1Down to this period the Memoir was written in the year 1771, and time task was then laid aside for several years. In the meantime, the manuscript was shown to several of the author’s friends, who pressed him to complete what he had begun. He accordingly yielded to their solicitations, and, to the part with which this chapter commences, he prefixed the following introductory remarks, and also the two letters to which he alludes:- :— "Continuation of the Account of my Life, begun at Passy, near Paris, 1874.
"It is some time since I received the above letters, but I have been too busy till now to think of complying with the request they contain. It might, too, be much better done if I were at home among my papers, which would aid my memory, and help to ascertain dates; but my return being uncertain, and having just now a little leisure, I will endeavour to recollect and write what I can; if I live to get home, it may there be corrected and improved.
"Not having any copy here of what is already written, I know not whether any account is given of the means I used to establish the Philadelphia public library; which from a small beginning is now become so considerable. Though I remember to have come down to near the time of that transaction (1730). I will therefore begin here with an account of it, which may be struck out if found to have been aheady given."
The letters referred to were from his friends, Benjamin
Vaughan and Abel James. They may be found In the
Correspondence. ‘vol. ix., p. 478, under the date of January 31st, 1783.
2 It appears by a statement in Mr. Smith’s "Notes for a History of the Library Company of Philadelphia," that the above "instrument" was dated July 1st, 1781. The charter of incorporation was obtained from the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania in 1742. Franklin’s name stands at the head of the list of the persons who applied for the charter, and to whom it was granted. The library has grown to be one of the largest in America. The spacious and handsome edifice, in which it is contained, was erected but a short time before Dr. Franklin’s death. It is stated in the minutes of the Library Company, as quoted by Mr. Smith, "that, upon the suggestion of Dr. Franklin, a large stone was prepared, and laid at the south-east corner of the building. with the following inscription, composed by the Doctor, except so far as relates to himself, which the Committee have taken the liberty of adding to it.
The marble statue of Dr. Franklin, which occupies a niche in front of the building, was executed in Italy. and presented to the Library Company by Mr. William Bingham.
3In Mr. Walsh’s "Life of Franklin," published in Delaplaine’s Repository, there is an extract, copied from an original paper in Franklin’s handwriting, which claims insertion in this place, as connected with the subject upon which the author is now about to speak—
"Those who write of the art of poetry," says Franklin, "teach us that, if we would write what may be worth reading, we ought always, before we begin, to form a regular plan and design of our piece; otherwise we shall be in danger of incongruity. I am apt to think it is the same as to life. I have never fixed a regular design in life, by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one; let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that henceforth I may live in all respects like a rational creature.
"1. It is necessary for me to be extremely frugal for some time, till I have paid what I owe.
"2. To endeavour to speak truth in every instance, to give nobody expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every word and action; the most amiable excellence in a rational being.
"3. To apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty.
"4. I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and, upon proper occasions, speak all the good I know of everybody."
In a letter written by the author to Lord Kames, in November, 1761, he thus alludes to the scheme here mentioned, and to the design he then had of expanding it into a treatise on the Art of Virtue. In that letter he says: "To produce the number of valuable men necessary in a nation for its prosperity, there is much more hope from schemes of early institution than from reformation. And, as the power of a single man to do national service in particular situations of influence is often immensely great, a writer can hardly conceive the good he may be doing when engaged in works of this kind. I cannot, therefore, but wish you would publish it ["Elements of Criticism"] as soon as your other important employments will permit you to give it the finishing hand. With these sentiments you will not doubt my being serious in the intention of finishing my Art of Virtue. It is not a mere ideal work. I planned it first in 1732. I have from time to time made, and caused to be made, experiments of the method with success. The materials have been growing ever since. The form only is now to he given, in which I purpose employing my first leisure after my return to my other country." This project, as will seen hereafter, was never carried into effect.