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ed an excellent hand, but I failed in arithmetic, and made therein no great progress.
At ten years of age I was called home, to assist my father in his occupation, which was that of a soap-boiler and tallow chandler, a business to which he had served no apprenticeship, but which he embraced on his arrival in New England, because he found his own, that of a dyer, in too little request to enable him to maintain his family. I was, accordingly, employed in cutting the wicks, filling the moulds, taking care of the shop, carrying messages, &c. .
This business disploased me, and I felt a strong inclination for a sea life ; but my father set his face against it. The vicinity of the water, however, gave me frequent opportunities of venturing myself both upon and within it, and I soon acquired the art of swimming, and of managing a boat. When embarked with other children, the helm was commonly deputed to me, particularly on difficult occasions ; and, in every other project, I was always the leader of the troop, whom I sometimes involved in embarrassments. I shall give an instance of this, which demonstrates an early disposition of mind for public enterprises, though the one in question was not conducted by justice.
The mill-pond was terminated on one side by a marsh, upon the borders of which we were accustomed to take our stand, at high water, to angle for small fish." By dint of walking, we had converted the place into a perfect quagmire. My proposal was to erect a wharf that should afford us a firm footing, and I pointed to my companions a large heap of stones, intended for building a new house near the marsh, and which were well adapted for our purpose. Accordingly, when the workmen retired in the evening, I assembled a number of my play-fellows, and by labouring diligently, like ants, sometimes four of us uniting our strength
to carry a single stone, we removed them all, and constructed our little quay. The workmen were surprised the next morning at not finding their stones, which had been conveyed to our wharf. Enquiries were made respecting the authors of this conveyance; we were discovered, complaints were exhibited against us, many of us underwent correction on the part of our parents, and though I strenuously defended the utility of the work, my father at length convinced me, that nothing which was not strictly honest, could be useful. : :
I continued employed in my father's trade for the space of two years; that.is to say, till I arrived at twelve years of age. About this time my brother John, who had served his apprenticeship in London, having quitted my father, and being married and settled in business on his own account, at Rhode Island, I was destined, to all appearance, to supply his place, and be a candle-maker all my life; but my dislike of this occupation continuing, my father was apprehensive, that, if a more agreeable one were not offered me, I migbt play the truant and escape to sea; as, to his great mortification, my brother Josias had done. He therefore took me sometimes to see masons, coope crs, braziers, joiners and other mechanics, employed at their work, in order to discover the bent of 'iy inclination, and fix it, if he could, upon some occupation that might retain me on shore. I have since, in consequence of these visits, derived no small pleasure, from seeing skilful workmen handle their tools; and it has proved of considerable benefit, to have acquired thereby sufficient knowledge to be able to make little things for myself, when I have had no mechanic at hand, and to construct small machines for my experiments, wbile the idea I have conceived has been fresh and strongly impressed on my imagination."
My father at length decided that I should be a
cutler, and I was placed, for some days, upon trial with my cousin Samuel, son of my uncle Benjamin, who had learned this trade in London, and had established himself at Boston. But the premium he required for my apprenticeship displeasing my father, I was recalled home... . From my earliest years I had been passionately fond of reading; and laid out in books all the money I could procure. I was particularly pleased with accounts of voyages. My first acquisition was Bunyan's collection in small separate volumes.
These I afterwards sold in order to buy an historical collection which consisted of small cheap volumes, amounting in all to about forty or fifty. My father's little library was principally made up of books of practical and polemical theology.' I read the greatest part of them. I have since often regretted, that at that time when I had so great a thirst for knowledge, more eligible books had not fallen into my hands, as it was then a point decide 1, that I shovld not be educated for the church. There was among my father's books Plutarch's Lives, in which I read continually, and I still regard as advantageously employed the time I devoted to them. I found, besides, a work of De Foe's, entitled, an Essay on Projects, from which, perhaps, I derived impressions that have since influonced some of the principal events of my life.
My inclination for books at last determined my father to make me a printer, though he had already a son in that profession. My brother had returned from England in 1717, with a press and types, in order to establish a printing-house at Boston. This business pleased me much better than that of my father, though I had still a predeliction for the sea. To prevent the effects which might result from this inclination, my father was impatient to see me engaged with my brother. I held back for some time; at length, however, I suffered myself
to be persuaded, and signed my indentures, being then only twelve years of age. It was agreed that I should serve as apprentice to the age of twenty-one, and should receive journeyman's wages only during the last year.
In a very short time I made great proficiency in this business, and became very serviceable to my brother. I had now an opportunity of procuring better books. The acquaintance I necessarily formed with booksellers apprentices, enabled me to borrow a volume now and then, wbich I never failed to return punctually and without injury. How often has it happened to me to pass the greater part of the night in reading by my bed-side, when the book had been lent me in the evening. and was to be returned the next morning; lest it might be missed or wanted! .
At length, Matthew Adams, an ingenious tradesman, who had a handsome collection of books, and who frequented our printing-house, took potice of me. He invited me to see his library, and had the goodness to lend me any books I was desirous of reading. I then took a strange fancy for poetry, and composed several little pieces. My brother, thinking he might find his account in it, encouraged me, and engaged me to write two ballads. One. called the Lighthouse Tragedy, containing the shipwreck of captain Worthilake and his two daughters; the other, was a sailor's song on the capture of the noted pirate called Black-Beard. They were wretched verses in point of style; mere blind-man's ditties. When printed, he despatched me about the town to sell them. The first had a prodigious run, because the event was recent and had made a great noise.
My vanity was flattered by this success; but my father checked my exultation, by ridiculing my productions, and telling me that versifiers were al--ways poor. I thus escaped the misfortune of being,
probably, a very wretched poet. But as the faculty of writing prose has been of great service to me in the course of my life, and principally contributed to my advancement, I shall relate by what means, situated as I was, I acquired the small skill I may possess in that way.
There was in the town another young man, a great lover of books, of the name of John Collins, with whom I was intimately connected. We frequently engaged in dispute, and were indeed so fond of argumentation, that nothing was so agreeable to us as a war of words. This contentious temper, I would observe, by the bye, is in danger of becoming a very bad habit, and frequently renders a man's company insupportable, as being no otherwise capable of indulgence than by indiscriminate contradiction. Independently of the acrimony and discord it introduces into conversation, it is often productive of dislike, and even hatred, be. tween persons to whom friendship is indispensably necessary. I acquired it by reading, while I lived with my father, in books of religious controversy. I have since remarked, that men of sense and good education, seldom fall into this error.
Collins and I, one day, in an argument relative to the education of women, namely, whether it were proper to instruct them in the sciences, and Whether they were competent to the study? Collins, supported the negative, and allirmed that the task was beyond their capacity, I maintained the opposite opinion, a little perhaps for the pleasure of disputing. He was, naturally, more eloquent than 1; words flowed copiously from his lips; and Trequently I thought myself vanquished, more by his volubility than by the force of his arguments.
We separated without coming to an agreement upon M this point; and as we were not to see each other Ut again for some time, I committed my thoughts to palet paper, made a fair copy, and sent it to him. He an