Page images

with expence and inconvenience, befides the perpetual risk of injuring my health, and catching a disease which I dreaded above all things. But I was fortunate enough to efcape this danger.

As a neighbour and old acquaintance, I had kept up a friendly intimacy with the family of Mifs Read. Her parents had retained an affection for me from the time of my lodging in their houfe. I was often invited thither; they confulted me about their affairs, and I had been fometimes ferviceable to them. I was touched with the unhappy fituation of their daughter, who was almost always melancholy, and continually feeking folitude. I regarded my forgetfulness nd inconftancy, during my abode in London, as the principal caufe of her misfortune; though her mother had the candour to attribute the fault to herself, rather than to me, because, after having prevented our marriage previously to my departure, fhe had induced her to marry another in my abfence.

Our mutual affection revived; but there ex ifted great obftacles to our union. Her marriage was confidered, indeed, as not being valid, the man having, it was faid, a former wife ftill liv. ing in England; but of this it was difficult to obtain a proof at fo great a distance; and though a report prevailed of his being dead, yet we had no certainty of it; and fuppofing it to be true, he had left many debts, for the payment of which his fucceffor might be fued. We ventured nevertheless, in fpite of all these difficulties; and I married her on the firft of September 1730. None of the inconveniences we had feared happened to us. She proved to me a good and faithful companion, and contributed effentially to the fuccefs of my fhop. We profpered together, and it was our mutual ftudy to render each other


[ocr errors]

happy. Thus I corrected, as well as I could, this great error of my youth.

Our club was not at that time established at a tavern. We held our meeting at the house of Mr. Grace, who appropriated a room to the purpose. Some member obferved one day, that as our books were frequently quoted in the course of our difcuffions, it would be convenient to have them collected in the room in which we affembled, in order to be confulted upon occafion; and that, by thus forming a common library of our individual collections, each would have the advantage of using the books of all the other members, which would nearly be the fame as if he poffeffed them all himfelf. The idea was approved, and we accordingly brought fuch books as we thought we could fpare, which were placed at the end of the club-room. They amounted not to fo many as we expected; and though we made confiderable ufe of them, yet fome inconveniences refulting, from want of care, it was agreed, after about a year, to deftroy the collection; and each took away fuch books as belonged to him.

It was now that I firft ftarted the idea of eftablifhing, by fubfcription, a public library. I drew up the propofals, had them ingroffed in form by Brockden the attorney, and my project fucceeded, as will be feen in the fequel



[The life of Dr. Franklin, as written by himfelf, fo far as it has yet been communicated to the world, breaks off in this place. We underitand that it was continued by him fomewhat farther, and we hope that the remainder will, at fome future period, be communicated to the pulic. We have no hesitation in fuppofing that

every reader will find himself greatly interested by the frank fimplicity and the philofophical difcernment by which thefe pages are fo eminently characterised. We have therefore thought proper, in order as much as poffible to relieve his regret, to fubjoin the following continuation, by one of the Doctor's intimate friends. It is extracted from an American periodical publication, and was written by the late Dr. Stuber* of Philadelphia.]

THE promotion of literature had been little at

tended to in Penfylvania. Moft of the inhabitants were too much immerfed in bufinefs to think of scientific purfuits; and thofe few, whose inclinations led them to ftudy, found it difficult to gratify them, from the want of fufficiently large libraries. In fuch circumftances, the efta

* Dr. Stuber was born in Philadelphia, of German parents. He was fent, at an early age, to the univerfity, where his genius, diligence and amiable temper foon acquired him the particular notice and favour of thofe under whofe immediate direction he was placed. After paffing through the common course of Atudy, in a much fhorter time than ufual, he left the univerfity, at the age of fixteen, with great repu tation. Not long after, he entered on the ftudy of Phyfic; and the zeal with which he purfued it, and the advances he made, gave his friends reafon to form the moft flattering profpects of his future eminence and usefulness in the profeffion. As Dr. Stuber's circumftances were very moderate, he did not think this purfuit well calculated to anfwer them. He therefore relinquifhed it, after he had obtained a degree in the profeffion, and qualified himself to practife with credit and fuccefs; and immediately entered on the study of Law. In purfuit of the last mentioned object, he was prematurely arrelled, before he had an opportunity of reaping the fruit of those talents with which he was endowed, and of a youth spent in the ardent and fuccefsful pursuit of useful and elegant literature.



blishment of a public library was an important event. This was firft fet on foot by Franklin, about the year 1731. Fifty perfons fubfcribed forty fhillings each, and agreed to pay ten fhillings annually. The number encreased; and in 1742, the company was incorporated by the name of "The Library Company of Philadelphia.' Several other companies were formed in this city in imitation of it. These were at length united with the library company of Philadelphia, which thus received a confiderable acceffion of books and property. It now contains about eight thoufand volumes on all fubjects, a philofophical apparatus, and a good beginning towards a collectition of natural and artificial curiofities, befides landed property of confiderable value. The company have lately built an elegant houfe in Fifthftreet, in the front of which will be erected a marble ftatue of their founder, Benjamin Franklin.

This inftitution was greatly encouraged by the friends of literature in America and in Great Britain. The Penn family distinguished themfelves by their donations. Amongst the earliest friends of this inftitution must be mentioned the late Peter Collinfon, the friend and correfpondent of Dr. Franklin. He not only made confiderable prefents himself, and obtained others from his friends, but voluntarily undertook to manage the bufinefs of the company in London, recommending books, purchafing and fhipping them. His extenfive knowledge, and zeal for the promotion of fcience, enabled him to execute this important truft with the greatest advantage. He continued to perform thefe fervices for more than thirty years, and uniformly refused to accept of any compenfation. During this time, he communicated to the directors every information relative


to improvements and discoveries in the arts, agriculture, and philofophy.

The beneficial influence of this inftitution was foon evident. The cheapnefs of terms rendered it acceffible to every one. Its advantages were not confined to the opulent. The citizens in the middle and lower walks of life were equally partakers of them. Hence a degree of information was extended amongst all claffes of people, which is very unusual in other places. The example was foon followed. Libraries were established in various places, and they are now become very numerous in the United States, and particularly in Pennsylvania. It is to be hoped that they will be still more widely extended, and that information will be every where increased. This will be the beft fecurity for maintaining our liberties. A nation of well-informed men, who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them, cannot be enflaved. It is in the regions of ignorance that tyranny reigns. It flies before the light of fcience. Let the citizens of America, then, encourage inftitutions calculated to diffuse knowledge amongst the people; and amongst these, public libraries are not the leaft important.

In 1732, Franklin began to publish Poor Richard's Almanack. This was remarkable for the numerous and valuable concife maxims which it contained, all tending to exhort to industry and frugality. It was continued for many years. In the almanack for the laft year, all the maxims were collected in an addrefs to the reader, entitled, The Way to Wealth. This has been tranflated into various languages, and inferted in different publications. It has also been printed on a large fheet, and may be feen framed in many houfes in this city. This addrefs contains, per-, haps,



« PreviousContinue »