Page images
PDF
EPUB

paper, such thoughts as occurred to me respecting it. Most of these are lost.

8 My ideas at that time were, that the sect should be begun and spread at first, among young and single men only, that each person to be initiated, should have exercised himself with the thirteen weeks' examination and practice of all the virtues, as in the beforementioned model; that the existence of such a society should be kept a secret, till it had become considerable, to prevent solicitations for the admission of improper members, but that the members should each of them search among his acquaintance for ingenious, well-disposed youths, to whom, with prudent caution, the scheme should be gradually communicated.

9 That the members should engage to afford their advice, assistance, and support to each other, in promoting one another's interest, business, and advancement in life: That for distinction, we should be called The Society of the Free and Easy. Free, as being by the general practice and habits of the virtues, free from the dominion of vice; and particularly by the practice of industry and frugality, free from debt, which exposes a man to constraint, and a species of slavery to his creditors.

10 I communicated the project in part to two young men, who adopted it with enthusiasm : but my then narrow cir. cumstances, and the necessity I was under of sticking close to my business, occasioned my postponing the further prosecution of it at that time, and my multifarious occupations, public and private, induced me to continue postponing, so that it has been omitted, till I have no longer strength or activity left, sufficient for such an enterprise.

11 Though I am still of opinion it was a practicable scheme, and might have been very useful, by forming a great number of good citizens : and I was not discouraged by the seeming magnitude of the undertaking, as I have always thought that one man of tolerable abilities, may work great changes, and accomplish great affairs among mankind, if he first forms a good plan; and cutting off all amusements and other employments that would divert his attention, makes the execution of that same plan, his whole study and business. .

12 In 1732, I first published my almanac, under the name of Richard Sanders; it was continued by me about twentyfive years, and commonly called Poor Richard's Almanac. I endeavored to make it both entertaining and useful, and it accordingly came to be in such demand that I reaped consid. erable profit from it; vending annually, near ten thousand.

13 And observing that it was generally read, (scarce any neighborhood in the province being without it,) I considered it a proper vehicle for conveying instruction among the common people, who bought scarcely any other books. I therefore Adled all the little spaces that occurred between the remarkable days in the calendar, with proverbial sentences, chiefly such as inculcated industry and frugality, as the means of procuring wealth, and thereby securing virtue; it being more difficult for a man in want to act always honestly, as (to use here one of those proverbs,) it is hard for an empty sack to stand upright.

14 These proverbs which contained the wisdom of many ages and nations, I assembled and formed into a connected discourse prefixed to the Almanac of 1757, as the harangue of a wise old man to the people attending an auction: the hringing all these scattered counsels thus into a focus, enabled them to make greater impression.

15 The piece being universally approved, was copied in all the newspapers of the American Continent, reprinted in Britain on a large sheet of paper, to be stuck up in houses; two translations were made in France, and great numbers bought by the clergy and gentry, to distribute gratis among their poor parishioners and tenants.

16- In Pennsylvania, as it discouraged useless expense in foreign superfluities, some thought it had its share of influence in producing that growing plenty of money which was observable for several years after its publication. .

17 I considered my newspaper as another means of communicating instruction, and in that view frequently reprinted in it extracts from the Spectator, and other moral writers; and sometimes published little pieces of mine own, which had been first composed for reading in our Junto.

18 Of these are a Socratic dialogue, tending to prove, that whatever might be his parts and abilities, a vicious man could not properly be called a man of sense : and a discourse on self-denial, showing that virtue was not secure till its practice became a habitude, and was free from the opposition of contrary inclinations: these may be found in the papers about the beginning of 1735..

19 In the conduct of my newspaper. I carefully excluded all libelling and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful-to our country.

20 After ten years' absence from Boston, and having become easy in my circumstances, I made a journey thither

to visit my relations, which I could not sooner afford. In returning I called at Newport, to see my brother James, then settled there with his printing house: our former differences were forgotten, and our meeting was very cordial and affectionate: he was fast declining in health, and requested of a that in case of his death, which he apprehended not far distant, I would take home his son, then but twelve years of age, and bring him up to the printing business.

21 This I accordingly performed, sending him a few years to school before I took him into the office. His mother earried on the business till he was grown up, when I assisted him with an assortment of new types, those of his father being in a manner worn out. Thus it was that I made my brother ample amends for the service I had deprived him of by leaving him so early.

CHAPTER 3. ABRIDGMENT OF CICERO'S DISCOURSE ON OLD AGE; AD

DRESSED TO TITUS POMPONIUS ATTICUS. TRANSLATED BY DR. FRANKLIN.

SECTION I. Essential requisites to a happy old age; a well spent life;

pursuit of useful knowledge; virtue; exercise, and temperance; purity of conscience and conduct.

1 The subject I have now chose to write on, is OLD AGE; which, as it is advancing on us both, and in a little time must unavoidably seize us, I would look out and endeavor to find the best and surest means, to make the burden of it sit as easy on us as possible.

2 I must own, the thoughts that flowed on me from the subjeet, in composing it, proved so entertaining and delightful to me, while about it, that they have not only divested the prospeet of old age, now before us, of every thing shocking or frightful, but they have rendered my expectations of it even agreeable and comfortable.

3 Which leads me to say, we can never sufficiently admire the excelleney of philosophy, to whose dictates whoever submits, he will never find himself at a loss in any stage or condition of life, to render it not only supportable but easy. But on other philosophical subjeets I have already wrote: several tracts, and shall continue to write. This on old age (48 I said) comes to you

4 I choose for my speaker in it, old Marcus Cato; that the respect paid to his name and character may give greater force and authority to what is said. At his house I suppose Scipio and Lælius to be met, expressing their wonder to the old man, how, with such ease and cheerfulness he could support the weight of his years; to which he fully answers them. And thus they begin;

SCIPIO. 5 Our friend Lælius, and myself, Cato, greatly admiring your wisdom and vast compass of knowledge in general, have been particularly wondering to see how very easily and cheerfully you bear your age; for we can't perceive that it gives you any manner of trouble; while we have observed others complaining of theirs, as if the burden were insupportable.

CATO. 6 Indeed, my friends, you place your wonder on a matter far below deserving it, a business in which there is little or no difficulty at all; provided proper measures be taken in it. For know this, that those who have no aid or support within themselves, to render their lives easy, will find every state irksome: while such as are convinced, they must owe their happiness to themselves, and if they cannot find it in their own breast, they will never meet with it from abroad; will never consider any thing as an evil, that is but a necessary effect of the established order of natures which old age most undoubtedly is.

7 'Tis certainly strange, that while all men hope they may live to attain it, any should find fault with it when it comes to their share. * * * * But it was absolutely necessary, that some term, some period, should be set; and that, as it is with the fruits of trees, and of the earth, seasons should be allowed for their springing, growing, ripening, and at last to drop. This, wise men will submit to, and cheerfully bear. * *

LÆLIUS. 8 But, Cato, you would highly oblige us both, (for I may venture to speak for Scipio, as well as myself, since we both hope, or doubtless wish at least, to be old in our turn,) if you would be pleased to instruct us beforehand, how, and by what methods, we may avoid the inconveniencies that generally attend old age, so as to render it the more easy to us, when we reach it.

CATO. 9 With all my heart, Lælius, in case you both desire it.

[ocr errors]

SCIPIO. 10 We both earnestly desire it, Cato, if not too trouble. some; for as you are now well advanced towards the end of a long journey, which we are probably to travel after you, we would gladly know of you, how you find it, in the stage you are arrived at.

CATO. 11 Well, I shall do my best to satisfy you. I have indeed, been divers times in company with other old men, my equals, as yoụ know the proverb, Birds of a feather will flock together; when they have been loud in their complaints of the inconveniencies of old age; particularly. Caius Calinator and Spurius Albinus, men of consular dignity; who used heavily to lament, that they had outlived all the enjoyments of life, for which it was worth the living; and that they found themselves slighted and forsaken by those who had formerly followed them, and had treated them with the highest respect.

12 But to me, such men appear to lay their charge entirely wrong; for if what they complained of were owing only to their years, the case must be the same with me, and all others of a like age: yet I have known several, who have lived to be very old, without complaining at all; for they appeared not only easy, but pleased at their being delivered from the tyranny of their youthful passions; and far from finding themselves slighted, were still honored and revered by those about them.

13 But the true ground of such complaints lies wholly in the manners of the men: for such as take care to be neither peevish, humorsome, nor passionate in old age, will find it tolerable enough; but a perverse temper, a fretful, or an inhumane disposition, will, wherever they prevail, render any state whatsoever,“unhappy.

LÆLIUS. 14 That is very true, Cato, but may not some allege, it is your easy circumstances in life, with your power and dignity, that produce this happy effect, and render your old age in particular so easy; but these, you know, are articles that fall to but very few people's share.

CATO. 15 I confess, Lælius, there may be something in what you say. * * * But the best armor against old age, Scipio and Lælius, is a well-spent life preceding it; a life employed in the pursuit of useful knowledge, in honorable actions, and the practice of virtue; in which, he who labors to improve himself from his youth, will in age reap the happiest fruits of

« PreviousContinue »