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In a few days Keimer sent for me to print off his elegy. He had now procured another set of letter-cases, and had a pamphlet to re-print, upon which he set me to work.
The two Philadelphia printers appeared destitute of every qualification necessary in their profession. Bradford had not been brought up to it, and was very illiterate. Keimer, though he understood a little of the business, was merely a compositor, and wholly incapable of working a press. He had read one of the French prophets, and knew how to imitate their supernatural agitations. At the time of our first acquaintance he professed no particular religion, but a little of all upon occasion. He was totally ignorant of the world, and a great knave at heart, as I had afterwards an opportunity of experiencing.
Keimer could not endure that, working with him, I should lodge at Bradford's. He had indeed a house, but it was unfurnished, so that he could not take me in. He procured me a lodging at Mr. Read's, his landlord, whom I have already mentioned. My trunk and effects being now arrived, I thought of making, in the eyes of Miss Read, a more respectable appearance than when chance exhibited me to her view, eating my roll, and wandering in the streets.
From this period I began to contract acquaintance with such young people of the town as were fond of reading, and spent my evenings with them agreeably, while at the same time, I gained money by my industry; and, thanks to my frugality, lived contented. I thus forgot Boston as much as possible, and wished every one to be ignorant of the place of my residence, except my friend Collins, to whom I wrote, and who kept my secret.
As the limits of our work will not permit us to give an elaborate sketch of any one individual, we are compelled to stop the interesting memoirs
written by Dr. Franklin himself, and continue lus biography in a more condensed form.
He re-appeared in his native town, after an absence of seven months, with a strong recommendation from sir William Keith to his father; was affectionately welcomed; and, though he failed in his main object, secured the consent of his parents to his return to Philadelphia. At New York, on his way back, he had an adventure which bespeaks, as does the conduct of Sir William Keith, the simplicity of the times, and the great superiority of Franklin, at so early an age, to his lowly condition. The governor of New York, a man of letters, hearing from the captain of the packet in which he sailed, that one of the passengers had a number of volumes on board, sent for our jobworkman, the passenger in question, showed him his library, and conversed courteously and largely with him about books and authors.
He enlisted himself anew at Philadelphia, with his first master, formed acquaintance with a number of young men of a speculative and literary turn, bestowed his leisure hours upon metaphysics and poetry, and kept his reasoning faculties in constant and invigorating exercise. His patron, sir William Keith, drew him by fine promises into a scheme of going to England, in order to purchase a set of types; with which he was to be established in business at home. He credulously embarked, and discovered, on his arrival in London, that he had been miserably duped, and must depend upon his own unaided exertions to find a subsistence in that vast capital. It is to be noted, in proof of the goodness of his heart, that he bears testimony, in his memoirs, to the valuable qualities and public services of the man who practised upon him this despicable and cruel imposition.
He was aceompanied to England by one of his literary associates, Ralph, who, being destitute of
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money, preyed upon his meagre purse, and increased the difficulties of his position. He found means, however, to fix himself in a considerable printingoffice, and became a model of industry and temperance, and an example well worthy of being followed by young men. He went to board with an old Catholic lady, at one shilling and six pence per week, and remained with her until his departure from England. He procured books for his lucubrations, at a small subscription, from a private collection of great extent, but was led astray by the sceptical writers that fell into his hands, and even wrote and printed himself a small treatise of infidel metaphysics. It drew upon him the notice of a deistical author, who introduced him to Mandeville, and some other spirits of the same order. His strong natural sense soon extricated him, however, from the illusions of the moment; and he has, by the reprobation of them to which he so often and carnestly returns in his memoirs, made ample amends. The other acts of his youth which he records as transgressions, are greatly extenuated by concomitant circumstances: they are so confessed as convey a most salutary moral; and it is evidently with this view, as well as in obedience to historical truth, that they are acknowledged.
It was in his twenty-first year, after a residence of eighteen months in London, that he set sail from Gravesend for Philadelphia, under the auspices of a friendly merchant who had engaged him, as clerk for a dry-goods shop, and given him the magnificent expectation of being promoted to the rank of supercargo to the West-Indies. This plan had well nigh been superceded by one which took, immediately before his departure, a stronger hold of his fancy; to wit, the opening of a school for swimming, an art in which he was remarkably expert. During the voyage homewards, he kept a journal, which shows that his style was already in a great degree formed, and in which are to be discerned the intellectual habits that gave so much eclat and usefulness to his maturer years. On this voyage, too, he resolved to form some plan for his future conduct, by which he might promote his fortune, and procure respect and reputation in society. This plan is prefaced by the following reflections: “Those who write of the art of Poetry, teach us, that if we would write what would be worth the reading, we ought always, before we begin, to form a regular design of our piece; otherwise we shall be in danger of incongruity. I am apt to think it is the same as to life. I have never fixed a regular design in life; by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one: let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that henceforth, I may live in all respects like a rational creature."
To these remarks he annexed a series of rules and moral principles, which, at the same time, they show his noble ardour for virtue, may afford those. animated with the same spirit, no unprofitable example. They are as follow:
“I resolve to be extremely frugal for some time, until I pay what I owe.
"To speak the truth in every instance; to give nobody expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every word and action; the most amiable excellence in a rational being.
“To apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty.
“I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and
upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of every body,” &c.
To these resolutions, although they were formed in the ardour of a youthful imagination, he adhered, with a scrupulous fidelity; and the foundation, we must admit, was not unworthy of the superstructure he afterwards reared upon it. .
He arrived in Philadelphia on the 11th of October, and embarked upon his new adopted profession. But in the course of a few months, just as he began to make some figure in the mystery of a haberdasher, his employer died, and he had to return to his proper trade. An offer of large wages induced him to undertake the management of the printing-office of his quondam master, to whom he rendered, by his skill and industry, the most important service. They quarrelled ere long, and Franklin left him to form a similar establishment in connexion with a fellow journeyman, whose father, a man of some wealth, was to supply the stock. New types were purchased for the firm in London, and business followed apace. Our philosopher had recommended himself, by the perfect regularity of his deportment, and the intelligence of his conversation, to the favour of a number of leading persons, and had founded a club or debating society, composed of young men of some consideration, all of whom took a lively interest in his advancement. This club, the Junto, which discussed formally and laboriously, points of morals, politics, and natural philosophy, administered in an important degree to the improvement of his understanding, as well as of his fortunes.
The countenance of his friends, and still more his indefatigable assiduity in his office, contributed to remove obstacles of some magnitude. The establishment acquired consistency from day to day. In a short time a newspaper was added to it, and managed with equal ability. Franklin seiz