Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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When Mr. Bigelow came to examine his purchase, he was astonished to find that what people had been reading for years as the authentic _Life of Benjamin Franklin by Himself_, was only a garbled and incomplete version of the real _Autobiography_. Temple Franklin had taken unwarranted liberties with the original. Mr. Bigelow says he found more than twelve hundred changes in the text. In 1868, therefore, Mr. Bigelow published the standard edition of Franklin's _Autobiography_. It corrected errors in the previous editions and was the first English edition to contain the short fourth part, comprising the last few pages of the manuscript, written during the last year of Franklin's life. Mr. Bigelow republished the _Autobiography_, with additional interesting matter, in three volumes in 1875, in 1905, and in 1910. The text in this volume is that of Mr. Bigelow's editions.[2]

[2] For the division into chapters and the chapter titles, however, the present editor is responsible.

The _Autobiography_ has been reprinted in the United States many scores of times and translated into all the languages of Europe. It has never lost its popularity and is still in constant demand at circulating libraries. The reason for this popularity is not far to seek. For in this work Franklin told in a remarkable manner the story of a remarkable life. He displayed hard common sense and a practical knowledge of the art of living. He selected and arranged his material, perhaps unconsciously, with the unerring instinct of the journalist for the best effects. His success is not a little due to his plain, clear, vigorous English. He used short sentences and words, homely expressions, apt illustrations, and pointed allusions. Franklin had a most interesting, varied, and unusual life. He was one of the greatest conversationalists of his time.

His book is the record of that unusual life told in Franklin's own unexcelled conversational style. It is said that the best parts of Boswell's famous biography of Samuel Johnson are those parts where Boswell permits Johnson to tell his own story. In the _Autobiography_ a no less remarkable man and talker than Samuel Johnson is telling his own story throughout.

F. W. P.

The Gilman Country School, Baltimore, September, 1916.

[Illustration: Pages 1 and 4 of The Pennsylvania Gazette, the first number after Franklin took control. Reduced nearly one-half. Reproduced from a copy at the New York Public Library.]

[Transcriber's note: Transcription of these pages are given at the end of the text.]

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

I

ANCESTRY AND EARLY YOUTH IN BOSTON

Twyford,[3] _at the Bishop of St. Asaph's_, 1771.

Dear son: I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember the inquiries I made among the remains of my relations when you were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for that purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week's uninterrupted leisure in my present country retirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have besides some other inducements. Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world, and having gone so far through life with a considerable share of felicity, the conducing means I made use of, which with the blessing of God so well succeeded, my posterity may like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own situations, and therefore fit to be imitated.

[3] A small village not far from Winchester in Hampshire, southern England. Here was the country seat of the Bishop of St. Asaph, Dr. Jonathan Shipley, the "good Bishop," as Dr. Franklin used to style him. Their relations were intimate and confidential. In his pulpit, and in the House of Lords, as well as in society, the bishop always opposed the harsh measures of the Crown toward the Colonies.--Bigelow.

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