The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin HTML version

Part I
TWYFORD, at the Bishop of St. Asaph's,[0] 1771.
[0] The country-seat of Bishop Shipley, the good bishop, as Dr. Franklin used to style
DEAR SON: I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my ancestors.
You may remember the inquiries I made among the remains of my relations when you
were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for that purpose. Imagining it may
be equally agreeable to[1] you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which you
are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week's uninterrupted leisure
in my present country retirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have
besides some other inducements. Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in
which I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the
world, and having gone so far through life with a considerable share of felicity, the
conducing means I made use of, which with the blessing of God so well succeeded, my
posterity may like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own
situations, and therefore fit to be imitated.
[1] After the words "agreeable to" the words "some of" were interlined and afterward
That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes to say, that were it offered
to my choice, I should have no objection to a repetition of the same life from its
beginning, only asking the advantages authors have in a second edition to correct some
faults of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents
and events of it for others more favorable. But though this were denied, I should still
accept the offer. Since such a repetition is not to be expected, the next thing most like
living one's life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make that
recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing.
Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to be talking of
themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to
others, who, through respect to age, might conceive themselves obliged to give me a
hearing, since this may be read or not as any one pleases. And, lastly (I may as well
confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal
gratify my own vanity. Indeed, I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory words,
"Without vanity I may say," &c., but some vain thing immediately followed. Most people
dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair
quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the
possessor, and to others that are within his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases,
it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the
other comforts of life.