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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Literature and Writing Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Now imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the Circumstances of my Life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with; and expecting a Week's uninterrupted Leisure in my present Country Retirement, I sit down to write them for you. (1.1)

This quotation connects imagination and writing in the mind of the author. Before Franklin can begin to write his narrative, he has to conjure up an imaginary audience for it. Not only does he have to come up with the audience, he's creating one that he thinks will be happy to hear about and be interested in his life. Then, the line works like a subliminal message, encouraging the reader to find the story "agreeable."

Quote #2

But as Prose Writing has been of great Use to me in the Course of my Life, and was a principal Means of my Advancement, I shall tell you how in such a Situation I acquir'd what little Ability I have in that Way. (1.16)

In this metatextual sentence, Franklin tells us about how he learned to write while using the writing process. While we've got Franklin as author writing in "prose," in the autobiographical form, we've also got Franklin as narrator telling us about a particular turn in the story. But this statement also reveals the kind of character Franklin is: a person who's practical, in working on the kind of writing that's useful to him, and a person who's modest, putting down the considerable writing abilities he's simultaneously showing to us.

Quote #3

I fell far short in elegance of Expression, in Method and in Perspicuity, of which he [Collins] convinc'd me by several Instances. I saw the Justice of his Remarks, and thence grew more attentive to the Manner in Writing, and determin'd to endeavor at Improvement. (1.17)

Here, Franklin offers us a peek at the peer review workshop he had going on with his friend Collins. Franklin's not afraid here to admit his shortcomings – to take a critique – and also shows here his sense of fairness and his willingness to try and get better. As readers, we could sit in judgment here about the "manner" of his writing and whether, years later, Franklin has achieved the kind of "elegance" he describes here.

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