The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the traditional name for the unfinished record of his own life written by Benjamin Franklin from 1771 to 1790; however, Franklin himself appears to have called the work his Memoirs. Although it had a tortuous publication history after Franklin's death, this work has become one of the most famous and influential examples of an autobiography ever written.
Franklin's account of his life is divided into four parts, reflecting the different periods at which he wrote them. Part One of the Autobiography is addressed to Franklin's son William, at that time (1771) Royal Governor of New Jersey. The Second Part begins with two letters Franklin received in the early 1780s while in Paris, encouraging him to continue the Autobiography, of which both correspondents have read Part One. In Part Three, beginning in 1788, the author talks about the papers he lost in the Revolutionary War and hence his inability to utilize them in his autobiography. He, however, finds and eventually quotes a couple of his writings from 1730s that had survived.
Part Four, written sometime between 1789 and Franklin's death on April 17, 1790, is a very brief section.
Franklin's Autobiography has received widespread praise, both for its historical value as a record of an important early American history and for its literary style. It is often considered the first American book to be taken seriously by European as literature.
In this work, Franklin's persona comes alive and presents a man whose greatness does not keep him from being down-to-earth and approachable, who faces up to mistakes and blunders ("Errata") he has committed in life, and who presents personal success as something within the reach of anyone willing to work hard enough for it.
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