The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Section Five
I think you may like to know Something of his Person & Character. He had an excellent Constitution of Body, was of middle Stature, but well set and very strong. He was ingenious, could draw prettily, was skill’d a little in Music and had a clear pleasing Voice, so that when he play’d Psalm Tunes on his Violin & sung withal as he sometimes did in an Evening after the Business of the Day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had a mechanical Genius too, and on occasion was very handy in the Use of other Tradesmen’s Tools. But his great Excellence lay in a sound Understanding, and solid Judgment in prudential Matters, both in private & public Affairs. In the latter indeed he was never employed, the numerous Family he had to educate & the straitness of his Circumstances, keeping him close to his Trade, but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading People, who consulted him for his Opinion in Affairs of the Town or of the Church he belong’d to & show’d a good deal of Respect for his Judgment and Advice. He was also much consulted by private Persons about their Affairs when any Difficulty occur’d, & frequently chosen an Arbitrator between contending Parties. At his Table he lik’d 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 turn’d our Attention to what was good, just, & 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 bro’t up in such a perfect Inattention to those Matters as to be quite Indifferent what kind of Food was set before me; and so unobservant of it, that to this Day, if I am ask’d I can scarce tell, a few Hours after Dinner, what I din’d upon. This has been a Convenience to me in travelling, 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 10 Children. I never knew either my Father or Mother to have any Sickness but that of which they dy’d, he at 89 & she at 85 years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a Marble stone over their Grave with this Inscription
And Abiah his Wife
Lie here interred.
They lived lovingly together in Wedlock
Without an Estate or any gainful Employment,
By constant labor and Industry,
With God’s Blessing,
They maintained a large Family
And brought up thirteen Children,
And seven Grand Children
From this Instance, Reader,
Be encouraged to Diligence in thy Calling,
And distrust not Providence.
He was a pious & prudent Man,
She a discreet and virtuous Woman.
Their youngest Son,
In filial Regard to their Memory,
Places this Stone.
J.F. born 1655——Died 1744——Ætat 89
A.F. born 1667——died 1752——85