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expressed my approbation of amusing ourselves some times with poetry, with a view to improve our style. In consequence of this it was proposed, that, at our next meeting, each of us should bring a copy of ver. ses of his own composition. Our object in this com. -petition was to benefit each other by our mutual remarks, criticisms, and corrections; and as style and expression were all we had in view, we excluded every idea of invention, by agreeing that our task-should be a version of the eighteenth psalm, in which is de 'scribed the descent of the deity.
The time of our meeting drew near, when Ralph called upon me, and told me his piece was ready. I informed him that I had been idle, and, not much liking the task, had done nothing. He showed me his piece, and asked what I thought of it. I expressed myself in terms of warm approbatiou, because it really appeared to have considerable merit. He then said : Osborne will never acknowledge the smallest degree of excellence in any production of mine. Envy alone dictates to him a thousand animadversions. Of you he is not so jealous : I wish therefore you would take the verses and produce them as your own. I will pretend not to have had leisure to write any thing. We shall then see in what manner he will speak of them. I agreed to this little artifice, and immediately transcribed the verses to prevent all suspicion.
We met. Watson's performance was the first that was read. It had some beauties, but many faults. We next read Osborne's, which was much better.Ralph did it justice, remarking a few imperfections, and ap; lauding such parts as were excellent. He had himself nothing to show. It was now my turn. I made some difficulty ; seemed as if I wished to be excused ; pretended that I had had no time to make
corrections, &c. No excuse, however, was admissi·ble, and the piece must be produced. It was read and re-read. Watson and Osborne immediately resigned the palm, and united in applauding it. Ralph alone made a few remarks, and proposed some alterations ; but I defended my text. - Osborne agreed with me, and told Ralph he was no more able to criticise than he was able to write.
When Osborne was alone with me, he expressed himself still more strongly in favor of what he considered as my performance. He pretended that he had put some restraint on himself before, apprehensive of my construing his commendation into flattery. But who would have supposed, said he, Franklin to be ca. pable of such a composition? What painting, what energy, what fire ! He has surpassed the original. In his common conversation he appears not to have choice of words; he hesitates, and is at a loss; and yet, good God, how he writes!
At our next meeting Ralph discovered the trick we had played Osborne, who was rallied without mercy.
By this adventure Ralph was fixed in his resolution of becoming a poet. I left nothing unattempted to divert him from his purpose ; but he persevered, till at last the reading of Pope* effected his cure : he be. came, however, a very tolerable prose writer. I shall speak more of him hereafter ; but as I shall probably have no farther occasion to mention the other two, I ought to observe here, that Watson died a few years after in my arms. He was greatly regretted, for he was the best of our society. Osborne went to the islands, where he gained considerable reputation as a barrister, and was getting money ; but he died young. We had seriously engaged, that whoever died first should return, if possible, and pay a friendly visit to the
* Probably the Dunciad, where we find him thus immorbalized by the author :
Silence ye wolves, while Ralph to Cynthia howls,
survivor, to give him an account of the other world ; but he has never fulfilled his engagement.
The governor appeared to be fond of my company, and frequently invited me to his house. He always spoke of his intention of settling me in business, as a point that was decided. I was to take with me letters of recommendation to a number of friends; and particularly a letter of credit, in order to obtain the necessary sum for the purchase of my press, types, and pas. per. He appointed various times for me to come for these letters, which would certainly be ready ; and when I came, always put me off to another day.
These successive delays continued till the vessel whose departure had been several times deferred, was on the point of setting sail ; when I again went to Sir William's house, to receive my letters and take leave, of him. I saw his secretary, Dr. Bard, who told me that the governor was extremely busy writing, but that he would be down at Newcastle before the vessel, and that the letters would be delivered to me there.
Ralph, though he was married and had a child, determined to accompany me in this voyage. His object was supposed to be the establishing a correspon. dence with some mercantile houses, in order to sell goods by commission ; but I afterwards learned, that, having reason to be dissatisfied with the parents of his wife, he proposed to himself to leave her on their hands, and never return to America again.
Having taken leave of my friends, and interchanged promises of fidelity with Miss Read, I quitted Philadelphia. At Newcastle the vessel came to anchor. The governor was arrived, and I went to his lodgings. His secretary received me with great civility, told me on the part of the governor that he could not see me then, as he was engaged in affairs of the utmost im. portance, but that he would send the letters on board, and that he wished me, with all his heart, a good voyage and speedy return. I returned, somewhat aston
ished, to the ship, but still without entertaining the slightest suspicion.
Mr. Hamilton, a celebrated barrister of Philadel. phia, had taken a passage to England for himself and his son, and, in conjunction with Mr. Denham a qua. ker, and Messrs. Oniam and Russel, proprietors of a forge in Maryland, had agreed for the whole cabin, so that Ralph and I were obliged to take up our lodging with the crew. Being unknown to every body in the ship, we were looked upon as the common order of people : but Mr. Hamilton and his son (it was James, who was afcerwards governor) left us at Newcastle, and returned to Philadelphia, where he was recalled, at a very great expence, to plead the cause of a vessel that had been seized : and just as we were about to sail, colonel Finch came on board, and shewed me many civilities. The passengers upon this paid me more attention, and I was invited, together with my friend Ralph, to occupy the place in the cabin which the return of the Mr. Hamiltons had made vacant ; an offer which we very readily accepted.
Having learned that the dispatches of the governor had been brought on board by colonel Finch, I asked the captain for the letters that were to be entrusted to my care. He told me that they were all put together in the bag, which he could not open at present : but before we reached England, he would give me an opportunity of taking them out. I was satisfied with this answer, and we pursued our voyage.
The company in the cabin were all very sociable, and we were perfectly well off as to provisions, as we had the advantage of the whole of Mr. Hamilton's who had laid in a very plentiful stock. During the passage Mr. Denham contracted a friendship for meg which ended only with his life : in other respects the voyage was by no means an agreeable one, as we had much bad weather.
When we arrived in the river, the captain was as
good as his word, and allowed me to search the bag for the governor's letters. I could not find a single one with my name written on it, as committed to my care ; but I selected six or seven, which I judged from the direction to be those that were intended for me ; particularly one to Mr Basket the king's printer, and another to a stationer, who was the first person I called upon. I delivered him the letter as coming from governor Keith. " I have no acquaintance (said he) " with any such person ;" and opening the letter, • oh, it is from Riddlesden !” he exclaimed. “I have « lately discovered him to be a very arrant knave, and
I wish to have nothing to do either with him or his 6 letters." "He instantly put the letter into my hand, turned upon bis heel, and left me to serve some customers.
I was astonished at finding these letters were not from the governor. Reflecting and putting circumstances together, I then began to doubt his sincerity. I rejoined my friend Denham, and related the whole affair to him. He let me at once into Keith's character, told me there was not the least probability of his having written a single letter ; that no one who knew him ever placed any reliance on him, and laughed at my credulity in supposing that the governor would give me a letter of credit, when he had no credit for himself. As I showed some uneasiness respecting what step I should take, he advised me to try to get employment in the house of some printer. You may there, said he, improve yourself in business, and you will be able to settle yourself the more advantageously when you returiy to America.
We knew already, as well as the stationer, attorney Ridlesden to be a knave. He had nearly ruined the father of Miss Read, by drawing him in to be his security. We learned from his letter, that he was secretly carrying on an intrigue, in concert with the governor, to the prejudice of Mr. Hamilton, who it