Colloquial Powers of Dr. Benjamin Franklin; by William Wirt

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I thought I would share this in light of the so-called “record” snow-fall in the United States this year.

Colloquial Powers of Dr. Benjamin Franklin; by William Wirt (1772 – 1834) Former U.S. Attorney General

Never have I known such a fireside companion as he was!—Great as he was, both as a statesman and a philosopher, he never shone in a light more winning than when he was seen in a domestic circle. It was once my good fortune to pass two or three weeks with him, at the house of a private gentleman, in the back part of Pennsylvania; and we were confined to the house during the whole of that time, by the unintermitting [unceasing, non-stop] constancy and depth of the snows. But confinement could never be felt where Franklin was an inmate.—His cheerfulness and his colloquial powers spread around him a perpetual spring.—When I speak, however, of his colloquial powers, I do not mean to awaken any notion analogous to that which Boswell has given us, when he so frequently mentions the colloquial powers of Dr. Johnson. The conversation of the latter continually reminds one of “the pomp and circumstance of glorious war.” It was, indeed, a perpetual contest for victory, or an arbitrary and despotic exaction of homage to his superior talents. It was strong, acute, prompt, splendid and vociferous; as loud, stormy, and sublime, as those winds which he represents as shaking the Hebrides, and rocking the old castles that frowned upon the dark rolling sea beneath. But one gets tired of storms, however sublime they may be, and longs for the more orderly current of nature of Franklin no one ever became tired. There was no ambition of eloquence, no effort to shine, in any thing which came from him. There was nothing which made any demand either upon your allegiance or your admiration.

His manner was as unaffected as infancy. It was nature’s self. He talked like an old patriarch; and his plainness and simplicity put you, at once, at your ease, and gave you the full and free possession and use of all your faculties.

His thoughts were of a character to shine by their own light, without any adventitious aid. They required only a medium of vision like his pure and simple style, to exhibit, to the highest advantage, their native radiance and beauty. His cheerfulness was unremitting. It seemed to be as much the effect of the systematic and salutary exercise of the mind as of its superior organization. His wit was of the first order. It did not show itself merely in occasional coruscation’s; but, without any effort or force on his part, it shed a constant stream of the purest light over the whole of his discourse. Whether in the company of commons or nobles, he was always the same plain man; always most perfectly at his ease, his faculties in full play, and the full orbit of his genius forever clear and unclouded. And then the stores of his mind were inexhaustible. He had commenced life with an attention so vigilant, that nothing had escaped his observation, and a judgment so solid, that every incident was turned to advantage. .His youth had not been wasted in idleness, nor overcast by intemperance. He had been all his life a close and deep reader, as well as thinker; and, by the force of his own powers, had wrought up the raw materials, which he had gathered from books, with such exquisite skill and felicity, that he had added a hundred fold to their original value, and justly made them his own.

One thought on “Colloquial Powers of Dr. Benjamin Franklin; by William Wirt

  1. Pingback: United States The “Real” Blizzard of 1888 #blizzardof2015 #Snowmageddon2015 | Foundation Truths

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