Review: Poor Richard’s Almanacks

Wow! Simply wow! Where to begin? Well, to start, Poor Richard is reputedly the first hoax ever pulled over the eyes of a given public. I wonder how long it took for Mr. Saunders to be unmasked as the one and only Benjamin Franklin, the founding father who was so high and balls deep in so many prostitutes that he forgot to be president! All the material of all the Almanacs was printed over a 25-year period from 1732-1758. Probably more for lack of competition than anything else that makes these publications the most important pre-Revolutionary literature produced in the States.

Again, the question comes up, where to begin? Haven’t I already begun? Balls! The almanacs (or to spell them more awesomely Almanacks) all follow a basic structure, although the edition I have leaves out the non-pertinent to now information that also forgoes Franklin’s classic cleverness. First off, usually, Richard Saunders addresses himself to his audience in an amusing letter which unfolds as a sort of tale and eulogy over his friend’s death over the years. Then you have the months which almost always start with 6 or 8 lines of verse followed by a number of aphorisms numbering 1-4. Then, I suppose when the matter tickles his fancy, he puts perhaps a little anecdote and/or some more lines of verse perhaps elucidating further on the anecdote.

He does this for all 12 months of each year without fail. Then, if he’s so inclined he includes a coda featuring verse or prose on a given topic addressing problems that strike him, especially on matters regarding the courts (which sound like even then were problematic). The entirety of the book runs in this way as a sort of crash-course in wisdom the likes of which would be rarely repeated. He admits his sayings are often as much gleanings as yarns that he perhaps fashioned himself but that’s no matter. The value of them is more often than not unquestionable.

Truth be told I’d rather not give away any of the book as it is all the highest of wheat reaped from the fields. I will however talk a bit on the Autobiography which you will remember I didn’t score as well at the time. Now that I’ve read this as compared with that I regret my original score of the book and will be bumping that one up at least a notch or two retrospectively. I had thought that perhaps the Autobiography had pulled too much from the almanacs. Boy was I ever wrong on that count. And now that I understand the folly of my past beliefs I now regard the autobiography as what it more should be regarded as: an unfinished masterpiece.

Benjamin Franklin’s prodigious talents have absolutely stood the test of time, such that his contributions stand as impressive even in this day and age, which usually is marked by insouciance about such things. No matter. I compare Franklin to Da Vinci in a way, for he was a true renaissance man well after the actual time period.

Final Grade: A+

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