1
SILENCE DOGOOD
1722–1723

At thirteen, Franklin plunged into print with a timely ballad about
lighthouse keeper George Worthylake drowning with two daugh-
ters in the heavy November surf of Boston Harbor. A few months
later, he followed with another timely ballad on the capture of the
notorious pirate Blackbeard off the Carolina coast. Emboldened,
he adopted higher models. Having learned to write by imitating
Addison and Steele’s popular Spectator essays, Franklin aspired to
their role as censor of morals and manners. He would correct
deviations from community standards by exposing them to
ridicule. At sixteen, he transplanted their style to Boston in James
Franklin’s New-England Courant. He left no doubt about his model
in his first sketch, using many of the Spectator’s words. No attribu-
tion was necessary, because readers would have known Addision
and Steele’s style anywhere. Such copying, common in Franklin’s
time, would be considered legitimate imitation.1

Franklin, fearing that James never would have published
work by a mere boy otherwise, slipped the first “Silence Dogood”
essay through the door under cover of darkness and the pseud-
onym Silence Dogood, a feisty Boston widow lady. The Courant
ran fourteen of her essays fortnightly from 2 April through 8
October 1722. Mrs. Dogood’s timely remarks on society and
fashion sometimes resonate with Benjamin Franklin’s incipient

-11-

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Benjamin Franklin's Humor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction - A Life in Laughter 1
  • 1- Silence Dogood 1722–1723 11
  • 2- Paragraphs in Philadelphia 1729–1735 27
  • 3- Philadelphia’s Poor Richard 1733–1748 47
  • 4- Philadelphia Comic Relief 1748–1757 65
  • 5- Making Friends Overseas 1757–1774 85
  • 6- Losing London 1773–1776 103
  • 7- Seducing Paris 1776–1782 119
  • 8- Comic Release 1783–1785 137
  • 9- Revising Past and Future 1786–1790 153
  • Notes 169
  • Sources 175
  • Index 181
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