The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Section Twenty Two
Section Twenty Two
While I lodg’d in Little Britain I made an Acquaintance with one Wilcox a Bookseller, whose Shop was at the next Door. He had an immense Collection of second-hand Books. Circulating Libraries were not hen in Use; but we agreed that on certain reasonable Terms which I have now forgotten, I might take, read & return any of his Books. This I esteem’d a great Advantage, & I made as much use of it as I could.
My Pamphlet by some means falling into the Hands of one Lyons, a Surgeon, Author of a Book entitled The Infallibility of Human Judgment, it occasioned an Acquaintance between us; he took great Notice of me, call’d on me often, to converse on those Subjects, carried me to the Horns, a pale Ale-House in [blank] Lane, Cheapside, and introduc’d me to Dr Mandeville, Author of the Fable of the Bees, who had a Club there, of which he was the Soul, being a most facetious entertaining Companion. Lyons too introduc’d me to Dr Pemberton, at Batson’s Coffee House, who promis’d to give me an Opportunity some time or other of seeing Sir Isaac Newton, of which I was extremely desirous; but this never happened.
I had brought over a few Curiosities among which the principal was a Purse made of the Asbestos, which purifies by Fire. Sir Hans Sloane heard of it, came to see me, and invited me to his House in Bloomsbury Square; where he show’d me all his Curiosities, and persuaded me to let him add that to the Number, for which he paid me handsomely.
In our House there lodg’d a young Woman; a Milliner, who I think had a Shop in the Cloisters. She had been genteelly bred, was sensible & lively, and of most pleasing Conversation. Ralph read Plays to her in the Evenings, they grew intimate, she took another Lodging, and he follow’d her. They liv’d together some time, but he being still out of Business, & her Income not sufficient to maintain them with her Child, he took a Resolution of going from London, to try for a Country School, which he thought himself well qualify’d to undertake, as he wrote an excellent Hand, & was a Master of Arithmetic & Accounts. This however he deem’d a Business below him, & confident of future better Fortune when he should be unwilling to have it known that he once was so meanly employ’d, he chang’d his Name, & did me the Honor to assume mine. For I soon after had a Letter from him, acquainting me, that he was settled in a small Village in Berkshire, I think it was, where he taught reading & writing to 10 or a dozen Boys at 6 pence each per Week, recommending Mrs T. to my Care, and desiring me to write to him, directing for Mr Franklin Schoolmaster at such a Place. He continu’d to write frequently, sending me large Specimens of an Epic Poem, which he was then composing, and desiring my Remarks & Corrections. These I gave him from time to time, but endeavor’d rather to discourage his Proceeding. One of Young’s Satires was then just publish’d. I copy’d & sent him a great Part of it, which set in a strong Light the Folly of pursuing the Muses with any Hope of Advancement by them. All was in vain. Sheets of the Poem continu’d to come by every Post. In the mean time Mrs T. having on his Account lost her Friends & Business, was often in Distresses, & us’d to send for me, and borrow what I could spare to help her out of them. I grew fond of her Company, and being at this time under no Religious Restraints, & presuming on my Importance to her, I attempted Familiarities, (another Erratum) which she repuls’d with a proper Resentment, and acquainted him with my Behavior. This made a Breach between us, & when he return’d again to London, he let me know he thought I had cancel’d all the Obligations he had been under to me. So I found I was never to expect his Repaying me what I lent to him or advanc’d for him. This was however not then of much Consequence, as he was totally unable: And in the Loss of his Friendship I found myself reliev’d from a Burden. I now began to think of getting a little Money beforehand; and expecting better Work, I left Palmer’s to work at Watts’s near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a still greater Printinghouse. Here I continu’d all the rest of my Stay in London.