The Whistle

An Electronic Edition · Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Original Source: Benjamin Franklin, "The Whistle." In Franklin, Benjamin. The Bagatelles from Passy. Ed. Lopez, Claude A. New York: Eakins Press. 1967

Copyright 2005. This text is freely available provided the text is distributed with the header information provided.

Full Colophon Information

Passy, November 10 1779.

I Received my dear Friend�s two Letters, one for Wednesday & one for Saturday. This is again Wednesday. I do not deserve one for today, because I have not answered the former. But indolent as I am, and averse to Writing, the Fear of having no more of your pleasing Epistles, if I do not contribute to the Correspondences, obliges me to take up my Pen: And as M. B. has kindly sent me Word, that he sets to-morrow to see you; instead of spending this Wednesday Evening as I have long done its Name-sakes, in your delightful Company, I sit down to spend it in thinking of you, in writing to you , & in reading over & over again your Letters.1.

I am charm�d with your Description of Paradise, & with your Plan of living there. And I approve much of your Conclusion, that in the mean time, we should draw all the Good we can from this World. In my Opinion we might all draw more Good, from it than we do, & suffer less Evil, if we would but take care
not to give too much for our Whistles
. For to me it seems that most of the unhappy people we meet with, are become so by Neglect of that Caution. 2.

You ask what I mean ? —You love Stories, and will excuse my telling you one of myself. When I was a Child of seven Years old, my Friends, on a Holiday fill�d my little Pockets with Halfpence. I went directly to a Shop where they sold Toys for Children; and being charm�d with the Sound of a Whistle that I met by the way, in the hands of another Boy, I voluntarily offer�d and gave all my Money for it. When I came home, whistling all over the House, much pleas�d with my Whistle, but disturbing all the Family, my Brothers, Sisters & Cousins, understanding the Bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth, put me in mind what good Things I might have bought with the rest of the Money, & laught at me so much for my Folly, that I cri�d with Vexation; and the Reflection gave me more Chagrin than the Whistle gave me Pleasure. 3.

This however was afterward of use to me, the Impression continuing on my Mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Do not give too much for the Whistle; and I sav�d my Money. 4.

As I grew up, came into the World, and observed the Actions of Men, I thought I met many, who
gave too much for the Whistle
. — When I saw one ambitious of Court favour, sacrificing his Time in Attendance upon Levees, his Repose, his Liberty, his Virtue and perhaps his Friend, to obtain it; I have said to myself,
This Man gives too much for his Whistle. — When I saw another fond of Popularity, constantly employing himself in political Bustles, neglecting his own Affairs, and ruining them by that Neglect,
He pays, says I,
too much for his Whistle. — If I knew a Miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable Living, all the Pleasure of doing Good to others, all the Esteem of his Fellow Citizens, & the Joys of benevolent Friendship, for the sake of Accumulating Wealth,
Poor Man, says I,
you pay too much for your Whistle. — When I met with a Man of Pleasure, sacrificing every laudable Improvement of his Mind or of his Fortune, to mere corporeal Satisfactions, & ruining his Health in their Pursuit,
Mistaken Man, says I, you are providing Pain for yourself, instead of Pleasure, you pay much for your Whistle,. — If I see one fond of Appearance, or fine Cloathes, fine Houses, fine Furniture, fine Equipages, all above his Fortune, for which he contracts Debts, and ends his Career in a Prison;
Alas, says I,
he has paid too much for his Whistle. — When I saw a beautiful sweet-temper�d Girl, marri�d to an ill-natured Brute of a Husband,
What a Pity, says I,
that she should pay so much for a Whistle!— In short, I conceiv�d that great Part of the Miseries of Mankind are brought upon them by the false Estimates they have made of the Value of Things, and by their
giving too much for the Whistles. 5.

Yet I ought to have Charity for these unhappy People, when I consider that with all this Wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain things in the World so tempting; for Example the Apples of King John, which happily are not to be bought, for if they were put to sale by Auction, I might very easily be led to ruin my self, in the Purchase, and find that I had once more
given to much for the Whistle. 6.

Adieu, my dearest Friend, and believe me ever yours very sincerely and with unalterable Affection. 7.

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Prose
Subjects: Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790
Period: 1750-1800
Location: British America
Format: Account/Relation, Letters

This text was first printed in 1779.

This text of the present edition was prepared from and proofed against the facsimile edition entitled The Bagatelles from Passy. Ed. Lopez, Claude A. New York: Eakins Press. 1967 Paragraph numbers have been automatically generated. In the header, personal names have been regularized according to the Library of Congress authority files as "Last Name, First Name" for the REG attribute and "First Name Last Name" for the element value. Names have not been regularized in the body of the text.