The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
I should have no Objection to a Repetition of the same Life from its Beginning, only asking the Advantage Authors have in a second Edition to correct some Faults of the first. […] However […] the Thing most like living one's Life over again, seems to be a Recollection of that Life; and to make that Recollection as durable as possible, the putting it down in Writing. (1.1)
In this statement, Franklin's explaining one of his reasons for writing his autobiography. He compares life to a book, saying that when books go through a second printing authors or editors get the chance to go back over things and make sure all the mistakes are taken out. But in life, that's not how things work – there are no do-overs. So, Franklin compares remembering life to redoing it, saying that's the closest he can get. He's interested in making that life-memory permanent, or "durable," and the best way to do that is in writing.
He was a pious and prudent Man,
She a discreet and virtuous Woman.
Their youngest Son,
In filial Regard to their Memory,
Places this Stone. (1.12)
This is the inscription Franklin has placed on his parents' gravestone. His choice to memorialize them in this way is surprising, given his attitude towards organized religion and worship. But he takes this traditional step in "Regard" to the "Memory" of his parents. This "Memory" here isn't just Franklin's personal memory of them, it's the idea of them in the community that's left behind.
By my rambling Digressions I perceive myself to be grown old. I us'd to write more methodically. But one does not dress for private Company as for a public Ball. 'Tis perhaps only Negligence. (1.13)
Franklin pokes fun at his "rambling Digressions," which is kind of like code for saying his writing in this section isn't very structured. He says his writing used to be more organized, but blames his disorganization on his age. The self he remembers was more orderly. He also says that, since this section of the book is just for family, the fact that he's rambling isn't as big of a deal. This prompts us to question who Franklin is really writing the Autobiography for; sure, it's addressed to his son at this point, but you've got to wonder if he's already thinking of a larger audience.