Concerning Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack:
- Why does Franklin choose to write under the pen-name, Richard Saunders? What are some of the traits of this character?
- Besides the writing style and/or spelling/grammar, how does this document show the era it was written in?
- What are some of the more meaningful sayings in the almanac and why?
- What was the purpose of the almanac, and how can it be summed up quickly?
It is known that Benjamin Franklin drew his inspiration for writing Poor Richard's Almanack from the very first British almanac titled Rider's British Merlin, written by Cardanus Rider, and published in 1701 (Ross, "The Character of Poor Richard: Its Source and Alteration"). It is also known that the name Cardanus Rider is actually a pseudonym and most likely an acronym that spells out Richard Saunders. The real Richard Saunders was a doctor and astronomer in England ("The British Merlin and Losing at Cards"). Hence, in writing his own almanac, Franklin used Saunders' supposed real name for his own pseudonym. In addition, the real Saunders had also published two other almanacs: one titled Apollo Anglicanus: The English Apollo, written for the "serious intellectual"; and one titled Poor Robin, written for the lesser educated middle-class society (Morgan, "The Prominent and Prodigiously Popular Poor Richard"). Therefore, Franklin merged these two ideas to create his own Poor Richard's Almanack, a "publication that was unique, informative, and entertaining" (Morgan).
In creating his own version of Richard Saunders, Franklin certainly did create a very comical character. One example of Fanklin's Saunders being a comedian can be seen in Franklin's preface. Franklin knew his almanac would receive steep competition from Titan Leeds's already published almanac titled An American Almanack. Hence, to distract competition, "Franklin borrowed a prank from Jonathan Swift" in which Franklin announced the false death of Titan Leeds, talked about how the two of them had debated the prediction of Leeds's death, and asked the public for permission to pick up where Leeds left off in his predictions since Leeds is now dead (Morgan).