Imagens das páginas

ing. The city of Passy gave his name to a street. He was lauded by Fauchet before the Commune of Paris; by Condorcet before the Académie des Sciences; by Rochefoucauld Liancourt before the Society of '89.

[ocr errors]



No sooner was the great man dead than his life and works fell a prey to biographers and editors. For this he was himself to blame. Long before he died, he saw many of his letters and pieces published and republished, in magazines and newspapers, both at home and abroad. He well knew that, do what he might, they would live. Yet he would not arrange and publish them himself, nor gather them with a view to being published by his executors. The great discoveries with which his name was joined, the events in which he had borne so striking a part, made his life of no common interest to his countrymen. Yet it was only by pestering that he was led to go on with an Autobiography begun with diffidence, and never brought to a close.

So much as now makes the five opening chapters was written during a visit to the Bishop of St. Asaph, at Twyford, in 1771. The visit over, the writing stopped, and the

manuscript was left to begin a career more strange than any in the history of literature.

When Franklin set out for Paris in 1776, he left his papers in the care of his friend Joseph Galloway. Galloway carried the trunk containing them to his home in Bucks County, and placed it in an outhouse that served as an office, turned loyalist, and hurried to the army of Howe at New York. Abandoned thus to the care of his wife, his property fell a prey to the vicissitudes of war. Pennsylvania confiscated the estate. The British raided the house, smashed the trunk, and scattered the papers of Franklin over the floor, where they lay for months. A few were picked up by Benjamin Bache, and in time a bundle of them fell into the hands of Abel James, a Quaker, and an ardent admirer and warm friend of Franklin. James found the packet to consist of a quantity of notes, and twenty sheets of closely written manuscript. It was that part of the Autobiography which had been written at Twyford in 1771. Delighted that such a treasure should have come in his way, James made a careful copy and sent it in 1782 to Franklin at Passy. With it went an urgent letter begging him to go on with so profitable and pleasing a work. The warmth of the appeal, the sight of the fragment long thought lost, were not without

effect upon him. His labor had not been wasted. A purpose once abandoned might yet be accomplished. He hesitated, sent both letter and manuscript to his friend B. Vaughan, and from Vaughan, in 1783, came back a still more urgent entreaty to go on.

Franklin was then deep in affairs of state. Peace negotiations were on foot. The treaty was being framed. He was too busy making the history of his country to find time to write the history of his life. But in 1784 he undertook the task, and worked with diligence till he went home in 1785, when he once more put the work aside. But his friends would not suffer him to abandon it. Again and again Benjamin Vaughan and M. le Veillard besought him to go on. Again and again he promised and excused himself. His papers were in disorder. His office left him no time. He would go on with the work when the Constitutional Convention rose. But when it rose he was suffering too much from the stone. At last, in 1788, the promise was kept. The Autobiography was brought down to 1757, and a fair copy sent to Dr. Price and Benjamin Vaughan. The original went to M. le Veillard and Rochefoucauld-Liancourt at Paris. Thus a second time the manuscript left the author, and a second time was doomed to a series of strange adventures.

Hardly were the copies safe in Europe when Franklin died. His books and papers passed by will to his grandson, and the work of editing began. With a promptness he never showed again in the whole course of his career, Temple Franklin wrote at once to M. le Veillard, told him of the disposition made of the papers, claimed the manuscript of the Autobiography, asked him to show it to no one unless some eulogist appointed by the Académie, and bade him hold it, sealed in an envelope, addressed to the owner. The letter bears date May 22, 1790. But long before it was read at Passy, the Eighty-nine Society of Paris had listened with delight to a fulsome eulogy of Franklin pronounced by Rochefoucauld. The speaker

assured the hearers that Franklin had written his memoirs; that the manuscript was then in France, and that it should be published the moment any additions that might have been made to it came over from America. He has been accused of keeping his word; for in March, 1791, "Memoirs de la vie privée de Benjamin Franklin, êcrits par lui-même, et adressés à son fils. Suivis d'un précis historiques de sa Vie politique, et de plusieurs Pièces relatives à ce Père de la Liberté," came out at Paris. Buisson was the publisher. But who the translator was, how he got the manuscript,

« AnteriorContinuar »