Franklin of Philadelphia (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
No eighteenth century American embraced many-sidedness more completely than Benjamin Franklin—journalist, essayist, scientist, inventor, statesman, and diplomat. His life spanned most of the century and his imprint is visible in its history. Of his contemporaries, only Thomas Jefferson was his equal in learning, inventiveness, and breadth of interests; no one was his equal in reputation. He was the most famous American of his time, an eminence at home, a celebrity abroad.
Despite his celebrated status, or perhaps because of it, Franklin attracted a sizable body of critics. The young man of the Autobiography (1771-1788), who claimed to embrace hard work, frugality, and virtue, was also the father of an illegitimate son and much at ease in the salons of Paris. He was known to enjoy a good table, a ribald story, and the company of flirtatious young women. John Adams, perhaps a little jealous, penned some acerbic criticisms of Franklin’s abilities as a statesman and diplomat. William Cobbett denounced him as “a crafty and lecherous old hypocrite,” and Thomas Carlyle found in him too much of the rationalist and too little of the heroic—he dubbed Franklin “the father of all the Yankees.”
Esmond Wright’s goal in this fluidly written biography is to examine the various public personae that Franklin assumed during his lifetime. He explores Franklin’s complex and contradictory personality and assesses his contributions to the...
(The entire section is 2448 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
American Heritage. XXXVII, August, 1986, p. 82.
The Atlantic. CCLVII, April, 1986, p. 122.
Booklist. LXXXII, March 1, 1986, p. 942.
Choice. XXIII, July, 1986, p. 1730.
Christian Science Monitor. LXXVIII, April 23, 1986, p. 21.
Commentary. LXXXI, June, 1986, p. 74.
Kirkus Reviews. LIV, March 1, 1986, p. 383.
Library Journal. CXI, March 15, 1986, p. 64.
The New York Times Book Review. XCI, May 18, 1986, p. 39.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIX, March 14, 1986, p. 90.
(The entire section is 52 words.)