The Origin of “Poor” Richard Saunders

Thomas Charpentier
Professor Allison
CI H-133
29 March 2016
Origin of ‘Poor’ Richard Saunders
In class we discussed Franklin’s pen name for his almanacs, Richard Saunders, or “Poor Richard”. Franklin often used pseudonyms, and would usually create them from individuals he admired. For example, the pseudonym Silence Dogood was taken from the names of two essays published by notable preacher Cotton Mather Essays to do Good and Silentiarius: A Brief Essay on the Holy Silence and Godly Patience, that Sad Things are to be Entertained withal, so we see the Silence and the Dogood were taken from here.
Now Richard Saunders was supposed to be a working class man readers of the almanac could take advice from, this is why he became “Poor Richard” after a few publications. Franklin wanted to write an almanac, and took his pseudonym from the secret writer of another influential almanac of the time the Rider’s British Merlin that was published in England from 1656 to around 1830. The author of the almanac was Cardanus Rider, widely accepted as a pen name for the real author. The name is actually an anagram that forms the name Ric_ard Saunder_, Richard Saunders being an English physician and astrologer of the time. And so Franklin took a name for his almanacs to be written under.
Franklin not only used someone else’s name for his almanacs he also borrowed heavily from the satirist Jonathan Swift’s pen name character “Isaac Bickerstaff”. Swift wrote three letters under this pseudonym, an astrologer and philomath, predicting, incorrectly of course, the deaths of notable astrologers of the time. The fake predictions and false reporting of several astrologers’ deaths became a running joke in the early publications of Poor Richard’s Almanac. Now we see Franklin took the name of his almanac writer from one astrologist almanac writer, and the personality for this character mostly from Swift’s satirical astrologist, while poking fun at other astrologists along the way.

Ross, John F. (September 1940). “The Character of Poor Richard: Its Source and Alteration”. PMLA (Modern Language Association) 55 (3): 785–794.

Silence Dogood essay #11

Thomas Charpentier
Professor Robert Allison
1 February 2016
Silence Dogood Essay XI
The eleventh Silence Dogood essay was written for the August 13th issue of the New-England Courant in 1722, and involves the request of an older virgin woman, who refers to herself as Margaret Aftercast, asking for relief for women who have remained virgins and are unmarried over the age of thirty. The “petitioner” says she was once a younger woman who would immediately spurn the advances of any suitors simply because she was young, attractive, and could. Now in her advanced years the woman has remained a virgin and has no suitors, due to her dismissal of many for no legitimate reason, and now regrets this. She requests some relief program be set up to care for aging women who cannot find a suitor and are still virgins by the age of thirty.
Franklin, as Silence, proposes a society of older virgins lacking any suitors to receive 500 pounds sterling. Franklin also made three rules for the society; members cannot be admitted if after the age of 25 they continued to discard “humble servants without sufficient reason” unless she writes her regret and remorse. The second rule that a member could not refuse credible offers from suitors and still receive the 500 pounds. The third rule was that the woman could not hold and praise company over her husband for more than an hour, so essentially she had to treat her husband well. Franklin clearly outlined the rules and functions of this society, unambiguously so that anyone reading this could have made it without any further questions.
I am not sure of Franklin is being sarcastic here, though it really does not seem to be the case, but if he is not then I strongly disagree with him. I think these women that treated their suitors like objects and got rid of them as soon as they grew tired of them were cruel and this is poetic justice. No one owes them anything, especially not any money; I researched how much 500 pounds sterling would be worth today, and the closest estimate inflated the price of 500 pounds from 1774 to today and that alone was over $70,000 American! For being cruel to suitors and by your own fault being alone, that is all it takes to get 70 grand? If anything I think Franklin should have said it was awful that this woman’s actions affected her life, and expressed how sorry he was that she was a terrible person.

James Franklin’s printing shop

This is the address where James Franklin first published the ‘New-England Courant’. This was also the print shop where Benjamin Franklin was first introduced to the printing press. The site is less than 500 feet from the site of the Boston Massacre, and just down the street from Benjamin’s birthplace.                                                                                 ben franklin 2ben franklin