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Description - Franklin of Philadelphia by Esmond Wright

The most original and most delightful of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin was publisher and printer, essayist and author, businessman and general, scientist and philologist, politician and diplomat, moralist and sage and a thoroughly rational patriot who was a major force in winning his country s independence and securing its life in the Constitution. Born poor in Cotton Mather s Boston, he was soon at ease in Quaker Philadelphia, and later in royal London, and in elegant Paris. Born with no advantages, he died wealthy and esteemed. He was the quintessential American, almost totally free of the limits of his environment, ready to accept any challenge, to speculate, experiment, and question.Esmond Wright, the distinguished English scholar of America, sees Franklin as an Old England Man and a reluctant revolutionary; civilized, urbane, devious, and on occasion just a little unscrupulous. For, despite his charm and genius, Franklin was not admired by everybody. His contemporary John Adams thought little of his political abilities, and the Federalist pamphleteer William Cobbett called him a crafty and lecherous old hypocrite. In the next century, Mark Twain, Hawthorne, and Melville did not value him; still later, D. H. Lawrence despised the middle-class morality he promoted. Many today deplore his lack of interest in the arts or metaphysics, his lack of passionate commitment, his opportunism, his occasional coarseness. Yet his success in business, his many-faceted public career, his ingenious inventions and world-renowned scientific genius, his splendid prose style, his worldly wisdom, and the attractive personality that shines through his remarks and writings, made Benjamin Franklin the new man of the eighteenth-century dream and also vastly appealing to the modern temper. Wright s new biography presents a fully rounded portrait of this remarkable man for all ages.This first comprehensive biography of Franklin in fifty years has taken advantage of Yale s massive edition-in-progress of Franklin s papers and of the many specialized studies inspired by the correspondence. "Franklin of Philadelphia," designed for the general reader, is also a work for scholars, for the author appends a thorough analysis of other interpretations of Franklin s career and personality. Sales Points"

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674318106
ISBN-10: 0674318102
Format: Paperback
(233mm x 152mm x 30mm)
Pages: 442
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 1-Jul-1988
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Franklin of Philadelphia by Esmond Wright

Book Reviews - Franklin of Philadelphia by Esmond Wright

US Kirkus Review » There have been no major biographies of Benjamin Franklin since Carl Van Doren's in 1938, and the adaptive genius who died in 1790 at the age of 84, reached only 1757 in writing his own life story. During a long and remarkably productive career, however, he authored many works (including Poor Richard's Almanack), published pamphlets as well as newspapers, and had 400-odd correspondents. Wright, a professor of American history at London University and director of its United States Studies Institute, has taken profitable advantage of Yale's in. progress work on Franklin's papers to offer an engaging, semi-revisionist portrait of perhaps the most delightfully human of the Founding Fathers. Born poor in Cotton Mather's Boston, Franklin became a quintessential American whose accomplishments could put a Renaissance man to shame. Among other things, he was a printer, publisher, prolific essayist, businessman (whose success allowed him to "retire" in his 40), scientist, inventor, politician, and diplomat. A moralist as well as sage, the pragmatic Franklin was equally at his ease in Quaker Philadelphia, royal London, and elegant Paris. A rational, somewhat reluctant revolutionary (who had much to lose from a break with the mother country), he nonetheless played a leading role not only in winning the colonies' independence but also in securing the new nation's expansionist future in a wondrous Constitution. Though widely esteemed for his urbanity and down-to-earth wit, Franklin was not universally admired in his own day. Indeed, many contemporaries censured him for opportunism, cynicism, occasional coarseness, and related character flaws. To illustrate, William Cobbett (a Federalist pamphleteer) dismissed Franklin as "a crafty and lecherous old hypocrite," while John Adams deprecated his political abilities. But many others, including Beaumarchais, Carlyle (who called him "Father of all the Yankees"), and a wealth of American patriots greatly valued Franklin. Without gainsaying Franklin's quirky personality or capacity for devious (even unscrupulous) actions, Wright honors him on many counts, in particular, contributions to his country and his cause. With evident approval, he cites Balzac's summation of Franklin as the inventor of the lightning rod, the hoax, and the republic. The author does not shy from interpretive commentary, but Franklin's splendid prose (much of which has been drawn from newly available archival material) carries a full measure of the narrative weight. Wright's altogether engaging and largely persuasive account of Franklin's long life and triumphant times is that rarity - substantive scholarship, accessible and without pedantry. The completed text will include 20-odd illustrations. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Esmond Wright

Esmond Wright is Professor of History, Emeritus, University of London.

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