John Porter Lamberton Julian Hawthorne.

The Masterpieces and the history of literature: analysis ..., Volume 9 online

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These proverbs, which contained the wisdom of many
ages and nations, I assembled and formed into a connected
discourse prefixed to the Almanac of 1757, as the harangue of
a wise old man to the people attending an auction. The
bringing of all these scattered counsels thus into a focus
enabled them to make greater impression. The piece being
universally approved was copied in all the newspapers of the
American continent, reprinted in Britain on a large sheet of
paper to be stuck up in houses. Two translations were made
of it in France; and great numbers of it were bought by the
clergy and gentry, to distribute gratis among their poor
parishioners and tenants. In Pennsylvania, as it discouraged
useless expense in foreign superfluities, some thought it had
its share of influence in producing that growing plenty of
money which was observable several years after its publica-

The Way to Wealth.

(From *' Poor Richard's Almanac")
Courteous reader, I have heard that nothing gives an
author so great pleasure as to find his works respectfully
quoted by others. Judge, then, how much I must been grati-
fied by an incident I am going to relate to you. I stopped
my horse lately where a great number of people were col-
lected at an auction of merchants* goods. The hour of the
sale not being come, they were conversing on the badness of

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the times ; and one of the company called to a plain, clean
old pan, with white locks ; — " Pray, Father Abraham, what
think you of the times? Will not these heavy taxes quite
ruin the country? How shall we ever be able to pay them?
What would you advise us to? '* Father Abraham stood up
and replied, " If you would have my advice, I will give it you
in short ; for A word to the rinse is enough^ as Poor Richard
says.'' They joined in desiring him to speak his mind, and,
gathering round him, he proceeded as follows :

" Friends," said he, " the taxes are indeed very heavy, and,
if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had
to pay, we might more easily discharge them ; but we have
many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We
are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much
by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from
these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or ddiver us, by
allowing an abatement However, let us hearken to good
advice, and something may be done for us ; God helps them
that help themselves^ as Poor Richard says.

** It would be thought a hard government that should tax
its people one-tenth part of their time, to be employed in its
service ; but idleness taxes many of us much more ; sloth, by
bringing on diseases, absolutely shortens life. Shth^ like rusty
consumes/aster than labor wears; while the used key is always
bright^ as Poor Richard says. But dost thou love lifet Then do
not squander time^ for that is the stuff life is made of as Poor
Richard says. How much more than is necessary do we
spend in sleep, forgetting that The sleeping fox catches no
poultry y and that There will be sleeping enough in the grave^
as Poor Richard says.

" If time be of all things the most precious^ wcLsting time
must be^ as Poor Richard says, the greatest prodigality; since,
as he elsewhere tells us. Lost time is never found again; and
what we call time enough always proves little enough. Let
us then up and be doing, and doing to the purpose ; so by
diligence shall we do more with less perplexity.

** But with our industry we must likewise be steady, set-
tled and careful, and oversee our own afiairs, with our own
eyes, and not trust too much to others ; for. Three removes

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are as bad as afire; and again, Keep thy shopy and thy shop
will keep thee; and again, If you would have your business
done^ go; if not^ send.

** So much for industry, my friends, and attention to one's
own business ; but to these we must add frugality, if we would
make our industry more certainly successful. A man may, if
he knows not how to save as he gets, keep his nose all his life
to the grindstone, and die not worth a groat at last A fat
kitchen makes a lean wiU.

" Away, then, with your expensive follies, and you will
not then have so much cause to complain of hard times, heavy
taxes, and chargeable £Eimilies.

" And further. What maintains one vice would bring up
two children. You may think, perhaps, that a little tea or a
little punch now and then, diet a little more costly, clothes a
little finer, and a little entertainment now and then, can be
no great matter ; but remember, Many a little makes a mickle.
Beware of little expenses : A small leak will sink a great
shipy as Poor Richard says; and again. Who dainties love^
shall beggars prove; and moreover, Fools make feasts^ and
wise men eat them.

" Here you are all got together at this sale of fineries and
knickknacks. You call them goods; but, if you do not take
care, they will prove evils to some of you. You expect they
will be sold cheap, and perhaps they may for less than they
cost ; but, if you have no occasion for them, they must be
dear to you. Remember what Poor Richard says : Buy what
thou hast no need of^ and ere long thou shall sell thy necessaries.
And again. At a great pennyworth pause a while. He means,
that perhaps the cheapness is apparent only, and not real ; or
the bargain, by straitening thee in thy business, may do thee
more harm than good. For in another place he says. Many
have been ruined by buying good pennyworths. Again, // is
foolish to lay out money in a purchase of repentance; and yet
this folly is practised every day at auctions, for want of mind-
ing the Almanac. Many a one, for the sake of finery on the
back, have gone with a hungry belly and half-starved their
families. SUks and satins^ scarlet and velvets^ put out the
kitchen fire^ as Poor Richard says.

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" But what madness must it be to run in debt for these
superfluities I We are oflFered, by the terms of thL^ sale, six
months' credit ; and that, perhaps, has induced some of us to
attend it, because we cannot spare the ready money, and hope
now to be finfe without it. But, ah 1 think what you do when
you run in debt ; you give to another power over your liberty.
If you cannot pay at the time, you will be ashamed to see
your creditor ; you will be in fear when you speak to him ;
you will make poor, pitiful, sneaking excuses ; and, by de-
grees, come to lose your veracity, and sink into base, down-
right lying ; for The second vice is lyings the first is running
in debt^ as Poor Richard says ; and again, to the same purpose.
Lying rides upon Debits back; whereas a free-born English-
man ought not to be ashamed nor afraid to see or speak to
any man living. But poverty often deprives a man of all
spirit and virtue. // is hard for an empty bag to stand

** What would you think of that prince, or of that govern-
ment, who should issue an edict forbidding you to dress like
a gentleman or gentlewoman, on pain of imprisonment or
servitude ? Would you not say that you were free, have a
right to dress as you please, and that such an edict would be
a breach of your privileges, and such a government tyran-
nical ? And yet you are about to put yourself under such
tyranny, when you run in debt for such dress ! Your creditor
has authority, at his pleasure, to deprive you of your liberty,
by confining you in jail till you shall be able to pay him.
When you have got your bargain, you may perhaps think
little of payment ; but, as Poor Richard says. Creditors have
better memories than debtors; creditors are a superstitious sect^
great observers of set days and times. The day comes round
before you are aware, and the demand is made before you are
prepared to satisfy it ; or, if you bear your debt in mind, the
term, which at first seemed so long, will, as it lessens, appear
extremely short Time will seem to have added wings to his
heels as well as his shoulders. Those have a short Lent^ who
owe money to be paid at Easter. At present, perhaps, you may
think yourselves in thriving circumstances, and that you can
bear a little extravagance without injury ; but»

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Far age and want save while you may:
No morning sun lasts a whole day.

Gain may be temporary and nncertain, but ever, while you
live, expense is constant and certain ; and // is easier to buHd
two chimneys^ than to keep one infuel^ as Poor Richard says ;
BO, Rather go to bed supperless^ than rise in debt.

''This doctrine, my friends, is reason and wisdom; but,
after all, do not depend too much upon your own industry,
and frugality, and prudence, though excellent things; for
they may all be blasted, without the blessing of Heaven ; and,
therefore, ask that blessing humbly, and be not uncharitable
to those that at present seem to want it, but comfort and help
them. Remember, Job suflFered, and was afterwards prosper-

Thus the old gentleman ended his harangue. I resolved
to be the better for it ; and though I had at first determined
to buy stuff for a new coat, I went away resolved to wear my
old one a little longer. Reader, if thou wilt do the same,
thy profit will be as great as mine. I am, as ever, thine to
serve thee, Richard Saunders.

Turning the Grindstone.

When I was a little boy, I remember, one cold winter^s
morning, I was accosted by a smiling man with an axe on
his shoulder. '*My pretty boy," said he, "has your Either
a grindstone?" "Yes, sir," said I. "You are a fine little
fellow," said he; "will you let me grind my axe on it?"
Pleased with the compliment of "fine little fellow," " Oh yes,
sir," I answered : "it is down in the shop." " And will you,
my man," said he, patting me on the head, "get me a little
hot water? " How could I refuse? I ran, and soon brought
a kettleful. "How old are you? and what's your name?"
continued he, without waiting for a reply : " I am sure you
are one of the finest lads that ever I have seen : will you just
turn a few minutes for me ? "

Tickled with the flattery, like a little fool, I went to work,
and bitterly did I rue the day. It was a new axe, and I
toiled and tugged till I was almost tured to death. The

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school-bell rang, and I could not get away; my hands were
blistered, and the axe was not half ground. At length, how-
ever, it was sharpened; and the man turned to me with,
*'Now, you little rascal, you've played truant: scud to the
school, or you'll buy it!" "Alas!" thought I, "it is hard
enough to turn a grindstone this cold day; but now to be
called a little rascal is too much."

It sank deep in my mind; and often have I thought of it
since. When I see a merchant over-polite to his customers,
— ^begging them to take a little brandy, and throwing his
goods on the counter, — thinks I, That man has an axe to
grind. When I see a man flattering the people, making
great professions of attachment to liberty, who is in private
life a tyrant, methinks, l/ook out, good people! that fellow
would set you turning grindstones. When I see a man
hoisted into oflSce by party spirit, without a single qualifica-
tion to render him either respectable or useful, — alas! me-
thinks, deluded people, you are doomed for a season to turn
the grindstone for a booby.

Letter to Madame Helvetius.

(Written at Passy.)

Mortified at the barbarous resolution pronounced by
you so positively yesterday evening, that you would remain
single the rest of your life, as a compliment due to the mem-
ory of your husband, I retired to my chamber. Throwing
myself upon my bed, I dreamt that I was dead and was trans-
ported to the Elysian Fields.

I was asked whether I wished to see any persons in particu-
lar ; to which I replied, that I wished to see the philosophers.
** There are two who live here at hand in this garden ; they
are good neighbors, and very friendly towards one another."
** Who are they ? " " Socrates and Helvetius." " I esteem
them both highly ; but let me see Helvetius first, because I
understand a little French, but not a word of Greek." I was
conducted to him ; he received me with much courtesy, hav-
ing known me, he said, by character, some time past He
asked me a thousand questions relative to the war, the present
state of religion, of liberty, of the government in France.

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"You do not inquire, then," said I, "after your dear friend,
Madame Helvetius ; yet she loves you exceedingly ; I was in
her company not more than an hour ago." ** Ah," said he,
**you make me recur to my past happiness, which ought to
be forgotten in order to be happy here. For many years I
could think of nothing but her, though at length I am con-
soled. I have taken another wife, the most like her that I
could find ; she is not indeed altogether so handsome, but she
has a great fand of wit and good sense ; and her whole study
is to please me. She is at this moment gone to fetch the best
nectar and ambrosia to regale me ; stay here awhile and you
will see her.'* " I perceive," said I, " that your former friend
is more faithful to you than you are to her ; she has had sev-
eral good offers, but has refused them all. I will confess to
you that I loved her extremely; but she was cruel to me, and
rejected me peremptorily for your sake." ** I pity you sin-
cerely," said he, "for she is an excellent woman, handsome

and amiable. But do not the Ahh6 de la R and the Ahh6

M visit her?" "Certainly they do; not one of your

friends has dropped her acquaintance." " If you had gained
the Abb^ M with a bribe of good coffee and cream, per-
haps you would have succeeded ; for he is as deep a reasoner
as Duns Scotus or St Thomas ; he arranges and methodizes
his arguments in such a manner that they are almost irresisti-
ble. Or, if by a fine edition of some old classic, you had

gained the Abb6 de la R to speak against you, that would

have been still better ; as I always observed, that when he
recommended anything to her, she had a great inclination to
do directly the contrary." As he finished these words the
new Madame Helvetius entered with the nectar, and I recog-
nized her immediately as my former American friend, Mrs.
Franklin ! I reclaimed her, but she answered me coldly; " I
was a good wife to you for forty-nine years and four months,
nearly half a century; let that content you. I have formed
a new connection here, which will last to eternity."

Indignant at this refusal of my Eurydice, I immediately
resolved to quit those ungrateful shades, and return to this
good world again, to behold the sun and you ! Here I am ;
let us avenge ourselves/

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mree wnig saunsis oi tne iimencan
Revolution. The first two cantos of his burlesque epic poem,
"McFingal,'* appeared in January, 1776, and served as one of
the inspiring forces of that struggle of national birth. Pro-
fessor Moses Coit Tyler styles this epic **one of the world's
masterpieces in political badinage,'' and remarks of it : ^* The
verse of * McFingal ' is obviously the verse which since But-
ler's time has been called Hudibrastic ; that is, the rhymed
iambic tetrameters of the earlier English poets, depraved to the
droll uses of burlesque by the Butlerian peculiarities, to wit :
the clipping of words, the suppression of syllables, colloquial
jargon, a certain rapid, ridiculous, jig-like movement and the
jingle of unexpected, fantastic, and often imperfect rhymes.
Furthermore, in many places Trumbull has so perfectly
caught the manner of Butler that he easily passes for him
in quotation. . . . Beyond these aspects of resemblance, it ia
doubtful whether the relation of 'McFingal' to 'Hudibras*
be not rather one of contrast than of imitation. The hero of
the one poem is a pedantic Puritan radical of the time of
Oliver Cromwell ; the hero of the other is a garrulous and
preposterous High-Church Scottish- American Conservative of
the time of George the Third." Professor Tyler sees a much
closer intellectual kinship existing between Trumbull and
Charles Churchill, his English contemporary, than between
Trumbull and Butler.

Trumbull was an infant prodigy, and had passed his Greek
and Latin examinations for Yale College at the age of seven.
He early displayed a gift for ridicule and satirei and in

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"The Owl and the Sparrow** (1772), a fable after Butler,
he first used that Hudibrastic verse which afterwards became
his favorite weapon. Professor Tyler pronounces his " Ode
to Sleep ** (1773)1 to have been " a nearer approach to genuine
poetry than had tiien been achieved by any American, except-
ing Preneau.

In August, 1775, Trumbull penned a burlesque on General
Gage's proclamation. Much of this sarcasm concerning the
rhetorical general survives in "McFingal." The first canto
of the mock epic describes a typical New England town-
meeting, held by excited citizens just after the massacres of
Lexington and Concord. Honorius (in whom Trumbull por-
trayed John Adams, in whose office he was studying law)
makes an impassioned patriotic speech, whereupon Squire
McPingal interrupts him with a bigoted Tory harangue, in
which he shows that the Tories are after titles and other
rewards of self-interest in their allegiance to Parliament and
the King. Honorius, however, denounces Gage as "the
bailijBT and the hangman," the Tories finally try to down him
by hoots and catcalls, and the mob outside at last break in ta
the utter rout of the town-meeting.

It was not until 1782, after the surrender of Comwallis,
that Trumbull finished this epic by its extension to four cantos
— about fifteen hundred lines in all. In the added cantos,
McPingal, the bold Tory squire, is tarred and feathered and
glued to a liberty-pole, after being baited by the mob. He
escapes to his cellar, where he and his fellow-tories hold a clan-
destine council of war. The crestfallen McPingal, in one of
his characteristic fits of prophecy, predicts the woe that is to
come to the Tories, and he has hardly finished when a bat-
talion of Whigs is heard approaching. The desperate Tories
hide in every ridiculous place, but McPingal makes good his
escape through the cellar-window to Boston and his beloved
Gage. The wit and vigor of this latter portion excels that
of the original canto of the town-meeting. As an instance
of Trumbull's Hudibrastic vein may be quoted the following
couplet often improperly accredited :

** No man e'er fdt the halter draw,
With good opinion of the law."

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Trumbull distinguished himself as a lawyer, and rose to
the distinction of judgeship. "McFingal" is a monument
to his varied learning as well as to his wit

The Town-Meeting, p. m.

(From*'M*Fingal," Canto II.)

The Sun, who never stops to dine.
Two hours had pass'd the midway line,
And driving at his usual rate,
Lash'd on his downward car of state.
And now expired the short vacation,
And dinner done in epic fashion ;
While all the crew beneath the trees
Eat pocket-pies, or bread and cheese;
Nor shall we, like old Homer, care
To versify their bill of fare.
For now each party, feasted well,
Throng'd in, like sheep, at sound of bell,
With equal spirit took their places ;
And meeting oped with three Oh-yesses ;
When first the daring Whigs t* oppose,
Again the great M*Fingal rose.
Stretched magisterial arm amain.
And thus assumed th* accusing strain : —

"Ye Whigs, attend, and hear aflfrighted
The crimes whereof ye stand indicted.
The sins and follies past all compass.
That prove you guilty or non compos.
I leave the verdict to your senses,
And jury of your consciences ;
Which, tho' they're neither good nor true.
Must yet convict you and your crew.
Ungrateful sons! a factious band.
That rise against your parent-land !
Ye viper'd race, that burst in strife
The welcome womb that gave your life.
Tear with sharp fangs and forked tongue
Th' indulgent bowels, whence you sprung ;
And scorn the debt of obligation
You justly owe the British nation,

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Which since you cannot pay, your crew
Affect to swear 'twas never due.
Did not the deeds of England's Primate
First drive your fathers to this climate,
Whom jails and fines and ev'ry ill
Forc'd to their good against their will?
Ye owe to their obliging temper
The peopling your new-fangled empire,
While ev'ry British rule and canon
Stood forth your causa sine qua non.
Did they not send you charters o'er,
And give you lands you own'd before,
Permit you all to spill your blood,
And drive out heathen where you could.
On these mild terms, that, conquest won,
The realm you gain'd should be their own.
Or when of late attack'd by those,
Whom her connection made your foes.
Did they not then, distrest in war,
Send Gen'rals to your help from far,
Whose aid you own'd in terms less haughty
And thankfully o'erpaid your quota?
Say, at what period did they grudge
To send you Governor or Judge,
With all their missionary crew.
To teach you law and gospel too?
Brought o'er all felons in the nation.
To help you on in population ;
Propos'd their Bishops to surrender.
And made their Priests a legal tender.
Who only ask'd, in surplice clad.
The simple tythe of all you had :
And now to keep all knaves in awe.
Have sent their troops t' establish law,
And with gunpowder, fire and ball.
Reform your people, one and all.

Yet when their insolence and pride
Have anger'd all the world beside,
When fear and want at once invade,
Can you refuse to lend them aid ;
And rather risque your heads in fight.

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Than gratefully throw in your mite?

Can they for debts make satisfaction,

Should they dispose their realm by auction.

And sell off Britain's goods and land all

To Prance and Spain by inch of candle?

Shall good King George, with want opprest,

Insert his name in bankrupt list,

And shut up shop, like failing merchant.

That fears the bailiffs should make search in't ;

With poverty shall princes strive.

And nobles lack whereon to live?

Have they not racked their whole inventions,

To feed their brats on posts and pensions.

Made ev'n Scotch friends with taxes groan,

And pick'd poor Ireland to the bone ;

Yet have on hand as well deserving.

Ten thousand bastards left for starving ?

And can you now with conscience clear,

Refuse them an asylum here.

Or not maintain in manner fitting

These genuine sons of mother Britain?

T' evade these crimes of blackest grain,

You prate of liberty in vain.

And strive to hide your vile designs

With terms abstruse, like school-divines.

** Your boasted patriotism is scarce.
And country's love is but a farce ;
And afler all the proofe you bring.
We Tories know there's no such thing.
Our English writers of great fame
Prove public virtue but a name.
Hath not Dalrymple showed in print,
And Johnson too, there's nothing in't?
Produc'd you demonstration ample
From others' and their own example,
That self is still, in either faction.
The only principle of action ;
The loadstone, whose attracting tether
Keeps the politic world together :
And spite of all your double^ealing.
We Tories know 'tis so, by feeling.

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" Who heeds your babbling of transmittiiig
Freedom to brats of your begetting,
Or will proceed as though there were a tie
Or obligation to posterity?
We get 'em, bear 'em, breed and nurse;
What has posterity done for us,
That we, lest they their rights should lose,
Should trust our necks to gripe of noose? "

McPingal's Vision of America's Future.

In the third canto McFingal was tarred and feathered, but in the
fourth, which was written after the Revolutionary War, he is repre-
sented as recovering from his disgraceful plight and relating to his
friends the wonderful vision he has seen of the various events of that
strife and the future greatness of America.

And see, (sight hateful and tormenting I)
This rebel Empire, proud and vaunting.
From anarchy shall change her crasis,*
And fix her power on firmer basis ;
To glory, wealth and fame ascend,
Her commerce wake, her realms extend ;
Where now the panther guards his den.
Her desert forests swarm with men ;
Gay cities, towers and columns rise,
And dazzling temples meet the skies:

Online LibraryJohn Porter Lamberton Julian HawthorneThe Masterpieces and the history of literature: analysis ..., Volume 9 → online text (page 3 of 32)