Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Essay: "The Titan Leeds Hoax." Benjamin Franklin.

One-minute review: Titan Leeds was a competing writer of almanacs who engages in a feud with Franklin who wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders. Franklin falsely predicts Leeds’s death because such a gentleman as Leeds would never say the things he is saying about Franklin, his “dearest friend.” Franklin continues the fiction that Leeds is dead. And to prove it he publishes a letter that Leeds’s ghost has written through Franklin when he was asleep, a letter predicting that another almanac will be published by someone else under Leeds’s name. The following quote is an example of Franklin’s humor, written with tongue firmly in cheek:


“There is, however, (and I cannot speak it without sorrow) there is the strongest probability that my dear friend is no more; for there appears in his name, as I am assur’d, an almanack for the year 1734, in which I am treated in a very gross and unhandsome manner; in which I am call’d a false predicter, an ignorant, a conceited scribbler, a fool and a lyar. Mr. Leeds was too well bred to use any man so indecently and so scurrilously, and moreover his esteem and affection for me was extraordinary: so that it is to be fear’d that pamphlet may be only a contrivance of somebody or other, who hopes perhaps to sell two or three year’s almanacks still, by the sole force and virtue of Mr. Leeds’ name: but certainly, to put words into the mouth of a gentleman and a man of letters, against his friend [Franklin], which the meanest and most scandalous of the people might be asham’d to utter in a drunken quarrel, is an unpardonable injury to his memory, and an imposition upon the publick.”

Comment: I’m reminded of the retort given to someone who has bitterly criticized another person: “He always speaks well of you.” RayS.

American Essays. Ed. Charles B. Shaw. A Pelican Mentor Book. New York: The New American Library. 1948.

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