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Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: An Authoritative Text Backgrounds Criticism (Norton Critical Edition)

Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: An Authoritative Text Backgrounds Criticism (Norton Critical Edition) by Benjamin Franklin

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Summary

From the Publisher

Franklin’s Autobiography is the only enduring best-seller written in America before the nineteenth century, as well as the most popular autobiography ever written.

As such it deserves to be offered to twentieth-century readers in the most accurate form possible, and so it is, in this Norton Critical Edition, the first text to be edited directly from the manuscripts, rather than perpetuating the errors of previous editions.

The text is fully annotated, and the reading is assisted by helpful footnotes, biographical sketches, and two maps.

In "Backgrounds", the editors collect Franklin’s most important reflections on the Autobiography’s purpose, some anecdotes, and a number of Franklin’s statements on wealth, the art of virtue, and perfection. Materials in "Criticism" range from contemporary opinions—which reveal that readers were divided then as they are now about the art of the Autobiography—to essays written in the twentieth century.

Nineteenth-century opinions include those of John Keats, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, and William Dean Howells, among others.

The twentieth-century materials include D. H. Lawrence’s celebrated essay, an excerpt from Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, and the perspectives of such recent critics as Charles L. Sanford, Robert Freeman Sayre, John William Ward, and David Devin.

Reviews

Click here for a review of the first "complete" edition of the Autobiography from the July 1868 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.  The review includes the fascinating story of how the Autobiography had been published up to that time.

5 out of 5 stars An outstanding edition of a classic American text, August 10, 2000

By Robert James (Culver City, CA USA) (REAL NAME)    

This review is from: Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: (Norton Critical Editions) (Paperback)

Anyone who has ever taken a literature class in college knows the Norton Critical Editions: an absolutely first-rate version of the text, a healthy supply of contemporary responses and letters, and the best essays yet written about the text. This edition of Benjamin Franklin's "Autobiography" is no exception. The quintessential American Enlightenment figure, Franklin is far more complex than most people think, and far funnier. When it came time to write the Declaration of Independence, the Congress wouldn't give it to Franklin alone, in large part because they were afraid he'd hide a joke in it. One of his most infamous pieces of writing was under the guise of a prostitute being brought before the court for having yet another illegitimate child -- and then attacking the court for making it necessary for her to pursue her profession! And the letter Franklin wrote his own illegitimate son about how to keep a mistress is a classic in and of itself. The only great flaw in the autobiography is that it stops before Franklin ever reaches the Revolutionary War, and thus we don't have the inside story of that perilous time. But anybody wanting to understand Franklin's life, the means to wealth, or the evolution of a brilliant mind will love this text. It's mandatory reading for every American, in my mind.

4 out of 5 stars Poor Richard's Rich Insights, January 12, 2000

By Dave Helms (USA)

This review is from: Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: (Norton Critical Editions) (Paperback)

How many books have you read that you remember thirty-six years later? Ben Franklin's insights into principles of self-improvement, and his love for the adventure of life were not only inspiring to me when I discovered his autobiography in the Holmesburg Library in Philadelphia at age 14, but they still remain motivational for me at age 50! Ben Franklin was the Dale Carnegie of his age. He realized that by following basic core value principles, and by constant practice in the adventure of life, he could not only creatively change himself, but he could positively impact those around him as well. Ben Franklin led a purposeful, creative life. I am thankful that he had the foresight to pass his exhuberance along to us in this his autobiography. It was fun to read. I think I'll read it again. Thanks, Ben.

5 out of 5 stars An outstanding Norton Critical Edition, October 6, 2007

By Bruce Oksol "oksol" (San Antonio)

This review is from: Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: (Norton Critical Editions) (Paperback)

If you are looking for "the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," this is the volume to get. It is a Norton Critical Edition, perhaps the gold standard of anthologies, and it is edited by Lemay and Zall.

I believe Lemay and Zall are the "experts" in the autobiographical writings of Benjamin Franklin.

Critical essays include essays written contemporaneously with this autobiography (including David Hume and John Adams); in the 19th century (including Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Mark Twain); in the 20th century (including D.H. Lawrence, W. Somerset Maugham). The critical essay by D. H. Lawrence is a classic, but it is clear that Lawrence "misread" Benjamin Franklin, and having read it, I have lost some admiration for Lawrence.

Watch for this volume at discount book stores and independent books sellers through Amazon.com.


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