Autobiography and Other Writings / Edition 1

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Benjamin Franklin's writings represent a long career of literary, scientific, and political efforts over a lifetime which extended nearly the entire eighteenth century. Franklin's achievements range from inventing the lightning rod to publishing Poor Richard's Almanack to signing the Declaration of Independence. In his own lifetime he knew prominence not only in America but in Britain and France as well. This volume includes Franklin's reflections on such diverse questions as philosophy and religion, social status, electricity, American national characteristics, war, and the status of women. Nearly sixty years separate the earliest writings from the latest, an interval during which Franklin was continually balancing between the puritan values of his upbringing and the modern American world to which his career served as prologue. This edition provides a new text of the Autobiography, established with close reference to Franklin's original manuscript. It also includes a new transcription of the 1726 journal, and several pieces which have recently been identified as Franklin's own work.

Publisher, inventor, educator, and statesman, Benjamin Franklin was a complex and appealing character. Here is a wide-ranging selection of his writings from Poor Richard's Almanac, scientific essays, and political commentaries, plus a generous dose of his famous humor.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Reasonably priced, comprehensive edition with good selection of other writings."--Virginia Caris, George Washington University

"I really like this edition because of the variety of Franklin's writings represented here. The affordability of this text is greatly appreciated by the students as well."--Lynn Searfoss, Purdue University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395051306
  • Publisher: Cengage Learning
  • Publication date: 1/2/1957
  • Series: World's Classics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224

Meet the Author

Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) was born in Boston. When he was twelve, his father apprenticed him to his half brother James as a printer. James was later the publisher of the New England Courant, where Franklin’s first articles, “The Dogood Papers,” were published before he was seventeen. He went to Philadelphia in 1723, where he was befriended by William Keith, Governor of Pennsylvania, who offered to help Franklin get started in business. They went to England, where he hoped to purchase printing equipment, but he was soon deserted by Keith and again turned to printing for a livelihood. His privately printed “A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain” (1725) introduced him to leading Deists and other intellectuals in London. A year later, he returned to Philadelphia, and by 1730, he had been appointed public printer for Pennsylvania. In 1731, he established the first circulation library in the United States and, in 1743–44, the American Philosophical Society. As a publisher, his greatest success was Poor Richard’s Almanack, which went through numerous editions and was translated into many languages. Over the next thirty-five years, he devoted himself largely to politics and diplomacy, by serving in the Continental Congress, signing the Declaration of Independence, and becoming Minister to France. On his return in 1785, he was elected President of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Still concerned with the rights of the individual, he published papers encouraging the abolition of slavery. He died in Philadelphia.
L. Jesse Lemisch is Professor Emeritus of History at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. Among his notable works is The American Revolution Seen from the Bottom Up.

Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and is the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He lives in Washington, DC.

Carla Mulford has been teaching early American literature and culture and Native American studies at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, since 1986. The Founding President of the Society of Early Americanists, she has published books related to Franklin’s associates and contemporaries John Leacock, Annis Stockon, William Hill Brown, and Hannah Webster Foster. She has also compiled (with Amy E. Winans and Angela Vietto) two collections: a biographical dictionary, American Women Prose Writers to 1820, and an anthology of readings, Early American Writings. She has published several essays on Benjamin Franklin and is working on two book-length studies of Franklin called Benjamin Franklin and the Arts of Science and Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire

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Table of Contents





I. The Way to Wealth
Plan for Future Conduct / Advice to a Young Girl / The Art of Conversation / Advice to a Young Tradesman / "The Way to Wealth"

II. Essays to Do Good
Standing Queries for the Junto / "A Short Account of the Library" / Fire-Fighting / The American Philosophical Society / The Pennsylvania Academy

III. The New Prometheus, I: Franklin the Scientist
The Young Naturalist / The Meteorologist / Experimenter in Electricity / Franklin's Kite / The Lightning Rod / Humane Slaughtering / The Franklin Stove / The First American Catheter / The Glass Harmonica / Youthful Inventor / Bifocals / The Long Arm

IV. The New Prometheus, II: Franklin and the Revolution
The Stamp Act / After Repeal / The Weapon of Satire / A Counsel of Moderation / America in Arms / The French Alliance / Busy Days / "Let Us Now Forgive and Forget" / "Sketch of the Services of B. Franklin to the United States of America"

V. The Family Man
Deborah Read / Franky Franklin's Death / Katy Ray / Franklin's London Family / Polly Stevenson / The Shipley Girls / Deborah's Last, Lonely Years / "A Thorough Courtier" / The Ladies of France / A Treaty of the Heart / Rejected Suitor / Home Again

VI. Something of His Religion
A Practical Theology / "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain" / A Reconsideration of Freethinking / Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion / A Summary of Belief / "Here is My Creed"

Notes on the Sources
The Sources
Additional Reading
Afterword: Imagining Benjamin Franklin

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