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“Of the Fruits of the Earth. "I find that this will be a plentiful Year of all manner of good Things, to those who have enough; but the Orange Trees in Greenland will go near to fare the worse for the Cold. As for Oats, they'll be a great Help to Horses. ..."
“Lend money to an enemy, and thou'lt gain him; to a friend, and thou'lt lose him."
“Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards."
“ It is hard for an empty sack to stand upright."
For twenty years and more “Poor Richard" kept v up this continuous stream of fun, breaking forth afresh every autumn,-sound, wholesome, dealing with the real things and the elemental joys of life, and expressed in that inimitable language of which Franklin was master. In this way was built up
the greater part of his wonderful reputation, which in some of its manifestations surprises us so much. Such a reputation is usually of long growth; one or two conspicuous acts will not achieve it. But the man who every year for nearly a generation delighted every human being in the country, from the ploughman and hunter to the royal governors, was laying in store for himself a sure foundation of influence.
The success of “Poor Richard" was immediate. The first number of it went through several editions, and after that the annual sales amounted to about ten thousand copies. For the last number which Franklin prepared for the year 1758, before he turned over the enterprise to his partner, he wrote a most happy preface. It was always his habit, when a controversy or service he was engaged in was fin
ished, to summarize the whole affair in a way that strengthened his own position and left an indelible impression which all the efforts of his enemies could not efface. Accordingly, for this last preface he invented a homely, catching tale that enabled him to summarize all the best sayings of “Poor Richard" for the last twenty-five years.
“I stopt my Horse lately where a great Number of people were collected at a Vendue of Merchant Goods. The Hour of Sale not being come, they were conversing on the Badness of the Times, and one of the Company call’d to a plain clean old Man, with white Locks, Pray, Father Abraham, what think you of the Times ? Won't these heavy Taxes quite ruin the Country? How shall we be ever able to pay them? What would you advise us to ?'-Father Abraham stood up, and reply'd, “If you'd have my Advice, I'll give it you in short, for a Word to the Wise is enough, and many Words won't fill a Bushel, as Poor Richard says.' They join'd in desiring him to speak his Mind, and gathering round him, he proceeded as follows:
• Friends,' says he,' and neighbours, 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. We are taxed twice as much by our Idleness, three times as much by our Pride, and four times as much by our Folly, and from these Taxes the Commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an Abatement. However let us hearken to good Advice, and something may be done for us; God helps them that help themselves, as Poor Richard says in his Almanack of 1733.
“ It would be thought a hard Government that should tax its People one tenth Part of their Time, to be employed in its Service. But Idleness taxes many of us much more, if we reckon all that is spent in absolute Sloth, or doing of nothing, with that which is spent in idle Employments or Amusements, that amount to nothing. Sloth, by bringing on Diseases absolutely shortens Life. Sloth, like Rust, consumes faster than Labour wears, while the used Key is always bright, as Poor Richard says. But dost thou love Life, then do not squander Time, for that's the Stuff Life is made of, as poor Richard says. 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. If Time be of all Things the most precious, wasting of Time must be, as Poor Richard says, the greatest Prodigality, since, as he elsewhere tells us, Lost Time is never found again; and what we call Time-enough, always proves little enough. Let us then be up and doing, and doing to the Purpose; so by Diligence shall we do more with less Perplexity. Sloth makes all Things difficult, but Industry all Things easy, as Poor Richard says; and He that riseth late, must trot all Day, and shall scarce overtake his Business at night. While Laziness travels so slowly, that Poverty soon overtakes him, as we read in Poor Richard, who adds, Drive thy Business, let that not drive thee; and Early to Bed, and early to rise, makes a Man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
“So much for Industry, my Friends, and Attention to one's own Business; but to these we must add Frugality, if we would make our Industry more certainly successful. A man may, if he knows not how to save as he gets, Keep his nose all his life to the Grindstone, and die not worth a Groat at last.
« • And now to conclude, Experience keeps a dear School, but Fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that; for it is true, we may give Advice, but we cannot give Conduct, as Poor Richard says: However, remember this, They that won't be counselled, can't be helped, as Poor Richard says : and farther, That if you will not hear Reason, she'll surely wrap your Knuckles.'
“ Thus the old Gentleman ended his Harangue. The People heard it, and approved the Doctrine, and immediately practised the contrary, just as if it had been a common Sermon; for the Vendue opened and they began to buy extravagantly, notwithstanding all his Cautions and their own Fear of Taxes.”
This speech of the wise old man at the auction, while perhaps not so interesting to us now as are some other parts of “Poor Richard;" was a great hit in its day; in fact, the greatest Franklin ever made. Before it appeared “Poor Richard's” reputation was confined principally to America, and without this
final speech might have continued within those limits. But the “clean old Man, with white locks” spread the fame of “Poor Dick" over the whole civilized world. His speech was reprinted on broadsides in England to be fastened to the sides of houses, translated into French, and bought by the clergy and gentry for distribution to parishioners and tenants. Mr. Paul Leicester Ford, in his excellent little volume, “The Sayings of Poor Richard,” has summarized its success. Seventy editions of it have been printed in English, fifty-six in French, eleven in German, and nine in Italian. It has also been translated into Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Welsh, Polish, Gaelic, Russian, Bohemian, Dutch, Catalan, Chinese, and Modern Greek, reprinted at least four hundred times, and still lives.
It was quite common a hundred years ago to charge Franklin with being an arrant plagiarist. It is true that the sayings of “Poor Richard” and a great deal that went to make up the almanac were taken from Rabelais, Bacon, Rochefoucauld, Ray Palmer, and any other sources where they could be found or suggested. But “Poor Richard" changed and rewrote them to suit his purpose, and gave most of them a far wider circulation than they had before.
More serious charges have, however, been made, and they are summarized in Davis's “Travels in America,
"* which was published in 1803. I have already noticed one of these,—the charge that his letter on air-baths was taken from Aubrey's “Miscellanies,”—which, on examination, I cannot find to be
sustained. Davis also charges that Franklin's famous epitaph on himself was taken from a Latin one by an Eton school-boy, published with an English translation in the Gentleman's Magazine for February, 1736. Franklin's epitaph is already familiar to most
of us :
Its contents torn out
Lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be lost
The Eton boy's was somewhat like it :
Vitæ Volumine peracto
In Lucem Edivit
Et Frangite Calamos;
Sed hæc postrema Inscriptio
Hic Jacet Bibliopola
Folio vitæ delapso