had an allies. Silence Dogood. At 16 he wrote monthly to his brothers newspaper the New England Courant under the name Silence Dogood. He wrote as a middle aged widow.
In 1722 a series of letters appeared in the New-England Courant written by a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood. The letters poked fun at various aspects of life in colonial America, such as the drunkenness of locals, religious hypocrisy, and the persecution of women. Silence Dogood even had views about the fashion for hoop petticoats:
Silence was particularly fond of ridiculing Harvard. She complained that it had been ruined by corruption and elitism, and that most of its students learned nothing there except how to be conceited:
Silence also wrote that she had once been married to a minister with whom she had lived for seven years before he had died, leaving her with three children. She coyly admitted that she didnít enjoy the life of a widow and could be easily persuaded to marry again.
The readers of the Courant thought she was a charming woman. So charming, in fact, that a few of the male readers wrote in, upon learning that she was single, and offered to marry her.
Unfortunately for her would-be suitors, Silence Dogood did not exist. She was the invention of sixteen year-old Benjamin Franklin, who was working at the time as an apprentice to his older brother, James, a Boston printer.
Franklin concealed his authorship of the letters from his brother. He later wrote that he slipped the first Silence Dogood letter beneath the door of his brotherís printing shop at night to avoid detection. However, he later was pleased to listen in as his brother and his friends approvingly discussed the letter and decided to place it on the front page of the paper.
Franklin modeled the style of the letters after Joseph Addisonís and Richard Steeleís Spectator. His pseudonym was an allusion to the Boston minister Cotton Mather, who had written a book titled Essays to do Good. Many readers immediately recognized this allusion. The first name, Silence, might have alluded to another book by Mather titled Silentiarius: A Brief Essay on the Holy Silence and Godly Patience, that Sad Things are to be Entertained withal. Or it could have been a sly suggestion that Mather should be silent, since the letters were quite critical of the Puritan establishment that Mather represented.
Franklin wrote a total of fourteen Silence Dogood letters between April 2 to October 8, 1722. When he stopped writing the letters, his brother placed an ad in the paper in an attempt to find out who the mysterious letter writer really was: