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Maxims from Poor Richard's Almanack (1733, by Benjamin Franklin)

MAXIMS FROM POOR RICHARD'S ALMANACK (1733, by Benjamin Franklin)

A compilation of stories, adages, and folksy wisdom published annually by Benjamin Franklin from 1732 to 1757, Poor Richard's Almanack was an important contribution to the development of a unique American idiom based on independence, practicality, temperance, and plain-spoken honesty. The son of a Boston soap maker, Franklin (1706–1790) would go on to become a major figure in American and international politics as delegate to the Continental Congress, Postmaster General, and appointee to the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. His standing in England was high, even during the troubled days leading up to the American Revolution, and following the war, the French came to regard him as an important philosopher and a significant influence on revolutionary thought. The Almanack, sold in 1757, continued publication under a different title until 1796 and is still available in many modern editions.

Laura M.Miller,
Vanderbilt University

See also Almanacs ; Poor Richard's Almanack .

The Good And Virtuous Life

A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough.
A lie stands on one leg, truth on two.

Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
Eat to live, and not live to eat.

There are three things extremely hard, steel, a diamond, and to know one's self.

Industry, Frugality, And Thrift

Little strokes fell great oaks.
Early to bed and early to rise,
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Follies And Faults; Vanities And Vices

E'er you remark another's sin,
Bid your conscience look within.

Success has ruined many a man.
Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked, and never well mended.

He is a governor that governs his passions, and he a servant that serves them.
Fools need advice most, but wise men only are the better for it.

He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.
Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.

When reason preaches, if you don't hear her she'll box your ears.

Women And Marriage

Love, cough, and a smoke can't well be hid.
Where there's marriage without love, there will be love without marriage.


To err is human, to repent divine; to persist devilish.
A mob's a monster; heads enough but no brains.

War brings scars.
Fish and visitors smell in three days.

Men and melons are hard to know.

Wit And Wisdom

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of.

Great talkers, little doers.
God helps them that help themselves.

In the affairs of this world, men are saved not by faith but by the want of it.

SOURCE: Franklin, Benjamin (as Richard Saunders). Poor Richard, 1734: An Almanack and following years. Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1733 ff.

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