568 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 41 illus.
Cloth 2005 | ISBN 9780812238549 | $49.95s | Outside the Americas £38.00
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"A labor of love balanced by thoughtful criticism. There is nothing like it."—American Historical Review
"Recent books on Ben Franklin abound. However, this work, in the classic multivolume 'life and times' genre, is especially valuable. Highly recommended."—ChoiceNamed "one of the best books of 2006" by The New York Sun
"Veteran Franklin scholar Lemay offers a highly detailed examination of one of the most fascinating of America's founders."—Publishers Weekly
"Lemay's final output will do for the popular interest in our revolution and early founding what Douglas Southall Freeman's magisterial Lee's Lieutenants did for our fixation on the Civil War. . . . I can't wait for Mr. Lemay's next volumes."—Washington Times
"Under Mr. Lemay's narrative spell, Franklin emerges as the greatest of Americans. . . . It takes an awesome biography to do justice to such a man, and that is exactly what Mr. Lemay is writing."—New York Sun
"The authoritative compendium of Franklin's remarkable exploits and contributions."—Times Higher Education Supplement
"Lemay's magnificent opus manages to be accessible and interesting for the general reader while also valuable for the specialist. . . . For readers who want to luxuriate in the life and times of a fascinating man and who enjoy seeing how an expert historian examines evidence and reaches conclusions, this biography is indispensable. Highly recommended."—Library Journal (starred review)
"This colossal study . . . does for Franklin what Dumas Malone did for Thomas Jefferson. In sheer comprehensiveness, it surpasses any previous (and, one imagines, future) treatment. When completed, it promises to provide just about as complete a factual account of Franklin's life as it is possible to put together."—Journal of American History
Described by Carl Van Doren as "a harmonious human multitude," Benjamin Franklin was the most famous American of his time, of perhaps any time. His life and careers were so varied and successful that he remains, even today, the epitome of the self-made man. Born into a humble tradesman's family, this adaptable genius rose to become an architect of the world's first democracy, a leading light in Enlightenment science, and a major creator of what has come to be known as the American character. Journalist, musician, politician, scientist, humorist, inventor, civic leader, printer, writer, publisher, businessman, founding father, and philosopher, Franklin is a touchstone for America's egalitarianism.
The first volume traces young Franklin's life to his marriage in 1730. It traces the New England religious, political, and cultural contexts, exploring previously unknown influences on his philosophy and writing, and attributing new writings to him. After his move to Philadelphia, made famous in his Autobiography, Franklin became the Water American in London in 1725, where he was welcomed into that city's circle of freethinkers. Upon his return to the colonies, the sociable Franklin created a group of young friends, the Junto, devoted to self-improvement and philanthropy. He also started his own press and began to edit and publish the Pennsylvania Gazette, which became the most popular American paper of its day and the first to consistently feature American news.
J. A. Leo Lemay (1935-2006) was H. F. du Pont Winterthur Professor of English at the University of Delaware. He wrote extensively on early American literature and is the author of numerous books, including The American Dream of Captain John Smith.