Friday, January 07, 2005

Poor Richard Denies He Is Franklin

"Although Franklin loved the freedom afforded by writing under the thin disguise of Poor Richard, he occasionally poked through the veil in a humorous way. Some of his pseudononymous pieces he made sure remained anonymous, but usually it was well known that he was the writer. At the end of 1735, he made fun of this process by having Poor Richard, in his preface for 1736, pretend to protest about those who thought he was merely a fictional invention of his printer Franklin."
Walter Isaacson, A Benjamin Franklin Reader, pp.100-101

Poor Richard's Almanac for 1736

Loving Readers,
Your kind acceptance of my former labors, has encouraged me to continue writing, though the general approbation you have been so good as to favor me with, has excited the envy of some, and drawn upon me the malice of others. These ill-willers of mine, despited at the great reputation I gained by exactly predicting another man's death, have endeavored to deprive me of it all at once in the most effectual manner, by reporting that I my self was never alive. They say in short, that there is no such a man as I am; and have spread this notion so thoroughly in the country, that I have been frequently told it to my face by those that don't know me. This is not civil treatment, to endeavor to deprive me of my very being, and reduce me to a non-entity in the opinion of the public. But so long as I know my self to walk about, eat, drink and sleep, I am satisfied that there is really such a man as I am, whatever they may say to the contrary: and the world may be satisfied likewise; for if there were no such man as I am, how is it possible I should appear publicly to hundreds of people, as I have done for several years past, in print? I need not, indeed, have taken any notice of so idle a report, if it had not been for the sake of my printer, to whom my enemies are pleased to ascribe by productions; and who it seems is as unwilling to father my offspring, as I am to lose the credit of it. Therefore to clear him entirely, as well as to vindicate my own honor, I make this public and serious declaration, which I desire may be believed, to wit, that what I have written heretofore, and do now write, neither was nor is written by any other man or men, person or persons whatsoever. Those who are not satisfied with this, must needs be very unreasonable.
My performance for this year follows; it submits itself, kind reader, to thy censure, but hopes for thy candor, to forgive its faults. It devotes itself entirely to thy service, and will serve thee faithfully: and if it has the good fortune to please its master, 'tis gratification enough for the labor of poor
R. Saunders

Mark Anderson:
Props to Hugh Hewitt for the link.