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Laue Thoughts on an Universal Fluid
MY DEAR SON,
I have amused myself with collecting some little anecdotes of my family. You may remember the inquiries I made, when you were with me in England, among such of my relations as were then living; and the journey I undertook for that purpose. To be acquainted with the particulars of my parentage and life, many of which are unknown to you, I flatter myself will afford the same pleasure to you as to me.
I shall relate them upon paper: it will be an agreeable employment of a week's uninterrupted leisure, which I promise myself during my present retirement in the country. There are also other motives which induce me to the undertaking From the bosom of poverty and obscurity, in which I drew my first breath and spent my earliest years, I have raised myself to a state of opulence and to some degree of celebrity in the world. A constant good fortune has attended me through every period of life to my present advanced age; and my descendants may be desirous of learning what were the means of which I made use, and which, thanks to the assisting hand of Providence, have prov. ed so eminently successful. They may, also, should they ever be placed in a similar situation, derive some advantage from my narrative.
When I reflect, as I frequently do upon the felicity I have enjoyed, I sometimes say to myself, that were the offer made true, I would engage to run again, from
beginning to end, the sanie career of life. All I would ask, shouid be the privilege of an author, to correct, in a second edition, certain errors of the first. I could wish, likewise, if it were in my power, to change some trivial incidents and events for others more favourable. Were this, however, denied me, still would I not de. cline the offer. But since a repetition of life canno. take place, there is nothing which, in my opinion, so nearly resembles it, as to call to mind all its circum. stances, and, to render their remembrance more dura. ble, commit them to writing. By thus employing myself, I shall yield to the inclination, so natural in old men, to talk of themselves and their exploits, and may freely follow my bent, without being tiresome to those who, from respect to my age, might think thenie selves obliged to listen to me; as they will be at li. berty to read me or not as they please. In fine-and I may as well avow it, since nobody would believe me were I to deny it-I shall, perhaps, by this employ: ment, gratify my vanity. Scarcely, indeed, have I ever heard or read the introductory phrase, “I may say without vanity," but some striking and characteristic instance of vanity has immediately followed. The generality of men hate vanity in others, however strongly, they may be tinctured with it themselves : for myself, I pay obeisance to it wherever I meet with it persuaded that it is advantageous, as well to the indi. vidual whom it governs, as to those who are within the sphere of its influence. Vi consequence, it would in many cases, not be wholly absurd, that a man should count his vanity among the other sweets of life, and give thanks to Providence for the blessing.
And here let me with all humility acknowledge, that to Divine Providence I am indebted for the felicity I have hitherto enjoyed. It is that power alone which has farnished me with the means I have employed, and that has crowned them with success. My faith, in this respect, leads me to hope, though I cannot count upon it, that the Divine goodness will still be exercised towards me, either by prolonging the duration of my happiness to
che close of life, or by giving me fortitude to support any melancholy reverse, which may happen to me, as to so many others. My future fortune is unknown out to Him in whose hand is our destiny, and who can make our very afflictions subservient to our benefit.
One of my uncles, desirous, like myself, of collecting anecdotes of our family, gave me some notes, from which I have derived many particulars respecting our ancestors. From these I learn, that they liv. ed in the same village (Eaton in Northamptonshire,) upon a freehold of about thịrty acres, for the space at least of three hundred years. How long they had resided there, prior to that period, my uncle had been unable to discover; probably ever since the institution of surnames, when they took the appellation of Franklin, which had formerly been the name of a particular order of individuals.*
This petty estate would not have sufficed for their subsistence, had they not added the trade of blacksmith, which was perpetuated in the family down to
* As a proof that Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in England, see Judge Fortesque, De laudibus legum Angliæ, written about the year 141., in which is the following passage, to shew that good juries might easily be formed in any part of England:
“ Regio etiam illa, ita respersa refertaque est possessoribus terrarum et agrorum, quod in ea, tillula tam parva reperiri non poterit, in qua non est miles, armiger, vel fater-familias, qualis ibidem franklin vulgariter nuncupatur, magnisditatus possegsionibus. nec non libere tenentes et alii valeoti plurimi, suis patrimoniis sufficientes, ad faciendum juratam, in forma prædotata."
" Moreover, the same country is so filled and replenished with landed menne, that therein so small a thorpe cannot be found wherein dwelleth not a knight, an esquire, or such a householder as is there commonly called a franklín, enriched with great possessions, and also other freeholders and many yeomen, able for their livelihood to make a jury in form aforementioned.'
OLD TRANSLATION. Chaucer too, calls his country-gentleman a franklin ; and after describing his good housekeeping, thus characterizes hirr :
This worthy franklin bore a purse of silk