Wednesday, January 20, 1999

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Not his full life, but an unfinished work, beginning with his decision to leave New York, and his father’s rather forced guidance to become a printer in Philadelphia, to his rise to fame as a statesman, inventor, and mediator, and ending abruptly as he settles a dispute between the people and wealthy estate owners over contributing to the King’s war fund.  It’s written in a plain, unadorned style, in rough chronological order but resembling a series of anecdotes, a bit like a personal remembrance.

Though Franklin’s pride in his intelligence and industry comes through in his writing, he passes over some of his accomplishments rather than building them up to the reader, which can be a bit disorienting, and doesn’t help give a sense of what kind of man he was thought of as in the community.  But Franklin’s personality does shine through: a cunning, brainy fellow, puritanically honorable, proud and steadfastly methodical.  I enjoyed reading it for that, and because it conveys how much the people of the 18th century were like that of the 20th: not particularly bound by personal morality, but also fussy and righteous.  I dislike the editorial practice of leaving all nouns capitalized, it being somewhat distracting.

four stars

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