The Autobiography

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Galloway's will: later unauthorized editions of Part One are easiest explained by supposing that one of James's clerks stealthily made a copy of it while it was still in James's office, and that the secret copy somehow got to England immediately after Franklin's death. While in France, Franklin was visited by his close friend Benjamin Vaughan, who had been sent by the British government to discuss peace negotiations. Franklin showed Vaughan James's letter, asking his opinion of it, and Vaughan found even more reasons than James had for urging Franklin to continue. Both letters are inserted at the beginning of Part Two, apparently to explain why Franklin continued to write after being estranged from his son William Temple, for whom the Memoirs were planned originally.

When Franklin, back in Philadelphia, finally began writing again in , he apparently reread and probably revised his draft of Part One. Then he had his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, make two copies of his first three parts and sent them to Benjamin Vaughan in England and to his friend Le Veillard in France, asking them for their suggestions and comments. At this point another mystery is born, for we have no way of knowing to what extent Franklin personally authorized the many changes in Bache's copies, and to what extent they were editorial corrections Bache himself supplied.

To complicate matters further, though the first authorized edition of the Autobiography was based on one of Bache's copies, neither copy survives today.

by Benjamin Franklin

The exact wording of Bache's versions must be reconstructed from printed editions of the book and from translations supposedly based on Bache's copies rather than the original manuscript. Le Veillard began translating the Autobiography into French as soon as he received one of Bache's copies. He proceeded meticulously, attempting to render as exactly as possible Franklin's English expressions and comparisons into French.

But Franklin, after adding the last short section before his death, left the publication rights for the book to his illegitimate grandson, William Temple Franklin, Jr. And Temple, hoping to make a great deal of money out of a book for which the public was clamoring, forbade its publication in English or French, except in authorized editions which he himself would edit.

But Temple found working from the original manuscript difficult, since the handwriting was often illegible, so at some point he apparently exchanged manuscripts with Le Veillard, taking to his printer Bache's neater copy to use, and failing to notice that Part Four had been added at the end of the original.

He did not bring out his edition until Within a year after Franklin's death in , an unauthorized French translation of Part One appeared, followed two years later by London editions which were supposedly unauthorized re-translations into English from the poor French translation. Several mysteries arise because of these works: first, from what possible text was the French translation made Le Willard convincingly denied having anything to do with it ; and second, what sources were used for the English re-translations, since occasional wordings resemble the original manuscript more than the supposed French source?

The simplest explanation is that all these pirated editions were taken from a copy of Part One made in Abel James's office.

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Le Willard died on the scaffold during the French Revolution, and Temple Franklin dawdled so in publishing Franklin's papers that gossips suggested he had been bribed by the British government to suppress them. But finally he brought out the first three parts of the Autobiography in , the text based on Bache's copy. Years later, in , the American minister to France, John Bigelow, located and brought from Le Willard's heirs the original manuscript.

He then noted how widely it differed from the official edition and brought out what he claimed was the definitive edition of the Autobiography , in the process reviling Temple Franklin on a number of grounds.

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But since Bigelow simply made corrections on a printed copy of the Temple Franklin edition, his own "definitive edition" has as many errors as he claimed the original definitive edition contained. Temple Franklin was unjustly accused of bowdlerizing his grandfather's powerful prose. Of course, since neither of Bache's copies exists, it is impossible to know for sure what changes each grandson contributed in the version.

But neither can anyone know whether many of these changes were not made by Franklin himself, when he directed Bache's copying. Consequently, no absolutely foolproof and totally authoritative text representing Franklin's final wishes will probably ever exist. In many ways, Franklin's Autobiography stops when it approaches the period of activity that made such memoirs most desirable.

Although his scientific and philosophical reputations were based largely on the electrical experiments he mentions briefly in the Autobiography , his most significant political contributions were made after , when the Memoirs ended. Considering both aspects of his career, Turgot coined for Franklin the Latin motto Eripuit caelo fulmen sceptrumque tyrannis: "He snatched the lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants. Franklin's first mission to England to negotiate about the taxes that the Pennsylvania Proprietors refused to pay lasted from to During this time Franklin, with his son William, visited the homes of their ancestors, as Franklin reminded William at the beginning of the Autobiography , and in was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of St.

Thereafter he was addressed as "Dr. He also continued his experiments and perfected a musical instrument called the armonica, which involved glasses filled with varying amounts of water and played with a wet finger rubbed round the rims. The instrument was so popular that Mozart and Beethoven, as well as others, composed music for it.

Franklin arrived home in Philadelphia on November 1, , settled hopefully into domestic routine, prepared to serve as an Assembly member, and began to build a new house for his family. But in early winter of the following year he was again embroiled in public controversy. Frontiersmen, inflamed by Indian uprisings, killed two groups of friendly Indians; and Franklin wrote a pamphlet strongly condemning this massacre.

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the traditional name for the unfinished record of his own life written by Benjamin Franklin from to ; however. An autobiography is a self-written account of the life of oneself. The word " autobiography" was first used deprecatingly by William Taylor in in the English.

The same settlers then decided to march on Philadelphia to murder the friendly Indians being guarded there. But Franklin met them outside the city, talked with them, reminded them of the three companies of soldiers defending Philadelphia, and persuaded them to go home without causing further trouble.

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At this point bitterness increased against the Proprietors, who controlled Pennsylvania under Royal chatters inherited from William Penn. A faction led by Franklin convinced a majority of the Assembly to petition the King to take direct control of the Province. Opponents argued that the King's representatives would govern as corruptly as the Proprietors' men, and that to lose the Proprietors would be to lose the excellent Pennsylvania charter.

Franklin's allies won the vote to petition the King, but on October 1, , after a bitter and vituperative campaign, Franklin lost his seat in the Assembly.

By the end of the month. Again his wife Deborah refused to sail across the ocean, so he left without her. He was never to see her again, for he was unable to return for ten more years; and before he arrived, Deborah died. When Franklin arrived in England as Colonial agent for the second time, his purpose was to end Proprietary government in Pennsylvania. Since he was later appointed agent for Georgia in , New Jersey in , and Massachusetts in , however, he came to be regarded as the representative for all the American colonies.

by Benjamin Franklin

As the breach between England and the Colonies widened, Franklin began to be feared and hated as the embodiment of selfish American demands. Over Franklin's opposition, the Stamp Act decreeing that stamps must be placed on all official documents was passed on March 22, , as a method of bringing revenue into the British treasury. Since the American Assemblies claimed as a primary right the privilege of taxing themselves, the Americans were outraged.

Franklin unwisely recommended his friends as distributors of the stamps and so was suspected of framing the act himself. But he worked tirelessly for its repeal, his labors given more leverage by American riots and boycotts of English goods. The climax of his struggle came on February 13, , with Franklin's brilliant performance before Parliament partially arranged beforehand in which he answered the members' questions and explained the American position.

The whole transcript of his examination was published in England, France, and throughout the Colonies, making Franklin the major colonial hero of the day.

The Autobiography of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN - Animated Book Summary

A month later he received most of the credit when the unpopular Stamp Act was repealed by Parliament. In the years that followed, Franklin apparently remained hopeful that a stable and powerful British Empire could be formed. But relations were slowly deteriorating between the American colonies and England.

Franklin wrote newspaper articles explaining the American position and, when those failed to work, wrote several brilliant satires and hoaxes attacking the British government. While these cutting satires may have affected public opinion, making some of the British more sympathetic to the Americans, they certainly embittered the officials of the government. Inevitably, such men found a way to revenge themselves upon their troublesome American gadfly.

On December 2, , Franklin had sent secretly to a committee of the Massachusetts Assembly a group of letters he had been given, which were written by the Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, and the Lieutenant-Governor, Andrew Oliver. Both men urged English officials to make stronger and better-enforced demands on the colonists as a means of suppressing rebellious American spirits.

Against Franklin's wishes, the letters were eventually published and aroused an impassioned public demand that the Governor be removed from office. In the ensuing furor, Franklin admitted having sent the letters to Hutchinson's enemies. On January 29, , Franklin was called before the Privy Council, excoriated publicly in the most excessive style, accused of stealing the letters and of plotting against representatives of the Crown, and denounced for nearly an hour, to the glee of the applauding audience, He stood silently and refused to answer.

Two days later he was removed from his office of deputy postmaster general. Obviously, Franklin could no longer work openly and effectively with the British government. There is evidence that by the end of the year various officials were again attempting to contact him, because he was the only man considered capable of engineering a satisfactory compromise with the increasingly angry colonies.

Like the river that became his greatest subject, there would have to be meanderings and digressive tributaries, sudden floods of drama and discarded ox-bows of comic observation; moreover it would, by necessity, just keep rolling along. That The Autobiography of Mark Twain should have been begun while the author was 42, and restarted and abandoned 30 or 40 times over the course of the next three decades, that it should have eventually done away with beginnings and middles and ends and sought to submerge the reader in the unstoppable narrative of what was on the mind of America's favourite writer on any morning he chose to compose it, should therefore come as no surprise.

Neither should the fact that a century after the book concluded — with the author's death — much of it still reads as compulsively as if it were being dictated in the next room. Twain insisted on the year embargo before publication in order to allow himself to speak freely, to tell all — though the idea that he had been tight-lipped in his opinions up to that point would have come as news to both friends and enemies.

The embargo was not honoured by his estate's trustees, and various abridged versions of the autobiography have appeared over the years.

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You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services. We walked until our shoes were worn out, and our feet became sore and cracked open and bled until you could see the whole print of our feet with blood on the ground. Salinger 's The Catcher in the Rye is a well-known modern example of fictional autobiography. Cosmic Laughter No. Davis revisits an incident from January, , for instance, when he pushed a woman out of his SUV after she declined to have sex with him and the two disagreed about where she would get dropped off.

Never before has the book been published as Twain wished it, though — in all its fragmentary and convoluted glory. It is, too, a valedictory gift that keeps on giving; this is the first volume of three, which will be spaced over much of the next decade. It comes freighted with about pages of impeccable scholarly and biographical notes, an academic undertaking, led by Harriet Elinor Smith of the Mark Twain project, which seems proof of the notion that you can't say one thing without immediately having to qualify it with another. The exhaustive apparatus would no doubt have amused the satirist in Twain and, in the way it constantly demands cross-referencing, frustrated the immediacy-addicted reporter.

If the editing of this edition has been a labour of love, the writing of it often seems less so. Twain appears to have felt honour-bound, or fated, to attempt to do justice to his world-famous, white-suited life, while at the same time worrying that any attempt to contain his shifting enthusiasm, his incessant imagination, his scattergun prejudices and vitriol and jokes, was almost doomed from the outset.

Among the many entertaining themes of this volume are the various and contradictory prefatory notes to self, about the impossibility of the project on which he is embarked: "What a little part of a person's life are his acts and his words!

Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of a man — the biography of the man himself cannot be written…". Twain's ultimate solution to this problem was to have a secretary follow him around and take down his every passing thought. This was "The Final and Right Plan" at which he laboured for much of the last six years of his life, first in Florence, Italy, and subsequently in New York and elsewhere, often from his bed. What the method lacked in logic, it made up in offering an authentic glimpse of how Twain's mind worked, or at least how it was working as he neared the end of his life.

He struck upon his autobiographical method when his wife, Livi, was convalescing and eventually dying in Florence. It is a subject he seems to want to confront, but knows only how to avoid. His account of that period thus involves a very long and involved room-by-room account of the villa in which they were staying in Tuscany, and an impassioned diatribe against the perceived wickedness of the villa's owner, an "American countess", "this reptile with a filthy soul", prompted by a clause in the rental contract that the best bedrooms in the house "should not be contaminated with illness".