By Paul M. Zall
Humor is typically a significant enterprise, in particular the humor of Benjamin Franklin, a grasp at revealing the human via comedy. For the country’s bicentennial, Reader’s Digest named Franklin "Man of the 12 months" for embodying the features we recognize so much approximately ourselves as Americans—humor, irony, strength, and clean perception. Recreating Franklin’s phrases within the method that his contemporaries might have learn and understood them, Paul M. Zall chronicles Franklin’s use (and abuse) of humor for advertisement, diplomatic, and political reasons. devoted to the uniquely beautiful and enduring humor of Benjamin Franklin, Zall lovingly samples Franklin’s apologues at the necessity of dwelling kind of even if life’s situations could seem absurd.
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Must a Tradesman’s Daughter, and the Wife of a Tradesman, necessarily and instantly be a Gentlewoman? — What Answer she made, I cannot tell, for knowing that a Man and his Wife are apt to quarrel more violently when before Strang39 B ENJAMIN F RANKLIN ’ S H UMOR ers, than when by themselves, I got up and went out hastily: But I understood from Mary, who came to me of an Errand in the Evening, that they dined together pretty peaceably, (the Balls of Thread that had caused the Difference, being thrown into the Kitchen Fire) of which I was very glad to hear.
11 This sort of anesthetized sensibility will surface repeatedly in Franklin’s satires. I am a young Girl of about thirty-five, and live at present with my Mother. I have no Care upon my Head of getting a Living, and therefore find it my Duty as well as Inclination to exercise my Talent at Censure, for the Good of my Country folks. There was, I am told, a certain generous Emperor, who if a Day had passed over his Head, in which he had conferred no benefit on any man, used to say to his Friends, in Latin, Diem perdidi, that is, it seems, I have lost a Day.
No. 2]3 28 Paragraphs in Philadelphia Franklin’s next Busy-Body sketch plays on the theme of Spectator No. 243, which contrasts men of probity and virtue with those who blacken and defame them. Busy-Body contrasts the virtues of a rustic gentleman of fortune, Cato, with the vices of a wellknown villain, here called Cretico, whom he dissects with sharp invective. O Cretico! Thou sowre Philosopher! Thou cunning Statesman! Thou art crafty, but far from being Wise. When wilt thou be esteem’d, regarded and belov’d like Cato?