Tuesday, April 18, 2023


      That boy, as Franklin later recalled in his Autobiography, was "extremely ambitious" to become a "tolerable English Writer."  Although literacy was relatively high in New England at this time—perhaps 75 percent of males in Boston could read and write and the percentage was rapidly growing—books were scarce and valuable, and few people read books the way Franklin did.  He read everything he could get his hands on, including John Bunyan's Pilgram's Progress, Plutarch's Lives, Daniel DeFoe's Essay on Projects, the "do good" essays of the prominent Boston Puritan divine Cotton Mather, and more books of "polemic Divinity" than Franklin wanted to remember.  He even befriended the apprentices of booksellers in order to gain access to more books.  One of those apprentices allowed him secretly to borrow his master's books to read after work. "Often," Franklin recalled, "I sat up in my Room reading the greatest Part of the Night, when the Book was borrow'd in the Evening & to be return'd early in the Morning lest it should be miss'd or wanted.

-Gordon S. Wood, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

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