Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE BUSY-BODY—NO. V - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. I Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734
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THE BUSY-BODY—NO. V - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. I Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. I (Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734).
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THE BUSY-BODY—NO. V
Tuesday, March 4, 1728-9.
This paper being designed for a terror to evil-doers, as well as praise to them that do well, I am lifted up with secret joy to find that my undertaking is approved and encouraged by the just and good, and that few are against me but those who have reason to fear me.
There are little follies in the behaviour of most men which their best friends are too tender to acquaint them with; there are little vices and small crimes which the law has no regard to or remedy for; there are likewise great pieces of villany sometimes so craftily accomplished, and so circumspectly guarded that the law can take no hold of the actors. All these things and all things of this nature come within my province as Censor; and I am determined not to be negligent of the trust I have reposed in myself, but resolve to execute my office diligently and faithfully.
And that all the world may judge with how much humanity as well as justice I shall behave in this office, and that even my enemies may be convinced I take no delight to rake into the dunghill lives of vicious men, and to the end that certain persons may be a little eased of their fears and relieved from the terrible palpitations they have lately felt and suffered and do still suffer, I hereby graciously pass an act of general oblivion, for all offences, crimes, and misdemeanors of what kind soever, committed from the beginning of the year 1681 until the day of the date of my first paper, and promise only to concern myself with such as have been since and shall hereafter be committed. I shall take no notice who has (heretofore) raised a fortune by fraud and oppression, nor who by deceit and hypocrisy; what woman has been false to her good husband’s bed, nor what man has, by barbarous usage or neglect, broken the heart of a faithful wife, and wasted his health and substance in debauchery; what base wretch has betrayed his friend and sold his honesty for gold, nor what baser wretch first corrupted him and then bought the bargain;—all this and much more of the same kind I shall forget and pass over in silence; but then it is to be observed that I expect and require a sudden and general amendment.
These threatenings of mine I hope will have a good effect, and if regarded may prevent abundance of folly and wickedness in others, and at the same time save me abundance of trouble; and that people may not flatter themselves with the hopes of concealing their loose misdemeanors from my knowledge, and in that view persist in evil-doing, I must acquaint them that I have lately entered into an intimacy with the extraordinary person who some time since wrote me the following letter; and who, having a wonderful faculty that enables him to discover the most secret iniquity, is capable of giving me great assistance in my designed work of reformation.
I rejoice, Sir, at the opportunity you have given me to be serviceable to you, and, by your means, to this province. You must know that such have been the circumstances of my life, and such were the marvellous concurrences of my birth, that I have not only a faculty of discovering the actions of persons that are absent or asleep, but even of the devil himself, in many of his secret workings, in the various shapes, habits, and names of men and women; and having travelled and conversed much, and met but with a very few of the same perceptions and qualifications, I can recommend myself to you as the most useful man you can correspond with. My father’s father’s father (for we had no grandfathers in our family) was the same John Bunyan that writ that memorable book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, who had in some degree a natural faculty of second sight. This faculty (how derived to him our family memoirs are not very clear) was enjoyed by all his descendants, but not by equal talents. It was very dim in several of my first cousins, and probably had been nearly extinct in our particular branch, had not my father been a traveller. He lived in his youthful days in New England. There he married, and there was born my elder brother, who had so much of this faculty, as to discover witches in some of their occult performances.
My parents transporting themselves to Great Britain, my second brother’s birth was in that kingdom. He shared but a small portion of this virtue, being only able to discern transactions about the time of, and for the most part after, their happening. My good father, who delighted in The Pilgrim’s Progress, and mountainous places, took shipping, with his wife, for Scotland, and inhabited in the Highlands, where myself was born; and whether the soil, climate, or astral influences, of which are preserved divers prognostics, restored our ancestor’s natural faculty of second sight in a greater lustre to me than it had shined in through several generations, I will not here discuss. But so it is, that I am possessed largely of it, and design, if you encourage the proposal, to take this opportunity of doing good with it, which I question not will be accepted of in a grateful way by many of your honest readers, though the discovery of my extraction bodes me no deference from your great scholars and modern philosophers. This my father was long ago aware of; and, lest the name alone should hurt the fortunes of his children, he, in his shiftings from one country to another, wisely changed it.
Sir, I have only this further to say, how I may be useful to you, and as a reason for my not making myself more known in the world. By virtue of this great gift of nature, second-sightedness, I do continually see numbers of men, women, and children, of all ranks, and what they are doing, while I am sitting in my closet; which is too great a burden for the mind, and makes me also conceit, even against reason, that all this host of people can see and observe me, which strongly inclines me to solitude, and an obscure living; and, on the other hand, it will be an ease to me to disburthen my thoughts and observations in the way proposed to you by, Sir, your friend and humble servant.”
I conceal this correspondent’s name, in my care for his life and safety, and cannot but approve his prudence in choosing to live obscurely. I remember the fate of my poor monkey. He had an ill-natured trick of grinning and chattering at every thing he saw in petticoats. My ignorant country neighbours got a notion that pug snarled by instinct at every female who had lost her virginity. This was no sooner generally believed than he was condemned to death; by whom, I could never learn, but he was assassinated in the night, barbarously stabbed and mangled in a thousand pieces, and left hanging dead on one of my gate-posts, where I found him the next morning.
The Censor observing that the itch of scribbling begins to spread exceedingly, and being carefully tender of the reputation of his country in point of wit and good sense, has determined to take all manner of writing, in verse or prose, that pretend to either, under his immediate cognizance; and accordingly hereby prohibits the publishing any such for the future, till they have first passed his examination and received his imprimatur; for which he demands as a fee only sixpence per sheet.
N. B. He nevertheless permits to be published all satirical remarks on the Busy-Body, the above prohibition notwithstanding, and without examination or requiring the said fees; which indulgence the small wits in and about this city are advised gratefully to accept and acknowledge.
The gentleman who calls himself Sirronio is directed, on the receipt of this, to burn his great book of Crudities.
P. S. In compassion to that young man, on account of the great pains he has taken, in consideration of the character I have just received of him, that he is really good-natured, and on condition he shows it to no foreigner or stranger of sense, I have thought fit to reprieve his said great book of Crudities from the flames, till further order.