By Paul M. Zall

Humor is usually a significant company, in particular the humor of Benjamin Franklin, a grasp at revealing the human situation via comedy. For the country’s bicentennial, Reader’s Digest named Franklin "Man of the yr" for embodying the features we respect such a lot approximately ourselves as Americans—humor, irony, strength, and clean perception. Recreating Franklin’s phrases within the approach that his contemporaries might have learn and understood them, Paul M. Zall chronicles Franklin’s use (and abuse) of humor for advertisement, diplomatic, and political reasons. devoted to the uniquely attractive and enduring humor of Benjamin Franklin, Zall lovingly samples Franklin’s apologues at the necessity of residing quite even if life’s situations could seem absurd.

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On the surface, the tale appears to be a gratuitous joke, but in fact it is essential to making Franklin’s point—a hallmark of his comic storytelling. A certain Curate lived in the Island of Jamaica, who loved his Bottle, no curate better; he chanced to be drinking in a Tavern, when he was called upon to do the last Offices to a Brother departed; upon which with great Reluctance he leaves his Company, but told them he would return immediately: away he hies to the Place of Burial, and, as is usual, reads over the Service for the Dead, ’till he came to the Words, I heard a Voice from Heaven, saying, blessed, &c.

This Wight shall give himself an Hours Diversion with the Cock of a Man’s Hat, the Heels of his Shoes, an unguarded Expression in his Discourse, or even some Personal Defect; and the Height of his low Ambition is to put some One of the Company to the Blush, who perhaps must pay an equal Share of the Reckoning with himself. If such a Fellow makes Laughing the sole End and Purpose of his Life, if it is necessary to his Constitution, or if he has a great Desire of growing suddenly fat, let him treat; let him give publick Notice where any dull stupid Rogues may get a Quart of Fourpenny [ale] for being laugh’d at; but ’tis barbarously unhandsome, when Friends meet for the Benefit of Conversation, and a proper Relaxation from Business, that one should be the Butt of the Company, and Four Men made merry at the Cost of the Fifth.

Till lately, receiving a very severe Dun, which mention’d the next Court, I began in earnest to project Relief. Last Monday my Dear went over the River, to see a Relation, and stay a Fortnight, because she could not bear the Heat of the Town. In the Interim, I have taken my Turn to make Alterations, viz. I have turn’d away the 37 B ENJAMIN F RANKLIN ’ S H UMOR Maid Bag and Baggage (for what should we do with a Maid, who have (except my Boy) none but our selves). I have sold the fine Pacing Mare, and bought a good Milch Cow, with 3 pounds of the Money.

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