. One was called The Light House Tragedy, and contained an account of the shipwreck of Captain Worthilake with his two daughters; the other was a sailor's song, on the taking of the famous Teach, or Blackbeard the pirate. They were wretched stuff, in street-ballad style; and when they were printed, my brother sent me about the town to sell them. The first sold prodigiously, the event being recent, and having made a great noise. This success flattered my vanity ; but my father discouraged me by criticizing my performances, and telling me verse-makers were generally beggars. Thus I escaped being a poet, and 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 may be supposed to 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 one another ; which disputatious turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad habit, 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, it is productive of disgusts, and perhaps enmities, with those who may have occasion for friendship. I

« AnteriorContinuar »