« PreviousContinue »
thought its flavor delicious. I hesitated some time between principle and inclination, till at last recollecting, that when the cod had been opened, some small fish were found in its belly, I said to myself, if you eat one another, I see no reason why we may not eat you. : I accordingly dined on the cod with no smail degree of pleasure, and have since con i nued io eat like the rest of mankind, returning occasionally to my vegetable plan. How convenient does it prove to be a rational animal, that knows how to find or invent a plausable pretext for whatever it has an inclination to do!
I continued to live upon good terms with Keimer, who had not the smallest suspicion of my proje ted establishment. He still retained a portion of his former enthusiam ; and being fond of argument, we frequently disputed together. I was so much in the habit of using my Socratic method, and had so frequently puzzled him by my questions, which appeared at first very distant from the point in debate, yet nevertheless led to it by degrees, invoiving hiin in dificulries and contradictions from which he was unable to extricate himself, that he becaine at last ridiculously cautious, and would scarcely answer the most plain and familiar question without previously asking meWhat would you infer from that? Hence he formed so high an opinion of my talents for refutation, that he seriously proposed to me to become his colleague in the establishment of a new religious sect.
He was to propagate the doctrine by preaching, and I to refute every opponent.
When he explained to me his tenets, I found many absurdities which I refused to admit, unless he would agree in turn to adopt some of iny opinions. Keimer wore his beard long, because Moses had
somewhere said, Thou shall not mar the corners of thy beard. He likewise observed the Sabbath ; and these were with him two very essential points. I disliked them both ; but I consented to adopt them, provided he would abstain from animal food. I doubt, said he, whether my constitution will be able to support it. I assured him on the contrary, that he would find himself the better for it. naturally a glutton, and I wished to amuse myself by starving him. He consented to make trial of this regimen, if I would bear him company ; and in reality we continued it for three months. man in the neighborhood prepared and brought us our victuals, to whom I gave a list of forty dishes ; in the composition of which there entered neither flesh por fish. This fancy was the more agreeable to me, as it turned to good account; for the whole expence of our living did not exceed for each eighteen
pence a week.
I have since that period observed several Lents with the greatest strictness, and have suddenly returned again to my ordinary diet, without experi, encing the smallest inconvenience ; which had led me to regard as of no importance the advice commonly given, of introducing gradually such altera. tions of reginen.
I continued it cheerfully ; but poor Keimer suf. fered terriblii Tired of this project, he sighed for the Aesh.pots of Egypt. Ailength he ordered a roast pig, and inviteri me and two of our female acquaintance to dine with him; but the pig being clone a little too soon, he could not resist the temptation, and eat it all up before we arrived.
During the circunsrance I have related I had priil some avention to Miss Read. I entertained furber the utmosi estcem and affection ; and I had 'reason to believe that these sentiments were mutual. But we were both young, scarcely more than eighteen years of age ; and as I was on the point of undertaking a long voyage, her mother thought it prudent to prevent maiters being carried too far for the present, judging that if marriage was our object, there would be more propriety in it after my return, when, as at least I expected, I should be established in my business. Perhaps also she thought that my expectations were not so well founded as I imagined.
My most intimate acquaintance at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph, young men who were all fond of reading. The two first were clerks to Mr. Charles Brockdon, one of the principal attornies in the town, and the other clerk to a merchant. Watson was an upright, pious and sensible young man ; the others were somewhat more loose in their principles of religion, particularly Ralph, whose faith, as well as that of Collins, I had contributed to shake ; each of whom made me suffer a very adequate punishment. Osborne was sensible, and sincere, and affectionate in his friendships, but too much inclined to the critic in matters of literature. Ralph was ingenious and shrewd, genteel in his address, and extremely elo. quent. I do not remember, to have met with a more agreeable speaker. They 'were both enamoured of the muses and had already evinced their passion by some small poetical productions. It was a custom with us to take a charming walk on Sundays, in the woods that border on the Skuylkill. Here we read together, and afterwards conversed on what we read. "Ralph was disposed to give himself up entirely to poetry. He flattered himself that he should arrive at great eminence in the art, and even acquire a fortune. The sublimest poets, he
pretended, when they first began to write, committed as many faults as himself. Osborne endeavored to dissuade him from it, by assuring him that he had no genius for poetry, and advising him to stick to the trade in which he had been broughtup. In the road of commerce, said he, you will be sure, by diligence and assiduity, though you have no capital, of so far succeeding as to be employed as a factor, and may thus, in time, acquire the means of setting up for yourself. I concurred in these sentiments, but at the same time expressed my approbation of amus. ing ourselves sometimes with poetry, with a view of improving our style. In consequence of this it was proposed that, at our next meeting, each of us should bring a copy of verses of his own composition.Our object in this competition was to benefit each other by our mutual remarks, criticisms, and corrections; and as style and expression were all we had in view, we excluded every idea of imvention, by agreeing that our task should be a version of the eighteenih psalm, in which is described the descent of the Deity:
The time of our meeting drew near, when Ralph called upon me, and told me his piece was ready: I informed him that I had been idle, and not much Hiking the task, had done nothing. He showed me his piece, and asked what I thought of it. pressed myself in terms of warm approbation ; because it really appeared to have considerable merit. He then said : Osborne will never acknowledge the smallest degree of excellence in any production of mine. · Envy alone dictates to him a thousand animadversions. Of you he is not so jealous : I wish therefore you would take the verses, and produce tham as your own. I will pretend not to have had leisure to write any thing. We shall then see in whut manner he will speak oi chem. I agreed to
this little artifice, and immediately transcribed the verses to prevent all suspicion. We met.
Watson's performance was the first that was read. It had some beauties, but many faults. We next read Osborne's which was much better. Ralph did it justice, remarking a few imperfections, and applauding such parts as were excellent. He had himself nothing to show. It was now my turn. I made some difficulty ; seemed as. if I wished to be excused ; pretending that I had no time to make corrections, &c. No excuse, how ever, was admissible, and the piece must be produced. · It was read and re-read. Watson and
Osborne immediately resigned the palm, and united . in applauding it. Ralph alone made a few remarks,
and proposed some alterations; but I defended my text. Osborne'agreed with me, and told Ralph he was no more able to criticise than he was able to write.
When Osborne was alone with me, he expressed himself more strongly in favor of what he considered as my performance. He pretended that he had put some restraint on himself before, apprehensive of my construing his commendation into flattery. But who would have supposed, said he, Franklin to be capable of such a composition? What painting, what energy, what fire ! He has surpasse ed the original. In his common conversation he appears not to have choice of words; he hesitates, and is at a loss; and yet, good God, how he writes!
At our next meeting Ralph discovered the trick we had played Osborne, who was rallied without mercy.
By this adventure Ralph was fixed in his resolution of becoining a poet. I left nothing unattempt. ed to divert him from his purpose, but he perse