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Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: Norton Critical Edition

Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: Norton Critical Edition

Benjamin Franklin, Joyce E. Chaplin (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-393-93561-5

*Norton agency titles

441 pages

Select type: Paperback

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The only edition of the celebrated Autobiography that includes the long-missing and recently identified "Wagon Letters."

Written during the most eventful years of Benjamin Franklin's life (1771-90), the Autobiography is one of the most influential memoirs in history. This newly edited Norton Critical Edition includes an introduction that explains the history of the Autobiography within the larger history of the life-writing genre as well as within the history of celebrity. The text is accompanied by new and expanded explanatory annotations and by a map, an illustration, and six facsimiles.

"Contexts" presents a broader view of Franklin's life with a journal entry from a 1726 voyage, correspondence, a Poor Richard piece on ambition and fame, Franklin's views on self-improvement, and his last will (and codicil).

"Criticism" draws on a wealth of material that reflects both the wide range of Franklin's achievements and the global impact of his life and memoirs. New international voices in "Contemporary Opinions" include Immanuel Kant, Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez, and José Francisco Correia da Serra. "Nineteenth-Century Opinions" includes Humphry Davy on Franklin's discovery of electricity as well as Empress Shōken of Japan's Franklin-inspired poem. Finally, "Modern Opinions" reprints important pieces: I. B. Cohen on Franklin and the Autobiography's importance to science; Michael Warner's theoretical interpretation of the practices of writing and printing and what they tell us about Franklin; and Peter Stallybrass's insightful and engaging history-of-the-book perspective on Franklin's writing generally and the Autobiography specifically.

A Chronology of Franklin's life, a Selected Bibliography, and an Index are also included.

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Notes on the Text

Maps: Franklin's Boston, Philadelphia, and London


The Autobiography
"A Quire Book of Letters"
The Outline of the Autobiography
A Guide to People Mentioned in the Autobiography


Journal of a Voyage, 1726
Excerpts from Franklin's Letters Mentioning the Autobiography
"Authentic Memoir of Dr. Franklyn"



From Poor Richard Improved, 1750
From Poor Richard Improved, Jan. 1758
To Sarah (Franklin) Bache, June 3, 1779
From Benjamin Vaughn, May 1785
From Jane Mecom, July 21, 1786


To Cadwallader Colden, Sept. 29, 1748
To William Strahan, June 2, 1750
To Jane Mecom, Dec. 30, 1770
To Thomas Cushing, June 10, 1771
Benjamin Vaughn to Lord Shelburne, Nov. 24, 1782
To Robert Morris, Dec. 25, 1783
To Benjamin Vaughn, July 26, 1784
Last Will and Testament, 1788, and Codicil, 1789


Franklin's Epitaph, 1728
Franklin's Junto Query on Human Perfection, 1732
[Poor Richard on Self-Improvement, 1749]
Rules for Making Oneself a Disagreeable Companion, 1749
To Lord Kames, May 3, 1760
To Abiah Franklin, Apr. 12, 1750
To Joseph Priestley, Sept. 19, 1772



Immanuel Kant • [The Modern Prometheus]
David Hume • To Franklin, May 10, 1762
Franklin in the Cockpit • The Pennsylvania Gazette Report, 1774
Benjamin Vaughn's Account, 1779
Edmund Burke • To Count Patrick D'Arcy, Oct. 5, 1775
From the New-Jersey Gazette, Dec. 31, 1777
Peter Oliver •From Origins & Progress of the American Rebellion
Richard Price • To Franklin, May 1790
Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau • Eulogy for Franklin before the National Assembly of France, 1790
José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez • A Brief Eulogy for Benjamin Franklin, 1790
José Francisco Correia da Serra • Eulogy for Franklin to the Royal Academy of Sciences, Lisbon, 1791
John Adams • On Franklin, May 15, 1811


Francis, Lord Jeffrey •From the Edinburgh Review, 1806
Charles Brockden Brown •From Literary Magazine, 1806
John Keats • To George and Georgiana Keats, Oct. 14-31, 1818
Humphry Davy • Historical Sketch of Electrical Discovery
Edgar Allan Poe • The Business Man
Leigh Hunt •From Hunt's Autobiography
Herman Melville •From Israel Potter
Mark Twain • The Late Benjamin Franklin
Empress Shōken of Japan • [A Franklinian Poem], c. 1890
Frederick Jackson Turner •FromThe Dial, May 1887
William Dean Howells • From Editor's Study, Apr. 1888
From Editor's Study, July 1888
From Editor's Study, Jan. 1890
From Editor's Easy Chair, Oct. 1905


Max Weber •From The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
D. H. Lawrence • Benjamin Franklin
W. Somerset Maugham • [The Classic Books of America]
I. B. Cohen • Franklin and Science
David Levin • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: The Puritan Experimenter in Life and Art
Michael Warner • Franklin: The Representational Politics of the Man of Letters
Peter Stallybrass • Benjamin Franklin: Printed Collections and Erasable Writing

Benjamin Franklin: A Chronology

Selected Bibliography