The seventh letter to the New England Courant from Benjamin Franklin’s fictional Silence Dogood is a strong piece of satire that pokes fun at the severe lack of any poetic writing in the New England colonies. Even at 16 it appeared that Franklin had a strong grasp on writing in a satirical manner–for could the praising of an elegy as the “the most Extraordinary Piece that ever was wrote in New-England” be anything but satire? This piece at first expounds upon the fact that many foreigners criticize New England for not producing any “good Poetry.” Franklin, as Mrs. Dogood, disputes this claim, arguing that the elegy of one Mrs. Mehitebell Kitel is one of the most “moving and pathetick” pieces he’d ever read. He then lightheartedly seems to analyse the piece for all of its merits and symbolism, explaining the merit of the supposed literary masterpiece to his audience. Franklin, of course, does not stop there. He continues on, urging others to take up the pen and write their own masterpieces, offering his assistance in the form of giving his own personal recipe for writing an elegy for a woman who has departed.
This tongue-in-cheek letter to the Courant is a prime example of the way Franklin tends to address problems he sees in the world around him. This matter-of-fact, satirical tone is present in many of his satirical works, such as the The Speech of Miss Polly Baker. His tone isn’t caustic–it is more on the gentle side of satire but is nonetheless jaded in its purpose. He is urging his fellow New Englanders to take up the pen like he has and express themselves in words other than for writing elegies. He is trying to cultivate the growth of a literary culture within the colonies, hoping that his words will inspire others to usher in works of poetic art that will prove wrong foreigners that may criticize them for their lack of them.
Franklin was a masterful craftsman of words, and this talent is easily displayed even in the works of his 16 year old self. The letters from Silence Dogood were Franklin’s means of speaking his mind and expressing himself, and would set him down a path that would allow him to usher in change in the New World.