The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 2: Printer and Publisher, 1730-1747

Overview

Named "one of the best books of 2006" by The New York Sun

Described by Carl Van Doren as "a harmonious human multitude," Benjamin Franklin was the most famous American of his time, of perhaps any time. His life and careers were so varied and successful that he remains, even today, the epitome of the self-made man. Born into a humble tradesman's family, this adaptable genius rose to become an architect of the world's first democracy, a leading light in Enlightenment science, and ...

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The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 2: Printer and Publisher, 1730-1747

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Overview

Named "one of the best books of 2006" by The New York Sun

Described by Carl Van Doren as "a harmonious human multitude," Benjamin Franklin was the most famous American of his time, of perhaps any time. His life and careers were so varied and successful that he remains, even today, the epitome of the self-made man. Born into a humble tradesman's family, this adaptable genius rose to become an architect of the world's first democracy, a leading light in Enlightenment science, and a major creator of what has come to be known as the American character. Journalist, musician, politician, scientist, humorist, inventor, civic leader, printer, writer, publisher, businessman, founding father, philosopher, Franklin is a touchstone for America's egalitarianism.

Volume 2 takes Franklin from his marriage in 1730 to his retirement as a printer at the beginning of 1748, examining the mysteries of the illegitimate William Franklin's birth and mother and Franklin's increasing civic activities—starting the Library Company in Philadelphia in 1731, forming Pennsylvania's first volunteer fire company, and becoming an advocate for a clean Philadelphia environment. J. A. Leo Lemay assesses Franklin's numerous writings, attributing to him for the first time a deistic Indian speech, remarking on his use of the second African American persona in journalism, and analyzing his publishing sensation of 1747, The Speech of Miss Polly Baker. These belletristic works are complemented by Franklin's religious, political, and scientific writings, which he produced prodigiously.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Veteran Franklin scholar Lemay offers a highly detailed examination of the life of one of the most fascinating of America's founders. In volume one we meet a precociously clever Franklin, who first experimented with a kite around age 12 and at the ripe old age of 16 wrote his polemical Silence Dogood essays, which established his place in the American literary firmament. Lemay usefully situates Franklin in 18th-century mores, but too often loses sight of the forest for the trees. An entire chapter is devoted to Franklin's brother James, who undoubtedly had a huge influence on his sibling, but the chapter isn't tightly connected to Ben. In volume two Lemay recreates Franklin's personal life: the birth of his illegitimate son, William (Franklin scholars have speculated endlessly about the identity of William's mother; Lemay guesses she was the wife of one of Franklin's friends); Franklin's marriage to Deborah Read, whom he praised as a "plain country" woman, and "the Joy of my Life," and the death of Franklin's father, Josiah. Franklin's civic side also emerges. Lemay describes his affiliation with the Freemasons and argues (in contrast to some earlier biographers) that Franklin was actively interested in political squabbles in Pennsylvania throughout the 1740s. The liveliest chapter focuses on Franklin's role in the establishment of Philadelphia's Library Company; the great library was, in some ways, Franklin's church, a "manifestation of Franklin's belief in democracy and egalitarianism." Frustratingly, Lemay breaks up chapters into countless short subsections, disrupting the narrative flow. Scholars will find these volumes informative, but general readers will do better with livelier, more compact books by Walter Isaacson, Edmund Morgan or Gordon Wood. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The past three years have witnessed an outpouring of impressive books on Franklin, including two full-length biographies: Edmund Morgan's Benjamin Franklin and Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Lemay's project (to total seven volumes when completed) will outweigh all the others (both figuratively and literally), with these initial volumes appearing in time to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Franklin's birth. Is this mammoth biography worth the effort? Yes! Lemay (English, Univ. of Delaware; The Canon of Benjamin Franklin, 1722-1776) gives far more attention to Franklin's literary output than has any other biographer. In these early volumes, he demonstrates how Franklin became not just the most important journalist in Colonial America but perhaps the most important writer and publisher of any sort. By the 1740s, Franklin had become, in Lemay's words, Philadelphia's indispensable citizen: publisher and editor of the leading newspaper and almanac, founder and chief officer of the Library Company, clerk of the Colonial assembly, grand master of the Masons, founder of the Union Fire Company, and postmaster, among many other activities. These volumes could have used tighter editing, as they contain needless repetitions. But Lemay's magnificent opus manages to be accessible and interesting for the general reader while also valuable for the specialist. Not everyone will relish a three-page discussion of the date when the young Franklin first arrived in Philadelphia from Boston or an equally long examination of the birth date of Franklin's illegitimate son William. But for readers who want to luxuriate in the life and times of a fascinating man and who enjoy seeing how an expert historian examines evidence and reaches conclusions, this biography is indispensable. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.-T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A labor of love balanced by thoughtful criticism. There is nothing like it."—American Historical Review

"This work, in the classic multivolume 'life and times' genre, is especially valuable. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Veteran Franklin scholar Lemay offers a highly detailed examination of one of the most fascinating of America's founders."—Publishers Weekly

"Lemay's final output will do for the popular interest in our revolution and early founding what Douglas Southall Freeman's magisterial Lee's Lieutenants did for our fixation on the Civil War. . . . I can't wait for Mr. Lemay's next volumes."—Washington Times

"The authoritative compendium of Franklin's remarkable exploits and contributions."—Times Higher Education Supplement

"Lemay's magnificent opus manages to be accessible and interesting for the general reader while also valuable for the specialist. . . . For readers who want to luxuriate in the life and times of a fascinating man and who enjoy seeing how an expert historian examines evidence and reaches conclusions, this biography is indispensable. Highly recommended."—Library Journal (starred review)

"This colossal study . . . does for Franklin what Dumas Malone did for Thomas Jefferson. In sheer comprehensiveness, it surpasses any previous (and, one imagines, future) treatment. When completed, it promises to provide just about as complete a factual account of Franklin's life as it is possible to put together."—Journal of American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812238556
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Pages: 664
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

J. A. Leo Lemay is H. F. du Pont Winterthur Professor of English at the University of Delaware. He has written extensively on early American literature and is the author of numerous books, including The American Dream of Captain John Smith.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface

PART I. A NEW LIFE, AGE 24 TO 30 (1730-1736)
1. Personal and Business Life
2. The Art of Virtue
3. Freemason
4. The Library Company of Philadelphia
5. Man of Letters
6. Politics, Religion and the Rivalry with Bradford, 1732
7. Poor Richard's Prefaces, 1733-1747
8. Poor Richard's Proverbs
9. Franklin and Politics, 1730-1736
10. The Hemphill Controversy
11. Assessing Franklin as a Young Man, Age 24 to 30

PART II. EXPANDING PERSONAL INTERESTS, AGE 30 THROUGH 41 (1736-1747)
12. Personal Life
13. The Assembly Clerk and Pennsylvania Politics
14. Firefighter
15. Earning a Living: Printer, Publisher, Merchant, Bookseller and Postmaster
16. Concerned Citizen
17. George Whitefield and the Great Awakening
18. Natural Philosophy
19. Satires and Other Writings, 1736-1747
20. Assessing Franklin, Age 30 through 41

Appendices
1. New Attributions
2. Franklin's Organizations: Dates and Locations of Meetings, 1727-1747
3. Pennsylvania Assembly: Pay to Franklin
4. Sample Wages and Prices in Colonial Philadelphia
Sources, Documentation, Dates
Abbreviated References

Notes
Index
Acknowledgments

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