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Ben Franklin question

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    Ben Franklin question

    On the back of the CC Fable book it says, "What if you could teach your child using the same writing program that produced such masters of the language as John Milton, William Shakespeare, and Benjamin Franklin?" Benjamin Franklin stood out to me because I thought he had only a few years of formal schooling and then read widely. I am just curious about how he came to be included among a few examples of famous men who have learned writing using the progymnasmata.

    Thank you!
    DS--9, 3M/4M
    DD--7, mix of 1 and 2
    DD--5, MP K

    From what I have read in his autobiography, he taught himself through imitation of writing he admired, and he did this in an extremely structured way that resembles some aspects the progym. However, you are correct that he didn’t follow it in a formal course of schooling.
    Kristin - Administrator for Vita Beata (discussion classes for MP users)
    DD19; AFROTC and Aerospace Engineering Major
    DD17; Senior - doing MP Divine Comedy, Renaissance & Reformation, Cicero & Augustine, and moderating 4th Grade Literature for Vita Beata.


      Hello there! That is a great question! Benjamin Franklin had an experience with progymnasmata just like Kristin said, by imitating writing he admired. So, he would have read Quintilian's explanations, and seen the models. He may not have encountered it in his "school-age" years, per se, but certainly before he helped to found what is now the University of Pennsylvania. As early as 1721 he formed the Junto, which was for like minded people to discuss ideas, and importantly, to pool their printed resources. Then in 1731 he founded the first subscription library in the United States, thus enabling himself and . So while Franklin did not experience the models in his formative years, he studied them as a young adult, and certainly implemented the skills in his letters and works. There is, most sadly, not a complete list of his books upon his death, but there is this description of what was sold upon his death, from the American Antiquarian which said, quoting an advertisement regarding the sale of his books,

      "Positively will be sold, by Shannon & Poalk "On Saturday, the 12th. inst. at half past six o'clock in the evening. Dr. Benjamin Franklin's Library. This collection, besides a variety of excellent and scarce works in English, French, Italian, German, Greek, Latin, &c., contains several manuscripts, all of which will be sold without reserve. It may with propriety be observed that there never yet was sold at public sale, the library of a man so illustrious, both in the annals . of America and in those of the Arts and Sciences, which he so much aggrandized." (pg 16)

      There is no doubt that being fluent in Latin and French, Greek, and more, that Franklin voraciously read the classical cannon, and imitated its writing in a manner that made him the successful writer that he, himself was also.

      Abigail Johnson
      MPOA Composition and Literature