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it has ever since been a pleasure to me [he says] to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so much by it as to be able to do little odd jobs myself in my house . . . and to construct little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the experiment was fresh and warm in my mind.

Throughout his boyhood and youth he apparently devoured every book that he could lay hands upon. He went through his father's shelves of “polemic divinity” ; read abundantly in Plutarch's Lives; acquired Bunyan's works “in separate little volumes,” which he later sold to buy Burton's Historical collections; received an impetus towards practical improvements from Defoe's Essay upon projects and an impetus towards virtue from Mather's Essays to do good. Before he left Boston he had his mind opened to free speculation and equipped for logical reasoning by Locke's Essay concerning human understanding, the Port Royal Art of thinking, Xenophon's Memorabilia, and the works of Shaftesbury and Collins.

Franklin found the right avenue for a person of his “bookish inclination” when his brother James, returning from England in 1717 with a press and letters, set up in Boston as a printer, and proceeded to the publication of The Boston gazette, 1719, and The New England Courant, 1721. Benjamin, aged twelve, became his apprentice. It can hardly be too much emphasized that this was really an inspiring “job.” It made him stand at a very early age full in the wind of local political and theological controversy. It forced him to use all his childish stock of learning and daily stimulated him to new acquisitions. It put him in touch with other persons, young and old, of bookish inclination. They lent him books which kindled his poetic fancy to the pitch of composing occasional ballads in the Grub Street style, which his brother printed, and had him hawk about town. His father discountenanced these effusions, declaring that “verse-makers were generally beggars” ; but coming upon his son's private experiments in prose, he applied the right incentive by pointing out where the work “fell short in elegance of expression, in method, and in perspicuity.” “About this time,” says Franklin in a familiar paragraph, “I met with an odd volume of the Spectator.”

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