and a smattering of wisdom drawn there from

Ol’ Ben Franklin began his professional life as a printer. Beginning in the year 1732, under what would become his most famous of many pseudonyms, Richard Saunders, he began publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack after the traditions of almanac making which had developed in England during the late 17th and early 18th centuries (but whose origins stretch much further back). In the main it contained weather forecasts and astronomical information and was hugely successful. It is Franklin’s best known publication, remembered today primarily for the assorted nuggets of wit and wisdom which were peppered throughout its pages. “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise” for instance is an old chestnut from Poor Richard. But there are many, many more which are less well remembered. I’ve taken the liberty of reprinting a smattering of them below. 

Ne’er take a wife till thou hast a house (& a fire) to put her in.

Love well, whip well.

Hunger never saw bad bread.

Beware of the young Doctor & the old Barber.

The poor have little, beggars none, the rich too much, enough not one.

After 3 days men grow weary, of a wench, a guest, & weather rainy.

He that drinks fast, pays slow.

The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.

Men & Melons are hard to know.

He’s the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.

Keep your mouth wet, feet dry.

Where bread is wanting, all’s to be sold.

Old Maids lead Apes there, where the old Batchelors are turn’d to Apes.

He that has neither fools, whores nor beggars among his kindred, is the son of a thunder-gust.

He that lives upon Hope, dies farting.

Never praise your Cyder, Horse, or Bedfellow.

Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.

Let thy maidservant be faithful, strong, and homely.

Necessity never made a good bargain.

There’s many witty men whose brains can’t fill their bellies.

Pain wastes the Body, Pleasures the Understanding.

There’s more old Drunkards than old Doctors.

She that paints her Face, thinks of her Tail.

Poverty wants some things, Luxury many things, Avarice all things.

A Lie stands on 1 leg, Truth on 2.

Great wits jump (says the Poet) and hit his Head against the Post.

If you know how to spend less than you get, you have the Philosophers-Stone.

Why does the blind man’s wife paint herself?

Force shits upon Reason’s Back.

He that speaks much, is much mistaken.

He that would live in peace & at ease, Must not speak all he knows, nor judge all he sees.

Would you persuade, speak of Interest, not of Reason.

Teach your child to hold his tongue, he’ll learn fast enough to speak.

He that is rich need not live sparingly, and he that can live sparingly need not be rich.

He does not possess Wealth, it possesses him.

Onions can make ev’n Heirs and Widows weep.

A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.

The greatest monarch on the proudest throne, is oblig’d to sit upon his own arse.

Poor Dick, eats like a well man, and drinks like a sick.

Well done is better than well said.

He that pursues two Hares at once, does not catch one and lets t’other go.

Great talkers should be cropt, for they’ve no need of ears.

Who has deceiv’d thee so oft as thy self?

Write with the learned, pronounce with the vulgar.

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

Wish not so much to live long as to live well.

Reading makes a full Man, Meditation a profound Man, discourse a clear Man.

Thou can’st not joke an Enemy into a Friend; but thou may’st a Friend into an Enemy.

How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them!

Tis a strange forest that has no rotten wood in’t.
And a strange Kindred that all are good in’t.

Observe all men; thy self most.

-Richard Suanders.

Some are pretty “corny” in this day and age I guess, (the seemingly simplistic and “preachy” form of the proverb, or aphorism, itself is inherently hard to swallow for we moderns I think, is anyone bothering to coin new ones?) but c’mon: “He that lives upon Hope, dies farting.” That’s pure gold.

If you are into nuggets such as these, and those above are not enough to slake your thirst for Poor Richard’s varied wisdom, see:

600 proverbs from 1734-1747 by Benjamin Franklin. (more here, here, here, and here.)

For more on the almanac see:

here, here, here, here, here, here,  and for some insight into Franklin’s use of “chiasmus” see here.

Before you go, let me leave you with this:

“An empty bag cannot stand upright.”

True indeed.

06.25. filed under: !. books. history. ideas. 2