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joiners, the tanners and the cutlers, watched him closely, and decided that he should become a maker of knives. Benjamin was now sent to a cousin who had learned the trade in London. But a fee was asked. Josiah was vexed, and the boy was soon home and in the shop.
There he fell to reading. As to the character of the books that made the library of Josiah Franklin, neither his will, inventory, nor account afford much information. From the inventory it appears that he died possessed of two large bibles, a concordance, "Willard's Body of Divinity," and "a parcel of small books." But we gather from the autobiography of Benjamin that the collection of books that lay upon the shelves was, with a few exceptions, such as no boy of our time thinks of reading; such as cannot be found even in the libraries of students uncovered with dust; such as are rarely seen in the catalogues of book auctions, and never come into the hands of bookbinders to be reclothed. There were, Mather's "Essay to do Good," and Defoe's "Essay on Projects," Plutarch's "Lives," the only readable book in the collection, and a pile of thumbed and dog-eared pamphlets on polemical theology such as any true son of the dissenting church might read; such as those in which Increase Mather and Solomon Stoddart discussed the grave questions, Can bap
tized persons destitute of religion come to the table of the Lord? Is it lawful to wear long hair? At what time of evening does the Sabbath begin? Is it lawful for men to set their dwellinghouses at such a distance from the place of public worship that they and their families cannot well attend it? Uninviting as this literature may seem, Franklin read it with pleasure, for he was by nature a debater and a disputatious Indeed, there is much reason to believe that he was himself the author of an eight-page tract ridiculing some of Stoddart's remarks, and called "Hooped Petticoats Arraigned and Condemned by the Light of Nature and the Law of God."
These books finished, he determined to get more. Borrow he could not. He knew no bookseller, and a circulating library did not exist anywhere in America. In a room in the Town Hall at Boston were gathered a few volumes which, in old wills, old letters, and the diaries of prominent men, is called the "Public Library." But there is not any reason to suppose that one of the books could have been carried home by a tallow-chandler's son, or treated of any subject less serious than religion. In the whole town there was not, in all likelihood, a solitary copy of any of the works of one of that glorious band of writers who made the
literature of the reign of Queen Anne so faThe first catalogue of Harvard Library was printed in 1723, yet there is not in it the title of any of the works of Addison, of any of the satires of Swift, of any of the poems of Pope, of any of the writings of Bolingbroke or Dryden, Steele, Prior, or Young. The earliest copy of Shakespeare brought to America was of the edition of 1709. No copy was ever advertised for sale till 1722. Even such books as Harvard did own, it was seriously urged, should, after the manner of the Bodleian Library, be chained × to the desk.
Nor did the boy fare much better when, with the few halfpence he had saved, he went among the booksellers to buy. The steam printing-press has, in our time, placed within reach of the poorest office-boy the most delightful works of poetry and travel, of history and biography, of essay and fiction, the languages of ten civilized nations can afford. When Franklin began to read, a printing-press was a "raree show." Neither in New Hampshire, nor Rhode Island, nor New Jersey, nor Delaware had such a thing been seen. He was three years old before a type was set in Connecticut. He was twenty when the first press reached Maryland. He was twenty-three before one was permanently set up in Virginia, and another year
passed by before a printer appeared in the Carolinas. In the four colonies where there were printers, the press was busy in the cause of the church. Between the first of January, 1706, and the first of January, 1718, all the publications known to have been printed in America number at least five hundred and fifty. Of these but eighty-four are not on religious topics, and of the eighty-four, forty-nine are almanacs.
The Origin of the Whalebone Petticoat; "The Simple Cobbler of Agawam in America;" John Williams's "Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion," an Indian story, which for a time was more sought after than Mather's "Treacle fetched out of a Viper;" Mary Rowlandson's Captivity among the Indians," and "Entertaining Passages relating to Philip's War," were the only approaches made in all these years to what would now be called light literature.
Among the four hundred and sixty-six books of a religious tone, by far the best was "Pilgrim's Progress," printed at Boston in 1681 and reprinted in 1706. A copy of this was Benjamin's first purchase; was read, reread, and sold, and, with the money and a few more pence he had saved, forty volumes of Burton's "Historical Collections" were secured. The bent of his mind was now unmistakable. He stood in no danger of going to sea; he did
not need his uncle's sermons; he would never be content to mold candles nor grind knives. For the lad who could deny himself the few treats afforded by a Puritan town, save his coppers and lay them out on such books as were then to be had at Boston, there seemed to be but one career, the career of a man of letters.
No such man had then appeared in the colonies. The greatest American then living was unquestionably Cotton Mather. Yet he is in no sense deserving to be called a man of letters. His pen, indeed, was never idle. Four hundred and twenty-three of his productions are still extant, yet our literature would have suffered no loss if every one of them had perished. Everything that he left is of value, but the value is of that kind which belongs to a bit of the Charter Oak; to a sword worn by Miles Standish; to an uncomfortable chair in which Governor Bradford sat; or to a broken plate used by the Pilgrims on their voyage to Plymouth. To hurry through a volume and write a sermon was, with Mather, a morning's work. To preach seventy sermons in public, forty more in private, publish fourteen pamphlets, keep thirty vigils and sixty fasts, and still have time for persecuting witches, was nothing unusual for him to do in a year. The habit of starving the body to purify the soul he adopted