The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
How we cite our quotes:
I mention this Industry the more particularly and the more freely, tho' it seems to be talking in my own Praise, that those of my Posterity who shall read it, may know the Use of that Virtue, when they see its Effects in my Favor throughout this Relation. (1.94)
Franklin gives himself an out for why he seems to be praising himself so much; the question is, whether he's justified. Do the benefits of learning from his experience outweigh his self-congratulations? We wonder whether this statement has the effect of making the Autobiography seem more like a balanced, well-rounded self-portrait, or whether it's another way of saying why its subject keeps showing up in a good light.
In order to secure my Credit and Character as a Tradesman, I took care not only to be in Reality Industrious and frugal, but to avoid all Appearances of the contrary. (1.104)
Good old appearance vs. reality. We have a feeling you might have seen this kind of comparison before. Significantly, this passage makes a parallel between "credit and character," or money and virtue. Once again, wealth and principles are linked. In order to succeed as a businessman, Franklin has to appear virtuous; but, in order to save money and build up his business, he really has to act virtuous, too.
My intention being to acquire the Habitude of all these Virtues, I judg'd it would be well not to distract my Attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time, and when I should be Master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on till I should have gone thro' the thirteen. (2.43)
Once again, we're presented with what a reasonable guy Franklin is. He has a whole list of stuff to work on in order to improve himself. But, instead of getting overwhelmed and all worked up about trying to accomplish them all at once, he creates an organized system for dividing and conquering the virtues. This raises some interesting questions about how you judge virtues against each other – for example, how do you pick what to work on first? last? – and how it's possible to "learn" humility, say, in the same way you might try to study French.