Benjamin Franklin’s genius gave him no rest. A discontented man finds no easy chair. On April 4, 1757, he left Philadelphia by carriage, and reached New York just four days later, ready to sail for London. But one delay piled upon another, like so much ragged paper jamming a printing press, and he found himself stuck for more than two months. In all his fifty-one years, he could barely remember having “spent Time so uselessly.” (From childhood, Franklin, the son of a chandler, had toiled from dawn to dusk only to squander the tallow “reading the greatest Part of the Night.”) Waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough. He had some business to attend to—he wrote a new will, and more letters than other men write in a lifetime—but it was scarcely enough. “This tedious State of Uncertainty and long Waiting, has almost worn out my Patience,” he wrote to his wife, asking her to send along a pair of spectacles he had left behind. What signifies your Patience, if you can’t find it when you want it. He didn’t board until June 5th, and then the confounded ship lay anchored at Sandy Hook for two weeks. In his cabin, maybe even before the ship finally sailed on June 20th, he at last found something to do: he set about stringing together proverbs taken from twenty-five years of his “Poor Richard’s Almanack.”
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