The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin 富兰克林传（英汉对照）(2011-03-13 19:47:40)
To William Franklin Esq.
Governor of New Jersey
Twyford, at the Bishop of St. Asaph's, *1771.
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 you to learn the circumstances of my life, many of which you are unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a few weeks' uninterrupted leisure, I sit down to write them.
Besides, there are some other inducements that excite me to this undertaking. From the poverty and obscurity in which I was born, and in which I passed my earliest years, I have raised myself to a state of affluence and some degree of celebrity in the world. As constant good fortune has accompanied me even to an advanced period of life, my posterity will perhaps he desirous of learning the means which I employed, and which, thanks to Providence, so well succeeded with me. They may also deem them fit to be imitated, should any of them find themselves in similar circumstances.
This good fortune, when I reflect on it, which is frequently the case, has induced me sometimes to say, that if it were left to my choice, I should have no objection to go over the same life from its beginning to the end: requesting only the advantage authors have, of correcting in a second edition the faults of the first. So would I also wish to change some incidents of it for others more favorable. Notwithstanding, if this condition was denied, I should still accept the offer of recommencing the same life. But as this repetition is not to be expected, that which resembles most living one's life over again, seems to be to recall all the circumstances of it; and, to render this remembrance more durable, to record them in writing.
In thus employing myself, I shall yield to the inclination so natural to old men, of taking of themselves and their own actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to those who, from respect to my age, might conceive themselves obliged to listen to me, since they will be always free to read me or not. And, lastly (I may as well confess it, as the denial of it would be believed by nobody),
I shall perhaps not a little gratify my own vanity. Indeed, I never 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 who 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.
And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to
acknowledge that I attribute the mentioned happiness of my past
life to his divine providence, which led me to the means I used and
gave the success. My belief of this induces me to hope, though I
must not presume, that the same goodness will still be exercised
toward me, in continuing that happiness, or enabling me to bear a
fatal reverse, which I may experience as others have done; the
complexion of my future fortune being known to him only in whose
power it is to bless us, even in our afflictions.
Some notes which one of my uncles (who had the same curiosity in collecting family anecdotes) once put into my hands, furnished me with several particulars relative to our ancestors. From these notes I learned that they lived in the same village, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, on a freehold of about thirty acres, for at least three hundred years, and how much longer could not be ascertained.
This small estate would not have sufficed for their maintenance without the business of a smith, which had continued in the family down to my uncle's time, the eldest son being always brought up to that employment; a custom which he and my father followed with regard to their eldest sons. When I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an account of their marriages and burials form the year 1555 only, as the registers kept did not commence previous thereto. I, however, learned from it that I was the youngest son of youngest son for five generations back.
My grandfather Thomas, who was born in 1598, lived at Ecton till he was too old to continue his business, when he retired to Banbury, in Oxfordshire, to the house of his son John, with whom my father served an apprenticeship. There my uncle died and lies buried. We saw his gravestone in 1758. His eldest son Thomas lived in the house at Ecton, and left it with the land to his only daughter, who, with her husband, one Fisher, of Wellingborough, sold it to Mr. Isted, now lord of the manor there.
My grandfather had four sons, who grew up: viz., Thomas, John, Benjamin, and Josiah. Being at a distance from my papers, I will give you what account I can of them from memory: and if my papers are not lost in my absence, you will find among them many more particulars. Thomas, my eldest uncle, was bred a smith under his father; but, being ingenious, and encouraged in learning (as all my brothers were) by an Esquire Palmer, then the principal inhabitant of that parish, he qualified himself for the bar, and became a considerable man in the county; was chief mover of all public-spirited enterprises for the county or town of Northampton, as well as of his own village, of which many instances were related of him; and he was much taken notice of and patronized by Lord Halifax.
He died in 1702, on the 6th of January, four years to a day
before I was born. The recital which some elderly persons made to
us of his character, I remember, struck you as something
extraordinary, from its similarity with what you knew of me. "Had
he died," said you, "four years later, on the same day, one might
have supposed a transmigration."
John, my next uncle, was bred a dyer, I believe of wool. Benjamin was bred a silk dyer, serving an apprenticeship in London. He was an ingenious man. I remember, when I was a boy, he came to my father's in Boston, and resided in the house with us for several years. There was always a particular affection between my father and him, and I was his godson. He lived to a great age. He left behind him two quarto volumes of manuscript, of his own poetry, consisting of fugitive pieces addressed to his friends.
He had invented a short-hand of his own, which he taught me, but, not having practiced it. I have now forgotten it. He was very pious, and an assiduous attendant at the sermons of the best preachers, which he reduced to writing according to his method, and had thus collected several volumes of them. Our humble family early embraced the Reformed religion. Our forefathers continued Protestant through the reign of Mary, when they were sometimes in danger of persecution on account of their zeal against popery.
They had an English Bible, and to conceal it, and place it in safety, it was fastened open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint-stool. When my great-grandfather wished to read it to his family, he placed the joint-stool on his knees, and then turned over the leaves under the tapes. One of the children stood at the door to give notice if he saw the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual court.
In that case the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when the Bible remained concealed under it as before. This anecdote I had from Uncle Benjamin. The family continued all of the Church of England till about the end of Charles the Second's reign, when some of the ministers that had been ousted for their non-conformity holding conventicles in Northamp-tonshire, my Uncle Benjamin and Father Josiah adhered to them, and so continued all their lives: the rest of the family remained with the Episcopal Church.
My father married young, and carried his wife with three children to New England, about 1685. The conventicles being at that time forbidden by law, and frequently disturbed in their meetings, some considerable men of his acquaintance determined to go to that country, and he was prevailed with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy the exercise of their religion with freedom. By the same wife my father had four children more born there, and by a second wife ten others, in all seventeen; of whom I remember to have seen thirteen sitting together at his table, who all grew up to years of maturity, and were married; I was the youngest son, and the youngest of all the children except two daughters.
I was born in Boston, in New England. My mother, the second wife of my father, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of whom honorable mention is made by Cotton Mather, in his ecclesiastical history of that country, entitled Magnalia Christi Americana, as "a godly and learned Englishman," if I remember the words rightly. I was informed he wrote several small occasional works, but only one of them was printed, which I remember to have seen several years since.
It was written in 1675. It was in familiar verse, according to the taste of the times and people, and addressed to the government there. It asserts the liberty of conscience in behalf of the Anabaptists, the Quakers, and other sectaries that had been persecuted. He attributes to this persecution the Indian wars, and other calamities that had befallen the country, regarding them as so many judgments of God to punish so heinous an offense, and exhorting the repeal of those laws, so contrary to charity.
This piece appeared to me as written with manly freedom and a pleasing simplicity.
My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades. I was put to the grammar-school at eight years of age, my fatehr intending to devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the Church. My early readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read), and the opinion of all my friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his.
My Uncle Benjamin, too, approved of it, and proposed to give me his short-hand volumes of sermons to set up with, if I would learn his short-hand. I continued, however, at the grammar school rather less than a year, though in that time I had risen gradually from the middle of the class of that year to be at the head of the same class, and was removed into the next class, whence I was to be placed in the third at the end of the year. But my father, burdened with a numerous family, was unable, without inconvenience, to support the expense of a college education; considering, moreover, as he said to one of his friends in my presence, the little encouragement that line of life afforded to those educated for it, he gave up his first intentions, took me from the grammar-school, and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a then famous man, Mr. George Brownwell. He was a skillful master, and successful in his profession, employing the mildest and most encouraging methods.
Under him I learned to write a good hand pretty soon, but failed
entirely in arithmetic. At ten years old I was taken to help my
father in his business, which was that of a tallow-chandler and
soap-boiler; a business to which he was not bred, but had assumed
on his arrival in New England, because he found that his dyeing
trade, being in little request, would not maintain his family.
Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wicks for the candles,
filling the molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of
errands, & c.
I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination to go to sea, but my father declared against it; but, residing near the water, I was much in it and on it. I learned to swim well, and to manage boats; and when embarked with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions I was generally the leader among the boys, and sometimes led them into scrapes, of which I will mention one instance, as it shows an early projecting public spirit, though not then justly conducted.
There was a salt-marsh which bounded part of the millpond, on the edge of which, at high water, We used to stand to fish for minnows. By much trampling, we had made it a mere quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharf there for us to stand upon, and I showed my comrades a large heap of stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would very well suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the workmen were gone home, I assembled a number of my play-fellows, and we worked diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, till we had brought them all to make our little wharf.
The next morning the workmen were surprised at missing the stones which formed our wharf. Inquiry was made after the authors of this transfer; we were discovered, complained of, and corrected by our fathers; and, though I demonstrated the utility of our work, mine convinced me that that which was not honest could not be truly useful.
I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was.
He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well
set, and very strong: he could draw prettily, and was skillled a
little in music; his voice was sonorous and agreeable, so that when
he played on his violin and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do
after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable
to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and, on occasion, was
very handy with other tradesmen's tools; but his great excellence
was his sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential
matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true, he was
never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate
and the straitness of his Circumstances keeping him close to his
trade: but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading
men, who consulted him for his opinion in public affairs, and those
of the church he belonged to, and who showed a great respect for
his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private
persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and
frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties.
At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was set before me. Indeed, I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner of what dishes it consisted.
This has been a great convenience to me in traveling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites. My mother had likewise an excellent constitution: she suckled all her ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have any sickness but that of which they died, he at 89, and she at 85 years of age. They lie buried together at Boston.
To return: I continued thus employed in my father's business for
two years, that is, till I was twelve years old; and my brother
John, who was bred to that business, having left my father,
married, and set up for himself at Rhode Island, there was every
appearance that I was destined to supply his place, and become a
tallow-chandler. But my dislike to the trade continuing, my father
had apprehensions that if he did not put me to one more agreeable,
I should break loose and go to sea, as my brother Josiah had done,
to his great vexation.
In consequence, he took me to walk with him, and see joiners, bricklayers, turners, braziers, & c., at their work that he might observe my inclination, and endeavor to fix it on some trade or profession that would keep me on land. It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has been often useful to me to have learned so much by it as to be able to do some trifling jobs in the house when a workman was not at hand, and to construct little machines for my experiments, at the moment when the intention of making them was warm in my mind.
My father determined at last for the cutlery's trade, and placed me for some days on trial with Samuel, son to my Uncle Benjamin, who was bred to that trade in London, and had just established himself in Boston. But the sum he exacted as a fee for my apprenticeship displeased my father, and I was taken home again. Form my infancy I was passionately fond of reading, and all the money that came into my hands was laid out in the purchasing of books I was very fond of voyages. My first acquisition was Bunyan's works in separate little volumes.
I afterward sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton's Historical Collections; they were small chapmen's books, and cheap, 40 volumes in all. My father's little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic divinity, most of which I read. I have often regretted that, at a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen in my way, since it was resolved I should not be bred to divinity. There was among them Plutarch's Lives, which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage.
There was also a book of De Foe's, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Mather's, Call an Essay to do Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life. In 1717 my brother James returned from England with a press and letters to set up his business in Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father, but still had a hankering for the sea. To prevent the apprehended effect of such an inclination, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother.
I stood out some time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the
indentures when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to serve as
an apprentice till I was twenty-one years of age, only I was to be
allowed journeymen's wages during the last year. In a little time I
made a great progress in the business, and became a useful hand to
my brother. I had now access to better books. An acquaintance with
the apprentices of booksellers enabled me sometimes to borrow a
small one, which I was careful to return soon and clean.
Often I sat up in my chamber the greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening to be returned in the morning, lest it should be found missing. About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With that view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiments in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should occur to me.
Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual search for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it.
Therefore I took some of the tales in the Spectator, and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collection of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and complete the subject.
This was to teach me method in the arrangement of the thoughts. By comparing my work with the original, I discovered many faults and corrected them; but I sometimes had the pleasure to fancy that, in particulars of small consequence, I had been fortunate enough to improve the method or the language, and this encouraged me to think that I might in time come to be a tolerable English writher, of which I was extremely ambitious. The time I allotted for writing exercises and for reading was at night, or before work began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house, avoiding as much as I could the constant attendance at public worship which my father used to exact from me when I was under his care, and which I still continued to consider as a duty, though I could not afford time to practice it.
While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an
English grammar (I think it was Greenwood's) having at the end of
it two little sketches on the arts of rhetoric and logic, the
latter finishing with a dispute in the Socratic method; and soon
after I procured Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein
there are many examples of the same method.
I was charmed with it, adopted it, dropped my abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer; and being then, from reading Shaftesbury and Collins, made a Joubter, as I already was in may points of our religious doctrines, I found this method the safest for myself and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I took delight in it, practiced it continually, and grew very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither myself nor my cause always deserved.
I continued this method some few years, but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced any thing that might possibly be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that gave the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather said, I conceive or apprehend a thing to be so and so; it appears to me, or I should not think it so or so, for such and such reasons; or I imagine it to be so; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engaged in promoting; and, as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning and sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat most of those purposes for which speech was given to us. In fact, if you wish to instruct others, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may occasion opposition and prevent a candid attention.
If you desire instruction and improvement from others, you
should not, at the same time, express yourself fixed in your
present opinions. Modest and sensible men, who do not love
disputation, will leave you undisturbed in the possession of your
errors. In adopting such a manner, you can seldom expect to please
your hearers, or obtain the concurrence you desire. Pope
judiciously observes, "Men must be taught as if you taught them
not, And things unknown proposed as things forget." He also
recommends it to us, "To speak, though sure, with seeming
And he might have joined with this line that which he has coupled with another, I think, less properly, "For want of modesty is want of sense." If you ask, Why less properly? I must repeat the lines, "Immodest words admit of no defense, For want of modesty is want of sense." Now is not the want of sense (where a man is so unfortunate as to want it) some apology for his want of modesty? And would not the lines stand more justly thus? "Immodest words admit but this defense, That want of modesty is want of sense." This, however, I should submit to better judgments.