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THE pamphlet on paper money finished, Franklin wrote nothing for six months. By that time Keimer had fallen deeply in debt, had been dragged to jail for the ninth time, had compounded with his creditors, had been liberated, had failed again, and had sold his newspaper to Franklin & Meredith for a trifle. Ninety subscribers then took the "Instructor each week, and thirty-nine weekly numbers had been issued. With the fortieth, which bears date October 2, 1729, a new era opened. The silly name was cut down to "The Pennsylvania Gazette." The Quaker nomenclature was dropped, "The Religious Courtship" ceased to be published. Except at long intervals, no extracts from Chambers's Dictionary appeared; and, for the first time in the history of our country, a newspaper was issued twice a week. In this Franklin was far, indeed too far, in advance of the age, and, when the bad weather came and the postrider made his trips northward
but once a fortnight, the "Gazette once more became a weekly paper, and remained so for years.
Thus stripped of nonsense, the "Gazette" began to be conducted on strictly business principles. Franklin knew that to make it profitable he must have advertisements, that to secure advertisements he must have circulation, and that to get circulation he must have buyers out of town. But to get out-of-town subscribers was no easy matter. Newspapers were not mailable. The postriders, therefore, could not be forced to take the "Gazette," and Bradford, who was postmaster, would not allow them to take it voluntarily. They were accordingly bribed in secret to smuggle the "Gazettes " into their postbags, and do their best to secure subscriptions.
To get a circulation in Philadelphia Franklin resorted to clever expedients. He strove to make the "Gazette' amuse its readers, and to persuade the readers to write for the "Gazette; for he well knew that every contributor would buy a dozen copies of the paper containing his piece from sheer love of seeing himself in print.
In the first number published under his name this invitation is very modestly given. He knew it was a common belief that the author
of a newspaper should be a man well versed in languages, in geography, in history; be able to speak of wars, both by land and sea; be familiar with the interests of princes and states, the secrets of courts, the manners and customs of all nations; have a ready pen, and be able to narrate events clearly, intelligently, and in a few words. But such men were scarce in these remote parts of the world, and the printer therefore must hope to make up among his friends what was wanting in himself. And this invitation is repeated again and again. Assurances are given that a series of papers on "Speculation" and "Amusement" are shortly to be published, and gentlemen "disposed to try their hands in some little performance" are urged to make use of this chance. No gentlemen were disposed to try their hands, and the papers never appeared. Some essays on "Primitive Christianity" did appear, and, having offended the orthodox, they are urged to inform the public what is the truth.
There is no reason to suppose that such appeals produced a single essay. But the pretense that they did is well kept up, and for many years the editor carried on a lively correspondence with himself. He starts a question of casuistry in one number, and answers it in the next. He suggests and discusses reforms
and improvements in long communications beginning, "Mr. Printer," and, when the town is dull, has a letter from Alice Addertongue, or a note from Bob Brief, or a piece of pleasantry just coarse enough to excite a laugh. Now he pretends that he is besought to —
"Pray let the prettiest creature in this place know (by publishing this) that if it was not for her affectation she would be absolutely irresistible;" and, of course, in the next issue of the "Gazette" has six denials from the six prettiest creatures in the place. He hears that in Bucks County a flash of lightning melted the pewter button off the waistband of a farmer's breeches, and observes, ""T is well nothing else thereabouts was made of pewter." other week the casuist offers an "honorary reward to any cabalist" who shall demonstrate that Z contains more occult virtue than X. Then there is "a pecuniary gratification" for anybody who shall prove "that a man's having a Property in a tract of land, more or less, is thereby entitled to any advantage, irrespective of understanding, over another Fellow, who has no other Estate than the air to breathe in, the Earth to walk upon, and all the rivers of the world to drink of." When nothing else will serve, his own mishaps are described for the amusement of the town. "Thursday last, a cer
tain P―r ('t is not customary to give names at length on these occasions) walking carefully in clean Clothes over some Barrels of Tar on Carpenter's Wharff, the head of one of them unluckily gave way, and let a Leg of him in above the Knee. Whether he was upon the Catch at that time, we cannot say, but 't is certain he caught a Tar-tar. 'Twas observed he sprang out again right briskly, verifying the common saying, As nimble as a Bee in a Tarbarrel. You must know there are several sorts of Bees: 'tis true he was no Honey Bee, nor yet a Humble Bee; but a Boo-Bee he may be allowed to be, namely B. F."
His more serious contributions to the "Gazette may be classed as dialogues, as bad as those of any writer; pieces of domestic and political economy after the manner of "Poor Richard; moral essays essays and pieces of pleasantry and mirth, which he has himself declared "have a secret charm in them to allay the heats and tumours of our spirits, and to make a man forget his restless resentments."
Writings of this description would usually appear when storms delayed the London packets and the "Craftsman" and the "British Journal" failed to come to hand; when winter interrupted travel, and the postman made his trips northward but once a fortnight; when the