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His friend Collins was so pleased with Franklin's success in Philadelphia, that he resigned a situation he had obtained in the Boston post-office, with a view to return with him.
The only advantage, therefore, which he obtained by this voyage, was a reconciliation to the greater and better part of his family, a circumstance which he seems duly to have appreciated. He re-embarked for New York in the course of the summer, calling in at Newport, Rhode Island, by the way, to visit his brother John. Here he received a commission from one Vernon, a friend of his brothers, to collect a debt for him in Pennsylvania (about 351. currency) which soon taught him how little he was to be intrusted, at this time, with more important business.
In the voyage from Newport, he accompanied a female Quaker and her family, to whom he states himself to have incurred no small obligation. Observing a considerable familiarity between him and her sérvants, she took him aside, and said, Young man, I am in pain for thee; thou hast no parent to watch over thy conduct, and thou seemest to be ignorant of the world, and the snares to which youth is exposed. Rely upon what I tell thee : those are women of bad character; I perceive it in all their actions. If thou dost not take care, they will lead thee into danger. They are strangers to thee; and I advise thee, by the friendly interest I take in thy preservation, to form no connexion with them.”
On his doubting her opinion of his companions, she gave him some further details respecting them; and the issue proved both her kindness and her discrimination. The captain missing some plate on their arrival at New York, suspicion fell
upon these young women. Their lodgings, to which Franklin had been invited, but refused to go, were searched, and the property found there. " And thus, after having been saved from one rock concealed under water, upon which the vessel struck during our passage, l escaped another of a still more dangerous nature.”
At New York, new favours and frowns of fortune diversify our young philosopher's history. Burnet, the governor (a son of the celebrated bishop Burnet) hearing of the goodly freight of books which Franklin brought with him, desired the captain to bring him to the government-house; displayed a well-furnished library; and entered into a long conversation with him on literary subjects. Here also he found his friend Collins waiting for him, who had so far forgotten their warmly-cherished philosophy, as to become a confirmed dram-drinker and gamester. Franklin had to pay some considerable debts for him, before they could proceed to the capital; and was thus tempted to expend the money he had received for his brother's friend. This he calls “ of the first great errata of his life.”
In Philadelphia Collins could obtain no situation, his habits being, as Franklin thought, suspected. He fell therefore into entire dependence on his friend, who relates as follows the adventure that happily closed this profitless union.
" When he had drunk a little too much, he was very headstrong. Being one day in a boat together, on the Delaware, with some other young persons, he refused to take his turn in rowing. " You shall row for me,' said he, till we get home.'—No,' I replied, will not row for you. You shall,' said he, or remain upon the water all night As you please.' · Let us row,' said the rest of the company; what signifies whether he assists or not?' But already angry with him for his conduct in other respects, I persisted in my refusal. He then swore that he would make me row, or would throw me out of the boat ; and he made up to me.
As soon as he was within my reach, I took him by the collar, gave him a violent thrust, and threw him head foremost into the river. I knew that he was a good swimmer, and was therefore under no apprehensions for his life. Before he could turn himself, we were able, by a few strokes of our oars, to place ourselves out of his reach; and
whenever he touched the boat, we asked him if he would row, striking his hands at the same time with the oars to make him let go his hold. He was nearly suffocated with rage, but obstinately refused making any promise to row. Perceiving, at length, that his strength began to be exhausted, we took him into the boat, and conveyed him home in the evening, completely drenched. The utmost coldness subsisted between us after this adventure. At last the captain of a West-india ship, who was commissioned to procure a tutor for the children of a gentleman at Barbadoes, meeting with Collins, offered him the place. He accepted it, and took his leave of me, promising to discharge the debt he owed me with the first money he should receive; but I have heard nothing of him since.”
Sir William Keith, on reading the letter which Franklin brought from his father, pronounced his decision “ too prudent,” re-asserting his own strong opinion of our hero's merit, and his determination instantly to do for him what the father refused. He was resolved to have a good printer in Philadelphia, he said ; Franklin was the man he wanted; he would procure the necessary types from England, for which he should repay him when able. What young man could have believed him insincere ? “ I naturally thought him," says Franklin,“ one of the best men in the world.”
It was now arranged that he was to prepare an inventory of types and presses; which having produced, and brought within 100l. sterling, the Governor suggested that he had better proceed by the annual ship from Philadelphia to London, to select his own types, and to open a correspondence with the English booksellers. Some months having first to expire, Franklin resumed his engagement with Keimer.
This singular old tradesman was evidently Franke lin's butt. The latter, from the good company he kept, and the constant improvement of his own powers, felt it no great presumption to assume equality
with his employer, who had once been a disciple of the celebrated French prophets. Franklin describes him as retaining much of his enthusiasm and superstitious particularities to old age. Upon him he exercised his power of argument freely, puzzled him with his Socratic method,' and drew him into endless difficulties and contradictions, until he would rarely answer him a question without inquiring what was to be Franklin's inference. They entered, at length, into a sort of joint agreement to erect a new sect! Keimer was to be the prophet, and Franklin the champion of the scheme against all comers :' but a practical test of the master's constancy was first to be made. He was to relinquish animal food, and enjoin entire abstinence from it. The weak old man appears to have persevered for some time, during which he seems to have been the dupe of Franklin's love of humour, but finally gave in, and re-commenced animal food, by devouring a whole pig at a single sitting.
Franklin, at this time, contracted a more honourable engagement with Miss Read, his landlord's daughter. Neither of the parties had reached their nineteenth year; but she was very sensible and prudent, in Franklin's esteem, and her friends seem to have possessed as much caution as Franklin's. marriage was prevented by her mother, on account of their youth ; but no objection was taken to a gay young man of such respectable prospects.
He has left a character of his three principal literary associates at this time, which throws considerable light on his own. Two of them were articled clerks to a solicitor, the other a merchant's clerk ; one a religious, intelligent, and very worthy youth, according to Franklin's own description, named Wats son; the other two, Ralph and Osborne, unsettled in their religious principles, chiefly by his own arguments. The whole party were, of course, professed critics, and Ralph and Osborne poetical enthusiasts. The poets, like some greater ones, could never agree; but Franklin ordinarily confined himself to reading and
criticising poets for amusement, or with a view to increase his stock of words, and improve his taste.
An agreement being, on one occasion, entered into for each of the party to produce a metrical version of the eighteenth psalm, Ralph called on Franklin a few days before the time appointed, and produced what the latter thought a piece of some merit. Franklin had been, in the interim, much engaged, and was not ready. Finding this, Ralph importuned him to play off a literary experiment on the others, and particularly on his opponents. “Osborne,” said he,“ never will allow the least merit to a poem of mine." (He was perpetually advising him to stick to his counter, where he would find diligence and punctuality his best recommendations.)
He is not so jealous of you ; take this, and produce it as yours ;
I will pretend to have had no time to produce any thing.”
The friends assembled ; Watson first produced a tolerable performance: Osborne a much better one ; Ralph's was now called for, but he declared he had nothing to bring forward. The party then looked to Franklin, who, with great unwillingness, and several apologies for his want of time for full correction, brought out Ralph's psalm. It was no sooner read, than admired rapturously. Ralph alone proposed some emendations, for which Osborne was bitterly severe
“ But who could have imagined that Franklin was capable of such a performance !” said he. “ Such poetry, such force, such fire! He has even improved on the original. In common conversation he seems to have no choice of words ; he he. sitates and blunders ; and yet how he writes!” This affair confirmed Ralph's resolution to devote himself to poetry, in which, as we shall presently see, he earned himself a place in Pope's Dunciad, although possessed of considerable powers of mind and abilities in another line of composition.
As the period for Franklin's proposed voyage to England approached, he applied frequently at the governé