Out of the Home and into the World
I am in a fair Way of having no other Tasks than such as I shall like to give my Self, and of enjoying what I look upon as a great Happiness, Leisure to read, make Experiments, and Converse at large with such ingenious and worthy Men as are pleas'd to honour me with their Acquaintance.
--Franklin to Cadwallader Colden, September 29, 1748
FAR FROM EXPERIENCING the period of depression so often associated with middle age, Franklin in his forties blossomed into a new person, more exuberant, more joyous and creative, leaping from a new selfconfidence into a new freedom. At forty-two, halfway through his life, he retired from business. The merchant closed shop--and the scientist emerged. The printer put down his tools--and the civic leader came forth. The local postmaster quit--and the deputy postmaster-general took office. Three new careers for Franklin but the end of an era for his wife. From now on, more of a spectator than a collaborator, she could no longer play a decisive role in their partnership.
After eighteen arduous years of publishing, printing, and selling, the frugal and industrious couple had become rich enough to give up the shop and the press. The annual incomes from the capital Franklin had invested in various printing partnerships, from his position as postmaster, his real estate in Philadelphia, and his savings must have amounted to almost two thousand pounds, as much as the salary of Pennsylvania's governor. The penny-pinching period dating back to his indenture at the age of twelve was over. The family moved to a more spacious house further from the din of the market, acquired slaves, and adopted a more elegant way of life. And just about the time he decided that the moment had come to please himself, Philadelphia, too, began to discover other pleasures, a taste for gay diversions, social refinements, and a more disinterested pursuit of learning. The first