Monday, October 26, 2009

October 26: Franklin Learned the Secret (Vol. 1, pp. 14-21)

Consider this passage from Benjamin Franklin's "Autobiography" a plug for the joy of reading the Harvard Classics. It definitely is an ode to the joys of being a bookworm.

Franklin was an ambitious young man and the fuel for that ambition was his voracious appetite for the written word. As a printer's apprentice, he used his money to buy books and devoured Plutarch and the pulp fiction of his day with equal gusto. He read The Spectator and shamelessly stole from its style. Any spare moment young Ben had was devoted to reading, and the reading in turn informed his writing and served as "a principal means of my advancement."

Ben was wise enough to know he wasn't a poet and that prose was the way to go. He learned from Alexander Pope that the key to converting the readers of your writing to your point of view -- to inform, to please or to persuade -- is to be positive. He quotes Pope as saying that "men should be taught as if you taught them not, and things unknown propos'd as things forgot" and that "for want of modesty is want of sense."

In other words, one can be certain of one's point of view, but it's not necessary to beat someone over the head with it.

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