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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Memory and the Past Quotes Page 3

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

before I proceed in relating the Part I had in public Affairs under this new Governor's Administration, it may not be amiss here to give some Account of the Rise and Progress of my Philosophical Reputation. (3.119)

While this kind of outside, authorial explanation could also fall under the theme of "Literature and Writing," here we can see how it functions as a kind of authorial memory. Franklin almost forgets that he should give an "Account" of his "reputation," and interjects it here before it gets swept under the rug by his political narrative.

Quote #8

Memo. Thus far was written with the Intention express'd in the Beginning and therefore contains several little family Anecdotes of no Importance to others. What follows was written many Years after in compliance with the Advice contain'd in these Letters, and accordingly intended for the Public. The Affairs of the Revolution occasion'd the Interruption. (1.111)

Here, Franklin inserts an actual form of written memory: a memorandum. This is a shared reminder for the author and the reader. The author steps outside of his life narrative to remind us about its structure, his authorial timeline, and what convinced him to keep writing.

This is also one of the only things Franklin says in the entire Autobiography about the American Revolution, which is what stops him in the middle of his act of writing. In a weird way, it has way more of a place as something that affected writing the book than something that happens in it.

Quote #9

It might too be much better done if I were at home among my Papers, which would aid my Memory, and help to ascertain Dates. But my Return being uncertain, and having just now a little Leisure, I will endeavor to recollect and write what I can; if I live to get home, it may there be corrected and improv'd. (2.31)

Franklin needs help grappling with his memory; he doesn't keep dates and other little facts in it. He promises to do his best "recollect[ing]" even though he doesn't seem to entirely trust his memory all by itself. However, by saying here that he's relying only on his memory, not on additional papers or, say, fact-checking, Franklin gives himself a little loophole for making small errors or talking about things in a different manner from the way they happened.

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