Ben Franklin’s Silence Dogood letters first appeared in The New England Courant, one of the earliest newspapers to fold before the internet was to blame. Franklin wrote the letters under alias to himself for publication in his newspaper, a sort of fan entry editorial of yore, perhaps. Does anyone else notice that if you omit the salutation and sign off of each letter, they slightly resemble a blog? Granted that blogs traditionally gain people’s attention, Franklin actually included a brief boredom advisory preceding one of his letters:
“Histories of Lives are seldom entertaining, unless they contain something either admirable or exemplar: And since there is little or nothing of this Nature in my own Adventures, I will not tire your Readers with tedious Particulars of no Consequence, but will briefly, and in as few Words as possible, relate the most material Occurrences of my Life, and according to my Promise, confine all to this Letter.”
I am hardly awarding Ben Franklin credit for inventing yet another crucial institution in our lives, but maybe we should take note of his keen public writing abilities and how contemporary literacy might’ve caught on. What do we read nowadays that resemble the Dogood letters? How would reader response to this style of writing compare or differ? A bit of insight into the New England Courant may show that there was more off-beat writing back then than we were aware of.