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Fortunately, the attitude that we're a little lower than the devil, and not to be exposed to the bare truths of human nature, but rather to be deceived into goodness by wooden heroes and lay figures, seems to be passing away. But, even worse, the other extreme has been reached. Everything good is questionable; and the bad is not bad enough. We live in an age of debunkment. In athletics, a golden crown has replaced the laurel wreath; the stage is obscene; art is acrobatic; music is barbaric; institutions are enslaving; life is a long slippery rope with a noose at the end.
Some of this is sound criticism of modern life. But then we're not content to belittle ourselves but we must dig back and give our fathers the proverbial turn-over in their graves: Washington was a cursing drunkard; Hamilton gadded about with too many women; Linclon's cabin was probably a mansion anyway. And so it goes; and this is bad business.
The Vagabond likes to feel that in the old times there were giants upon the earth; even as there are great men living today. He is willing to accept his old friends for the good they did despite the bare truth about cherry trees, Shepland ponies, false teeth and plaster feet.
All this little dissertation was brought about by the fact that Benjamin Franklin will pass before Professor Matthiessen for judgment this morning. There are many opportunities for debunking even this wise American. But the fact that he was born in Boston on a once pure Milk Street and baptized in Old South Church should protect his life in a thoroughly puritanical manner.
Almost everyone knows the story of this most versatile of our countrymen. How he carried bread under his arm in Philadelphia; how his future wife laughed at him for loafing up the street. How he lit up the city with street lamps; the improvements he made in the roads. The city's first fire department; how he founded the circulating library, a new kind of stove, and the American Philosophical Society. His missions to England were exceedingly fruitful; his mistress in France one of the most beautiful women of the era; his gout and his gall stones and a fall down the stairs led to his death. Then again there was the Saturday Evening Post.
The Vagabond is frank to admit that he is not as well acquainted with the literary Franklin as he would like to be. He does know that his Autobiography, the Dogwood Papers and the Almanack are delightful. And it is indeed with pleasure that he goes to Harvard 6 tomorrow at ten to hear more about this thrifty, jolly, wise American.
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