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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Principles Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Most People dislike Vanity in others whatever Share they have of it themselves, but I give it fair Quarter […] it is often productive of Good to the Possessor and to others that are within his Sphere of Action: And therefore in many Cases it would not be quite absurd if a Man were to thank God for his Vanity among the other Comforts of Life. (1.1)

You've got to wonder why Franklin is always defending things like vanity and pride – perhaps because he recognizes his own tendency to have vain or proud moments. Here, though, he makes a really persuasive argument for why vanity should be allowed, and why it even can be seen as a gift from God. This also shows us the strength of his argumentative skills, which he tells us about in Part 1.

Quote #2

I began now to have some Acquaintance among the young People of the Town, that were Lovers of Reading with whom I spent my Evenings very pleasantly and gaining Money by my Industry and Frugality. (1.38)

What a model gentleman: this is Franklin's idea of a wild night out on the town, reading, working, and saving cash. It's actually kind of sweet; according to this description, he's the kind of guy you'd do well to bring home to Mom and Dad. Funnily enough, though, later in life he gets quite a reputation as a ladies' man. How do we reconcile those two things?

Quote #3

[My father] advis'd me to behave respectfully to the People there, endeavor to obtain the general Esteem, and avoid lampooning and libeling to which he thought I had too much Inclination; telling me, that by steady Industry and a prudent Parsimony, I might save enough by the time I was One and Twenty to set me up, and that if I came near the Matter he would help me out with the Rest. (1.44)

Here, by giving this kind of advice, Franklin's father sounds like another famous literary father: Polonius in Hamlet. Josiah's advice to his son is realistic, brief, and practical; from it, we learn both what he values (respect, good opinions, hard work) and what he thinks Franklin needs to work on (not making fun of people, saving money).