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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
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Customer Reviews:

  • Benjamin Franklin
    Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography is an excellent look into the mind of a very important figure in American History. This book is important both for the autobiography literary genre and for its historical context. It is infinately useful for historians, especially those looking at the early life of this highly public-spirited man.

    There are also plenty of life lessons sprinkled throughout much of Franklin's writing, and his autobiography is no exception. Therefore it reads both as history, and a how-to manual.

    The only shortcoming of this book is that there is not more of it. It ends before the revolution and his employment as an ambassador abroad, so we don't have the same material for the more important and tumultuous period of his life.

    This book should be recommended for anyone interested in getting a closer look into the time period. If you want to learn more about Franklin's personality and motives there is no better person to tell you than the man himself....more info
  • Content so inspiring and language so tiring!
    Franklin's life, works and thoughts have always been an inspiration to me. This time around I decided to wade through his autobiography to drink from the source itself. Upon flipping a few pages, I was sorely disappointed of the extremely tedious language. I found I was caught up more in re-reading a lot of sentences trying to comprehend the great man's words correctly and hence losing out on the joy to mull over his visions. For me, "Benjamin Franklin's the Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living" is a more streamlined book and I am happy with the joy I derive from the inspiration this book evokes....more info
  • This book will make you a better person...
    I have to say this is the most inspirational book I have ever read in my 51 years. Franklin's efforts to improve himself through his 13-week plan is a brilliant blueprint for success. Just the way he thinks. It is like being in the company of a great man...the greatness rubs off a little. This book has a permanent place on my bookshelf....more info
  • The Greatest American, Period!
    No matter which of the Founding Fathers was your favorite, Benjamin Franklin will be after this read! An absolute master at all he attempted: politics, engineering, community improvement, and of course, the ladies! It will leave you wondering where are the heroes and patriots like BF today? And when will they wake up?...more info
  • Poor Richard Speaks
    Written over a period of nearly thirty years and covering his life only until 1759 (he died in 1790), the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin nonetheless established the lore associated with the man. While many biographies of Franklin penned since his death have attempted to officially correct the record and convey a truer picture of him, a sense of the old Franklin endures in no small part due to his autobiography.

    In this book, we encounter Franklin the reader, printer, civic leader, writer, inventor, diplomat and so much more. While perhaps the depths of his knowledge in his chosen fields are insufficient to classify him as a genuine renaissance man, he is, all the same, versatile, engaged, and devoted to self-improvement. Franklin is ambitious and desirous of seizing the day and enjoying all that life has to offer. He is also someone who is clearly proud of his accomplishments. Pride seems to be one contemporaneous arrow of criticism against him that found its mark. So much so, in fact, that he later added humility to his original list of 12 virtues. He writes that "there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride." Franklin is also quite forthcoming with respect to his own failure to acquire humility, although he admits to success "with regard to the appearance of it." It is, of course, possible that this introspection is all carefully constructed artifice designed to endear Franklin to the reader and to help secure his place in history as an enormously talented, but forgivably flawed man. While Franklin was certainly capable of shaping his public image, I think he reveals enough of himself for us to ascertain that there is truth amongst whatever tall tales or exaggerations exist in this brief volume.

    The first part of this book, considered by many to be the best, exists as a letter to his son. It is here that we learn something of Franklin's early life. We find a 12 year old, bookish Ben Franklin indentured to his brother James as a printer, despite his yearning to be at sea. Eventually, Ben manages to extricate himself from this arrangement by "asserting" his freedom and counting on his brother not to force the issue. While this was a success, he later believed it was somewhat unfair of him, even though his brother occasionally delivered blows to the young man. Franklin's maritime proclivities eventually wane and he makes his way to Philadelphia. It is here that Franklin comes into his own. The establishment of his printing business, invention of the Franklin stove, formation of the first "circulating library" in the U.S., and the first fire department in Pennsylvania is recounted. We are given accounts of his time in London, dalliances with women, and some of the "errata" of his life. Lest we forget, there are also the virtues which he intended to make a part of his character: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility.

    While the remaining parts of the book may not be as strong or cohesive, they still impart interesting information and insight into the man. The Touchstone edition of the book contains a short introduction by Lewis Leary that is a worthwhile preface to the autobiography despite his disapproval that part of the book is "burdened with morality." And yet, it is this morality and quest for "moral perfection" that is, above all, the driving force of Franklin. However future generations judge Benjamin Franklin, his contributions to the burgeoning United States of America and the reputation thereof are as undeniable and appealing as he himself is.
    ...more info
  • How can I give Benjamin Franklin fewer than five stars?
    In what began as a letter to his son in 1771, Franklin decided to share the "anecdotes of [his] ancestors" and impart some of his own wisdom learned during his life. But the crisis between America and Great Britain would soon put a halt to his autobiographical work. It would be more than a decade later, at the pleadings of his friends, that Franklin would again take up his pen and complete his memoir.

    The first section, the letter to his son, is the best part of the book. Here, the plot drives the story with some divergences into his philosophy. He describes his modest childhood in Boston and his gradual ascent to civic leader in Philadelphia. He shares his many disappointments (friends who had deceived him) and his many accomplishments (establishing a secret philosophical club, a successful printing press, a public library, and the list goes on and on).

    In the next half of the book, taken up at the requests of his friends, he delves deeper into his personal philosophy and describes his system to work on the 13 virtues he needed to perfect to arrive at "moral perfection." He notes the impossibility of this project but believes the pursuit in itself made him a better person. He also gives more details on his public works and his role in Pennsylvania's government. Despite divulging his thoughts on religion and ethics, Franklin seems more distant than in the first section, and I didn't get a good grasp on his life in his later years.

    But what's most remarkable about Franklin's autobiography is his unpretentious writing style. He strikes a conversational tone, coasting through one anecdote to the next, or what he sardonically describes as "rambling digressions." Only toward the end does this charming tone flags a bit.

    I strongly recommend this autobiography to people who've a strong interest in the Founding Fathers. People with a passing interest should try reading at least some background information on Franklin, because you won't get the full portrait of the man here. You learn little about his family or inventions, and the autobiography stops (quite suddenly) when he's in England for a dispute between the Pennsylvania Assembly and governor. Overall, though, the readability of the book for its time is astounding.
    ...more info
  • an important work - should be read by all young men
    I have read this book myself at least twice. This book was purchased as a graduation present for a nephew. I wish someone had made me read this book at the age of 13. Franklin is quite the character. There are a lot of controversies surrounding his life, but for the purpose of instruction, I prefer to quit the debating society. This fellow is the first native born genius of record produced in this country. He may have painted a rosy picture of his life, but any of us would in an autobiography. If you want a critical examination of his life, check out some of the excellent athoritive biographies available. If you want inspiration, read this. Most inspiring are the roles that thrift and hard work played in his success and his practical approach to striving for "moral perfection"....more info
  • How can I give Benjamin Franklin fewer than five stars?
    In what began as a letter to his son in 1771, Franklin decided to share the "anecdotes of [his] ancestors" and impart some of his own wisdom learned during his life. But the crisis between America and Great Britain would soon put a halt to his autobiographical work. It would be more than a decade later, at the pleadings of his friends, that Franklin would again take up his pen and complete his memoir.

    The first section, the letter to his son, is the best part of the book. Here, the plot drives the story with some divergences into his philosophy. He describes his modest childhood in Boston and his gradual ascent to civic leader in Philadelphia. He shares his many disappointments (friends who had deceived him) and his many accomplishments (establishing a secret philosophical club, a successful printing press, a public library, and the list goes on and on).

    In the next half of the book, taken up at the requests of his friends, he delves deeper into his personal philosophy and describes his system to work on the 13 virtues he needed to perfect to arrive at "moral perfection." He notes the impossibility of this project but believes the pursuit in itself made him a better person. He also gives more details on his public works and his role in Pennsylvania's government. Despite divulging his thoughts on religion and ethics, Franklin seems more distant than in the first section, and I didn't get a good grasp on his life in his later years.

    But what's most remarkable about Franklin's autobiography is his unpretentious writing style. He strikes a conversational tone, coasting through one anecdote to the next, or what he sardonically describes as "rambling digressions." Only toward the end does this charming tone flags a bit.

    I strongly recommend this autobiography to people who've a strong interest in the Founding Fathers. People with a passing interest should try reading at least some background information on Franklin, because you won't get the full portrait of the man here. You learn little about his family or inventions, and the autobiography stops (quite suddenly) when he's in England for a dispute between the Pennsylvania Assembly and governor. Overall, though, the readability of the book for its time is astounding.
    ...more info
  • Entertaining Biography
    I bought this book, the first book for my new Kindle 2, based on the great reviews and I was not disapointed. Humorous and wise, I amazed at his cleverness and detailed travels, his morality and his overall wisdom. This has sparked my passion for reading and learning about our country and the founders of it....more info
  • Insights from America's original innovator
    Benjamin Franklin, one of history's most remarkable human beings, was born in Boston in 1706. Largely self-taught, he became a respected scientist whose experiments on electricity received international acclaim. He invented the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, the glass harmonica, an odometer and more. He was a self-made man who became wealthy as one of America's first commercial printers. He was a respected civic activist, a leading author, a politician and a political theorist. Many of the wise maxims expressed in his immortal Poor Richard's Almanack remain relevant and routinely quoted. Franklin is considered one of America's most accomplished diplomats. He served as minister to France during the Revolutionary War. In that post, he engineered a vital political alliance with the French, winning crucial military and financial aid. We think that anyone who loves history will find this spellbinding autobiography a rare delight. Franklin was on intimate terms with many of the most famous individuals in prerevolutionary America. Indeed, he seemed to have personal dealings with virtually everyone of merit in the New World. His autobiography, written in the best of the archaic language of the time, is a literary classic. Don't deprive yourself of this singular opportunity to learn what the American colonies were like during the prerevolutionary era, as reported by the extraordinary genius who first conceptualized the idea of the United States as an independent nation. ...more info
  • Non-Fiction
    This says Norton Critical Edition, so, of course, designed for academic study.

    A man that of course did a whole pile of stuff and came up with a whole pile more.

    Entertaining at times, and lecturing at others, as you might expect from someone that had been in a privileged position....more info
  • An Eighteenth Century Classic
    This book is a kind of time machine that puts you straight into the Eighteenth Century. Benjamin Franklin comes over as a fearless and open character, although he is at pains to present himself as a solid and successful businessman in the printing industry. He is very much a man of his time. He concerns himself with God and self-improvement, then after he marries he says how glad he is that he did not catch VD from 'certain low women' beforehand. This, certainly consciously, echoes St Paul's advice on why people should marry.

    Within the text are probably whole layers of meaning and allusions to contemporary events and news culture that are lost on twenty-first century readers. He is certainly working within religious and classical traditions of what an autobiography should be: a conversation with God, carried on in public? or moral examples and advice to the young.

    Sometimes he is having a laugh at the autobiographical and literary form itself. For example, it is a commmonplace of Eighteenth Century Literature that you-the writer-had no intention of publishing your book until you were prevailed upon by your friends or the public. Franklin opens the second section of his autobiography with a letter purportedly from a Quaker who says that a life of Franklin would be worth even more than 'all Plutarch's Lives put together.'This must have raised a laugh in his local club, his 'junto' as he calls it.

    However, within the same pages, Franklin describes, clearly with pride, how he swims from Chelsea to Blackfriars in London-which is quite a physical feat, it being two or three miles. He is also at some pains to place much of his financial success on hard work, simplicity and the avoidance of alcohol. These aspects of his life would bequite important for his Low Church readers.

    Interestingly-as negative examples- he reports that his London workmates routinely down six pints of strong ale a day, both at home and in the printing office. For his contemporaries, this was unusual from the point of view of the English printers being not just drunkards, but -for his audience- very old fashioned. English people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuroes -including babies hence the phrases 'tiny tots' 'small beer' etc.- drank beer and ale as drinking street pump water was correctly suspected to cause disease.

    Here, through the implication that beer drinking is old fashioned and unhealthy, especially when compared to American coffee drinking, Franklin is presenting his American readers with the idea that-once again- the Colonies, rather than being a backwater, are more modern that their British counterparts in the Imperial Capital of London.

    At the heart of his political thinking seems to be the moral rather than political idea that with moral virtue-and thus God- on your side, you are unstoppable, and sees the United States' future greatness to lie in this.
    He takes pains to connect political greatness with the moral quality and education of individual citizens, laying particular emphasis on literacy, and reports with pride how he helped to establish the first lending library in the United States, in Philadelphia.

    As a moralist rather than a politician, his republican beliefs do not seem as universal as, say, those of revolutionaries like Robespierre or Tom Paine. For him, the American Republic seems to be uniquely American. At one point he is pleased to report, and say that it is an aspect of his success in life that he has dined with a king, and names him as the King of Denmark. Tom Paine would never have dined with a king, unless it were to poison him!

    Now the non-PC bit as bang go his green credentials. The 1726 Journal has Franklin helping to kill and eat dolphins while travelling by sea. He says they are good to eat, and regards them as fish rather than mammals.

    Enjoy this book!...more info