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Founding Filcher

March 2024
1min read

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, PLAGIARIST?

The press has recently shown an unusual interest in historiography. During a long, stern inquiry, it has followed accusations of plagiarism against prominent contemporary historians and often compared fragments of their works with those of their predecessors.

Like most things, the practice is nothing new. A predecessor of ours, Historical Magazine , reported similar goings-on in its January 1860 issue. Here the malefactor was Benjamin Franklin, whose famous aphorisms in Poor Richard’s Almanac helped make the young journalist famous. But as “S.A.G."—probably the Boston physician and historian Samuel Abbott Green— reported, “It is generally supposed that most of the proverbs ... originated with Franklin, although he nowhere lays claim to their originality. I have in my possession a copy of ‘A Collection of English Proverbs,’ by F. Ray [Father John Ray], second edition, Cambridge, 1678, in which many of these maxims are to be found. Below are some from each in parallel columns.”

From Ray’s Proverbs

Early to go to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Marry your sons when you will, your daughters when you can. Full of courtesie, full of craft. Marry in haste and repent at leisure. An old physician, a young barber. Better that the feet slip than the tongue. God sends meat, and the devil sends cooks. A mouse in time may bite in two a cable. God healeth, and the physician hath the thanks. Forewarn’d, forearm’d. Hide nothing from thy minister, physician, and lawyer. A good lawyer and evil neighbour. Love and lordship like no fellowship.

From Poor Richard’s Almanac

Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Marry your son when you will, but your daughter when you can. Full of courtesie, full of craft. Grief often treads upon the heels of pleasure; Marry’d in haste, we oft repent at leisure. Beware of the young doctor and the old barber. Better slip with the foot than with the tongue. Bad commentators spoil the best of books; So God sends meat (they say) the devil cooks. By diligence and patience the mouse bit in two the cable. God heals, and the doctor takes the fee. Forewarn’d, forearm’d. Don’t misinform your doctor nor your lawyer. A good lawyer, a bad neighbor. Love and lordship hate companions.

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