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F THE LATE
DOCTOR BENJAMIN FRANKLIN:
CONSISTING OF '
HIS LIFE, WRITTEN BY HIMSELF,
ESSAYS, HUMOROUS, MORAL & LITERARY,
CHIEFLY IN THE MANNER OF
PRINTED FOR P. WOGAN, P. BYRNE, J. MOORE,
AND W. JONES.
17 9 3.
PRE FAC E.
THE volume that is here presented to the Public, consists of two parts: the Life of Dr. Franklin ; and a Collection of Miscellaneous Essays, the work of that author.
It is already known to many, that Dr. Franklin amused himself, towards the close of his life, with writing memoirs of his own history. These memoirs were brought down to the year 1757. Together with some other manuscripts they were left behind him at his death, and were considered as constituting a part of his posthumous property. It is a little extraordinary that, under these circumstances, interesting as they are, from the celebrity of the character of which they treat, and from the critical situation of the present times, they should so long have been with-held from the Public. A translation of them appeared in France near two years ago, coming down to the year 1731. There can be no sufficient reason, that what has thus been submitted to the perusal of Europe, should not be made accessible to those to whom Dr. Franklin's language is native. The history of his life, as far as page 149 of the present volume, is translated from that publication.
The style of these memoirs is uncommonly pleasing. The story is told with the most unreserved sincerity, and without any false colouring or ornament. We see, in every page, that the author examined his subject with the eye of a master, and related no incidents, the springs and origin of which he did not perfectly understand. It is this that gives such exquisite and uncommon perfpicuity to the detail and delight in the review. The translator has endeavoured, as he went along, to conceive the probable manner in which Dr. Franklin expressed his ideas in his English manuscript, and he hopes to be forgiven if this enquiry shall occasionally have subjected him to the charge of a style in any respect bald or low: to imitate the admirable simplicity of the author, is no easy task,
The Essays, which are now, for the first time, brought together from various resources, will be found to be more miscellaneous than any of Dr. Franklin's that have formerly been collected, and will therefore be more generally amusing. Dr. Franklin tells us, in his Life, that he was an afliduous imitator of Addison, and from some of these papers it will be admitted that he was not an unhappy one. The public will be amused with following a great philosopher in his relaxations, and observing in what respects philosophy tends to elucidate and improve the most common subjects. The editor has purposely avoided such papers as, by their scientifical nature, were less adapted for general perusal. These he may probably hereafter publish in a volume by themselves.
He subjoins a letter from the late celebrated and amiable Dr. Price, to a gentleman in Philadelphia, upon the subject of Dr. Franklin's memoirs of his own life.
“ Hackney, June 19, 1790. “ DEAR SIR, “ I am hardly able to tell you how kindly I take the letters with which you favour me. Your last, containing an account of the death of our excellent friend Dr. Franklin, and the circumstances attending it, deserves my particular gratitude. The account which he has left of his life will show, in a striking example, how a man, by talents, industry, and integrity, may rise from obscurity to the first eminence and consequence in the world; but it brings his history no lower than the year 1757, and I understand that since he sent over the copy, which I have read, he has been able to make no additions to it. It is with a melancholy regret I think of his death; but to death we are all bound by the irreversible order of nature, and in looking forward to it, there is comfort in being able to reflect—that we have not lived in vain, and that all the useful and virtuous shall meet in a better country beyond the grave.
“ Dr. Franklin, in the last letter I received from him, after mentioning his age and infirmities, observes, that it has been kindly ordered by the Author of nature, that, as we draw nearer the conclusion of life, we are furnished with more helps to wean us from it, among which one of the strongest is the loss of dear friends. I was delighted with the account you gave in your letter of the honour shewn to his memory at Philadelphia, and