A fair number of years ago I bought a set of books at a library sale in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I was with my sister-in-law, Jill, and she claims I paid more for the set than I thought. No matter, it was a collection of well-known dead authors and to me it was a bargain.
Not that I read any of the books which eventually found their way to the top self of the living room, then to a box in the attic. One book, however, remained on the top self. It was a pure accident.
I never expected to read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I am not very much into history — especially American history — so had no interest in reading this. However, I figured I would give it a try.
Franklin was quite ambitious as a teenager and beyond. In his early adulthood he embarked on a sort of self-actualization quest trying to better himself in 12 steps (virtues):
- Temperance – eat not to dullness; drink not to elation.
- Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, wast nothing.
- Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.
- Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries; or omitting the benefits of your duty.
- Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
- Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
I learned a few things about American history that was otherwise elusive to me. For instance, I never quite understood who General Braddock was, even though we lived for years near one of his abandoned cannons. I knew he was a British soldier, so why would Franklin want to help him obtain horses and carts? It was the French and Indian War which was before the Revolutionary war so we were not necessarily enemies of the British at that time, although it seemed much of the colonies were a bit passive aggressive. I didn’t know that!
I was surprised that the book was as readable as it was. Benjamin Franklin was interesting and had a captivating way of writing.
That’s not to say that it was not incredibly boring in parts. Lots of parts. I basically skimmed the end of the book.
I cheated on this book. I turned every page, but did not read every word.
This 200 page book took me many weeks to read. Hopefully the next book won’t take that long.
Stats 200 or so pages. Started May 12. Finished June 14.