Amazon.com description: Product Description
: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the traditional name for the unfinished record of his own life written by Benjamin Franklin from 1771 to 1790; however, Franklin himself appears to have called the work his Memoirs. Although it had a tortuous publication history after Franklin's death, this work has become one of the most famous and influential examples of an autobiography ever written. Part One of the Autobiography is addressed to Franklin's son William, at that time (1771) Royal Governor of New Jersey. While in England at the estate of the Bishop of St Asaph in Twyford, Franklin, now 65 year old, begins by saying that it may be agreeable to his son to know some of the incidents of his father's life; so with a week's uninterrupted leisure, he is beginning to write them down for William. He starts with some anecdotes of his grandfather, uncles, father and mother. He deals with his childhood, his fondness for reading, and his service as an apprentice to his brother James Franklin, a Boston printer and the publisher of the New England Courant. The second part begins with two letters Franklin received in the early 1780s while in Paris, encouraging him to continue the Autobiography, of which both correspondents have read Part One. (Although Franklin does not say so, there had been a breach with his son William after the writing of Part One, since the father had sided with the Revolutionaries and the son had remained loyal to the British Crown.) Beginning in August 1788 when Franklin had returned to Philadelphia, the author says he will not be able to utilize his papers as much as he had expected, since many were lost in the recent Revolutionary War. He has, however, found and quotes a couple of his writings from the 1730s that survived. One is the "Substance of an intended Creed" consisting of what he then considered to be the "Essentials" of all religions. He had intended this as a basis for a projected sect but, Franklin says, did not pursue the project. Part Four Written sometime between November 1789 and Franklin's death on April 17, 1790, this section is very brief. After Franklin and his son arrive in London, the former is counselled by Dr. Fothergill on the best way to advocate his cause on behalf of the colonies. Franklin visits Lord Granville, president of the King's Privy Council, who asserts that the king is the legislator of the colonies. Franklin then meets the proprietaries (the switch to the plural is Franklin's, so apparently others besides Thomas Penn are involved). But the respective sides are far from any kind of agreement. The proprietaries ask Franklin to write a summary of the colonists' complaints; when he does so, their solicitor for reasons of personal enmity delays a response. Franklin's Autobiography has received widespread praise, both for its historical value as a record of an important early American and for its literary style. It is often considered the first American book to be taken seriously by Europeans as literature. William Dean Howells in 1905 asserted that "Franklin's is one of the greatest autobiographies in literature, and towers over other autobiographies as Franklin towered over other men." However, Mark Twain's essay "The Late Benjamin Franklin" (1870) provides a less exalted reaction, albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek (for example, claiming that his example had "brought affliction to millions of boys since, whose fathers had read Franklin's pernicious biography"). D. H. Lawrence wrote a notable invective against "Middle-sized, sturdy, snuff-coloured Doctor Franklin" in 1924, finding considerable fault with Franklin's attempt at crafting precepts of virtue and at perfecting himself. Nevertheless, responses to The Autobiography have generally been more positive than Twain's or Lawrence's, with most readers recognizing it as a classic of literature and relating to the narrative voice of the author. In this work, Franklin's persona comes alive....read on.