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THE only correct and complete edition of Franklin's auto
1 biography, as he finally wrote it, is that by the Honorable John Bigelow, late minister to France. Through his courtesy the text of that edition is here reproduced. Some slight changes have been made to meet the requirements of schools, with the addition, in brackets, of some anecdotes drawn from Franklin's writings or from standard histories of his times — such notes being subjoined as seemed necessary to explain all points not readily understood.
Franklin began to write his life in his sixty-sixth year. He was then spending part of the summer of 1771 with his friend the Bishop of St. Asaph, at his country house in Twyford, in the South of England. He ends that part of his autobiography about the time of his marriage in 1730, when he was twenty-four. He wrote nothing more until thirteen years later, when he began the work again, while residing in Passy, near Paris, and brought it down to about 1733, when he formed his “Plan of Life.”
Five years afterward, when he had returned home to Philadelphia, he resumed the narrative, and continued it down to his arrival in London on his first mission, July 27, 1757.
During the last year of his life, 1789-1790, he again took up his autobiography and added a few pages, giving an account of his conference with the Pennsylvania Proprietaries in London late in the summer of 1757, at which point he abruptly breaks off his work. These closing pages were first printed in English by Mr. Bigelow in his edition of Franklin's Autobiography.
Franklin gave a copy of his autobiography to his friend M. le Veillard, formerly Mayor of Passy, through whose solicitation, mainly, he had prepared so much of the memoirs of his life “as was originally intended for publication."
Not long after Franklin's death some one of the three copies of a portion of this Autobiography, which had been sent to friends in Europe by Dr. Franklin, was translated into French and published at Paris (1791). This was translated back into English, and published at different times in London, some additions having been made to it in later editions. This English re-translation was the only one in circulation in England and America for many years. In 1817 Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin, who had inherited the original manuscript, published the autobiography in London; but “for the greater convenience of the printer” —at least, so it is said — he made use of M. le Veillard's copy instead of the original, which he deposited with Madame le Veillard, then a widow, in exchange for hers. The work as published by Franklin's grandson was not only incomplete, but it differed to the extent of “more than twelve hundred separate and distinct changes” from the original text.
During Mr. Bigelow's mission to France he came into possession of the original manuscript and published it in 1868, thus giving to the world, for the first time, Franklin's life, word for word, as he himself wrote it.
The continuation of Franklin's life, from 1757 to his death in 1790, has been carefully prepared from material drawn from his works and from other authentic sources. His biography, as a whole, gives a picture of the Colonial, Revolutionary, and Constitutional periods of our history, such as can be found in no other book, and the autobiographical part has a personal interest for every American who cares to know how the foundations of a great life were worthily laid by patient, persistent effort.
D. H. M.
WORKS OF REFERENCE.
Bigelow's Life of Franklin written by Himself, 3 vols.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
PART FIRST. — FRANKLIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1706-57).