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cutler, and I was placed, for some days, upon trial with my cousin Samuel, son of my uncle Benjamin, who had learned this trade in London, and had established himself at Boston. But the premium he required for my apprenticeship displeasing my father, I was recalled home.
From my earliest years I had been passionately fond of reading; and laid out in books all the money I could procure. I was particularly pleased with accounts of voyages. My first acquisition was Bunyan's collection in small separate volumes.
These I afterwards sold in order to buy ar historical collection which consisted of small cheap volumes, amounting in all to about forty or fifty. My father's little library was principally made up of books of practical and polemical theology. I read the greatest part of them. I have since often regretted, that at that time when I had so great a thirst for knowledge, more eligible books had not fallen into my hands, as it was then a point decided, that I should not be educated for the church. There was among my father's books Plutarch's Lives, in which I read continually, and I still regard as advantageously employed the time I devoted to them. I found, besides, a work of De Foe's, entitled, an Essay on Projects, from which, perhaps, I derived impressions that have since influenced some of the principal events of my life. My inclination for books at last determined:
my father to make me a printer, though he had already a son in that profession. My brother had returned from England in 1717, with a press and types, in order to establish a printing-house at Boston. This business pleased me much better than that of my father, though I had still a predeliction for the
To prevent the effects which might result from this inclination, my father was impatient to see me engaged with my brother. I held back for some time; at length, however, I suffered myself to be persuaded, and signed my indentures, being then only twelve years of age. It was agreed that I should serve as apprentice to the age of twenty-one, and should receive journeyman's wages only during the last year.
In a very short time I made great proficiency in this business, and became very serviceable to my brother. I had now an opportunity of procuring better books. The acquaintance I necessarily formed with booksellers' apprentices, enabled me to borrow a volume now and then, which I never failed to return punctually and without injury. How often has it happened to me to pass the greater part of the night in reading by my bed-side, when the book had been lent me in the evening, and was to be returned the next morning; lest it might be missed or wanted!
At length, Matthew Adams, an ingenious tradesman, who had a handsome collection of books, and who frequented our printing-house, took notice of me. He invited me to see his library, and had the goodness to lend me any books I was desirous of reading. I then took a strange fancy for poetry, and composed several little pieces. My brother, thinking he might find his account in it, encouraged me, and engaged me to write two ballads. One, called the Lighthouse Tragedy, containing the shipwreck of captain Worthilake and his two daughters; the other, was a sailor's song on the capture of the noted pirate called Black-Beard. They were wretched verses in point of style, mere blind-man's ditties. When printed, he despatched me about the town to sell them. The first had a prodigious run, because the event was recent and had made a great noise.
My vanity was flattered by this success : but my father checked my exultation, by ridiculing my productions, and telling me that versifiers were always poor. I thus escaped the misfortune of being,
probably, a very wretched poet. But as the faculty of writing prose has been of great service to me in the course of my life, and principally contributed to my advancement, I shall relate' by what means, situated as I was, I acquired the small skill I may possess in that way.
There was in the town another young man, a great lover of books, of the name of John Collins, with whom I was intimately connected. We frequently engaged in dispute, and were indeed so fond of argumentation, that nothing was so agreeable to us as a war of words. This contentious temper, I would obserye, by the bye, is in danger of becoming a very bad habit, and frequently renders a man's company insupportable, as being no otherwise capable of indulgence than by indiscriminate contradiction. Independently of the acrimony and discord it introduces into conversation, it is often productive of dislike, and even hatred, between persons to whom friendship is indispensably necessary I acquired it by reading, while I lived with my father, in books of religious controversy.. I have since remarked, that men of senso and good education, seldom fall into this error.
Collins and I, one day, in an argument relative to the education of women, namely, whether it were proper to instruct them in the sciences, and whether they were competent to the study? Collins, supported the negative, and affirmed that the task was beyond their capacity, I maintained the opposite opinion, a little perhaps for the pleasure of disputing. He was, naturally, more eloquent than 1; words flowed copiously from his lips; and frequently I thought myself vanquished, more by his volubility than by the force of his arguments. We separated without coming to an agreement upon this point; and as we were not to see each other again for some time, I committed my thoughts to paper, made a fair copy, and sent it to him. He answered, and I replied. Three or four letters had been written by each, when my father chanced to light upon my papers and read them. Without entering into the merits of the cause, he embraced the opportunity of speaking to me upon my manner of writing. He observed, that though I had the advantage of my adversary in correct spelling and pointing, which I owed to my occupation, I was greatly his inferior in elegance of expression, in arrangement, and perspicuity. Of this he convinced me by several examples. I felt the justice of his remarks, became more attentive to language, and resolved to make every effort to improve my style. Amidst these resolves an odd volume of the Spectator fell into my hands. This was a publication I had never seen.
I bought the volume, and read it again and again. I was enchanted with it, thought the style excellent, and wished it were in my power to imitate it. With this view I selected some of the papers, made short summaries of the sense of each period, and put them for a few days aside. I then, without looking at the book, endeavoured to restore the essays to their true form, and to express each thought at length, as it was in the original, employing the most appropriate words that occurred to my mind. I afterwards compared my Spectator with the original; I perceived some faults, which I corrected; but I found that I wanted a fund of words, if I may so express myself, and a facility of recollecting and employing them, which I thought I should by that time have acquired, had I continued to make verses.
The continual need of words of the same meaning, but of different lengths, for the measure, or of different sounds for the rhyme, would have obliged me to seek for a variety of synonymes, and have rendered me master of them. From this belief, I took some of the tales of the Spectator, and turned them into verse; and after a time, when I had suficiently forgotten them, I again converted them into prose.
Sometimes, also, I mingled all my summaries together, and a few weeks after, endeavoured to arrange them in the best order, before I attempted to form the periods, and complete the essays. This I did with a view of acquiring method in the arrangement of my thoughts. On comparing, afterwards, my performance with the original, many faults were apparent, which I corrected; but I had sometimes the satisfaction to think, that, in certain particulars of little importance, I had been fortunate enough to improve the order of thought, or the style; and this encouraged me in hope that I should succeed, in time, in writing decently in the English language, which was one of the great objects of my ambition.
The time which I devoted to these exercises, and to reading, was the evening after my day's labour was finished, the morning, before it began, and Sundays, when I could escape attending Divine service. While I lived with my father, he had insisted on my punctual attendance on public worship, and I still consider it as a duty.
When about 16 years of age, a work of Tryon fell into my hands, in which he recommends vegetable diet. I determined to observe it. My brother, being a bachelor, did not keep house, but boarded with his apprentices in a neighbouring family. My refusing to eat animal food was found inconvenient, and I was often scolded for my singularity. I attended to the mode in which Tryon prepared some of his dishes, particularly how to boil potatoes and rice, and make hasty puddings. I then said to my brother, that if he would allow me per week half what he paid for my board, I would undertake to maintain myself. The offer was instantly embraced, and I soon found that of what he gave me I was able to save half. This was a new fund for the purchase of books, and other advantages resulted to me from the plan. When my brother