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loved him. My situation was happy; but it was a happiness of no long duration."
In February 1727, when the subject of our memoir had just entered his twenty-second year, both were taken suddenly ill. Franklin's disorder was a pleurisy, which brought him to the border of the grave, and from which he suffered so much, that he began, as he says, to consider death as a deliverer, felt a sort of disappointment when he found himself likely to recover, and regretted that he had still to experience, sooner or later, the same disagreeable scene over again.
Denham died, and with him Franklin's expectations of being established in the business they were pursu. ing; the affairs of this worthy man were in so unsettled a state as to be taken into the hands of his creditors. His friend therefore was once more compelled to look into the wide world for an occupation.
His brother-in-law Holme, being now in Philadelphia, advised his return to the printing business; and Keimer tempted him with an offer of larger
wages to take the management of his establishment. Franklin was however disgusted with all he could recollect of his old employer; he had also heard a bad character of him in London from his wife and her friends, and did not wish to have any more connexion with him.
He again sought for employment therefore as a merchant's clerk, but being disappointed, was compelled to close with Keimer's proposals. He found in the printing-house the following hands :
“ Hugh Meredith, a Pennsylvanian, about thirtyfive years of age. He had been brought up to husbandry, was honest, sensible, had some experience, and was fond of reading ; but too much addicted to drinking
“ Stephen Potts, a young rustic, just broke from school, and of rustic education, with endowments rather above the common order, and a competent portion of understanding and gaiety; but a little idle.
“ Keimer had engaged these two at very low wages, which he had promised to raise every three months a shilling a week, provided their improvement in the typographic art should merit it. This future increase of wages was the bait he had made use of to ensnare them. Meredith was to work at the press, and Potts to bind books, which he had engaged to teach them, though he understood neither himself.
“ John Savage, an Irishman, who had been brought up to no trade, and whose service for a period of four years Keimer had purchased of the captain of a ship. He was also to be a pressman.
“ George Webb, an Oxford scholar, whose time he had in like manner bought for four years, intending him for a compositor. I shall speak more of him presently.
“ Lastly, David Harry, a country lad, who was apprenticed to him.”
Franklin's natural sagacity had now been improved by experience. “I soon perceived," says he, “that Keimer's intention, in engaging me at a price so much above what he was accustomed to give, was that I might form all these raw journeymen and apprentices, who scarcely cost him any thing, and who, being indentured, would, as soon as they should be sufficiently instructed, enable him to do without me. I nevertheless adhered to my agreement. I put the office in order, which was in the utmost confusion, and brought his people by degrees to pay attention to their work, and to execute it in a more masterly style.”
Franklin thought it singular to see an Oxford scholar in the condition of a bought servant. He was not more than eighteen years of age, and related following particulars of himself: “ Born at Gloucester, he had been educated at a grammar school, and had distinguished himself among the scholars by his superior style of acting, when they represented dramatic performances. He was a member of a literary club in the town; and some pieces of his composition, in prose as well as in verse, had been inserted
in the Gloucester papers.
Hence he was sent to Oxford, where he remained about a year; but he was not contented, and wished above all things to see London, and become an actor. At length, having received fifteen guineas to pay his quarter's board, he decamped with the money from Oxford, hid his gown in a hedge, and travelled to London. There, having no friend to direct him, he fell into bad company, soon squandered his fifteen guineas, could find no way of being introduced to the actors, became contemptible, pawned his clothes, and was in want of bread. As he was walking the streets, almost famished with hunger, and not knowing what to do, a recruitingbill was put into his hand, which offered an immediate treat and bounty-money to all who were disposed to serve in America. He instantly repaired to the house of rendezvous, enlisted himself, was put on board a ship, and conveyed to America, without even writing a line to inform his parents what was become of him. His mental powers were considerable; he was lively, witty, very agreeable, but very dissipated.”
John, the Irishman, soon decamped ; and Franklin began to spend his time very pleasantly with the rest. Out of doors, he cultivated his acquaintance with persons of intelligence and consideration. Keimer keeping the seventh day for a Sabbath, and the customs of the city not allowing them to work on Sunday, Franklin now had, or thought he had, two free days for study; all his little circle looked up to him for information, and treated him with great respect; his companions in business especially, as they found Keimer relied wholly upon him, and could himself teach them nothing. His only source of uneasiness was his debt to Vernon, not yet paid ; and his savings were too small to afford him hopes of being able to discharge it soon.
Keimer's press being frequently out of order, Franklin was printer's joiner; and when particular types were worn out, as there was at this time no
letter-founder in America, he would contrive to form new letters of lead in matrices of clay, using the old letters for punches, and thus produced tolerable substitutes. He was also occasionally the engraver of various ornaments, made printer's ink, gave an eye to the shop and to the warehouse, and was in every respect a factotum. But he was destined to exhibit the versatility of his genius upon a larger scale. Keimer began to speculate upon the possibility of doing without him; became imperious, uncivil, and difficult to please; and on the payment of his second quarter's wages, gave him to understand they were too heavy.
Franklin says he bore with his ill-humour for a length of time patiently, observing his affairs to be deranged. They finally quarrelled, and parted upon the following occasion. Our young printer, hearing a noise in the street, left his work to see what was the matter; which Keimer observing, commanded him, in a noisy, reproachful manner, to return to it.
This taking place in the public street, piqued our philosopher not a little. He went in, the master following “ The quarrel became warm on both sides ; and he gave me,” says Franklin, “ notice to quit him at the expiration of three months, as had been agreed upon between us; regretting that he was obliged to give me so long a term. I told him that his regret was superfluous, as I was ready to quit him instantly; and I took my hat and came out of the house, begging Meredith to take care of some things which I left, and bring them to my lodgings.'
In the evening, Meredith came to Franklin; and the conversation naturally turned upon the difference, and the state of Keimer's affairs. Meredith predicted that Franklin's departure would be the master's ruin, as his creditors were already alarmed; and dissuaded him from returning to New England, as he proposed; observing that, by waiting for the opportunity, a vacancy of great advantage to him must soon occur in Philadelphia. When Franklin objected his want of money,
he observed, that his (Meredith's) father had a very high opinion of him, and, from a conversation that had already passed between them, he was sure that he would advance whatever might be necessary to establish them in partnership. “My time with Keimer," added he, “ will be at an end next spring. In the mean time, we may send to London for our press and types. I know that I am no workman; but if you agree to the proposal, your skill in the business will be balanced by the capital I shall furnish; and we will share the profits equally.” “His proposal was seasonable, and I fell in with it. His father,” adds Franklin, " who was then in the town, approved of it. He knew that I had some ascendancy over his son, as I had been able to prevail on him to abstain a long time from drinking brandy; and he hoped that, when more closely connected with him, I should cure him entirely of this unfortunate habit.”
The father took a list from Franklin of what would be necessary to furnish an office, which he immediately directed one of the merchants to procure upon dit; the young men agreeing to keep their arrangement secret until the materials should arrive: our author was to find work in the mean time at the other printing-house. This however he could not obtain; and Keimer, being pressed with some printing from New Jersey, sent a civil message to Franklin, telling him that old friends ought not to be disunited on account of a few words which were the effect of a momentary passion, and inviting him to return. Meredith joined in the invitation, particularly as it would afford him the opportunity of improving himself in the business; and the parties soon lived upon better terms than before their separation.
The New Jersey business was in fact the printing of money-bills for that colony, and required both types and engravings which Keimer could not supply without Franklin's aid. He now therefore had to furnish these as before, and, finally, to repair to Burlington with Keimer, where, the whole being executed