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Ben Franklin

“You mention your being in your seventy-eighth year; I am in my seventy-ninth; we are grown old together. It is now more than sixty years since I left Boston, but I remember well both your father and grandfather, having heard them both in the pulpit and seen them in their houses.

The last time I saw your father [Cotton Mather] was in the beginning of 1724, when I visited him after my first trip to Pennsylvania. He received me in his library, and on my taking leave showed me a shorter way out of the house through a narrow passage, which was crossed by a beam overhead. We were still talking as I withdrew, he accompanying me behind, and I turning partly towards him, when he said hastily, ‘Stoop, stoop!’ I did not understand him, till I felt my head hit against the beam. He was a man that never missed any occasion of giving instruction, and upon this he said to me, ‘You are young, and have the world before you; STOOP as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps.’ This advice, thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me; and I often think of it, when I see pride mortified, and misfortunes brought upon people by their carrying their heads too high.”


Benjamin Franklin, writing in a letter to his friend Samuel Mather on May 12th, 1784. (Thank you, Mary, for bringing this to my attention.)

The above section is rightly one of the most cited bits of personal writing from Franklin, though the conclusion of this same note is also worth parsing. It reads:

“Let us preserve our reputation, by performing our engagements; our credit, by fulfilling our contracts; and our friends, by gratitude and kindness: for we know not how soon we may again have occasion for all of them.

With great and sincere esteem,
I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient and
Most humble servant,

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