BLTC Press Titles

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The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin


IT is proper that I state the circumstances which seem to have imposed upon me the duty of adding another to the already numberless editions of Dr. Franklin's Autobiography.

It is well known that Franklin prepared so much of the celebrated Memoirs of his life as was originally intended for publication, mainly at the solicitation of one of his most cherished friends in France—M. le Veillard, then Mayor of Passy. Towards the close of the year 1789 he presented to this gentleman a copy of all this sketch that was then finished. - At the Doctor's death, his papers, including the original of the manuscript, passed into the hands of one of his grandsons, William Temple Franklin,* who undertook to prepare an edition of the

•Benjamin franklin died on the 17th of April, 1790, aged eightyfour years and three months.


life and writings of his grandfather for a publishing house in London.

For the greater convenience of the printer in the preparation of this edition—so goes the tradition in the Le Veillard family—William Temple Franklin exchanged the original autograph with Mrs. le Veillard, then a widow, for her copy of the Memoirs; and thus the autograph passed out of the Franklin family.

At the death of the widow le Veillard this manuscript passed to her daughter; and at her death, in 1834, it became the property of her cousin, M. de Senarmont, whose grandson, M. P. de Senarmont, transferred it to me on the 26th of January, 1867, with several other memorials of Franklin which had descended to him with the manuscript. Among the latter were the famous pastel portrait of Franklin by Duplessis which he presented to M. le Veillard; a number of letters to M. le Veillard from Dr. Franklin and from his grandsons, William Temple Franklin and Benjamin Franklin Bache; together with a minute outline of the topics of his Memoirs, brought down to the termination of his mission to France.

I availed myself of my earliest leisure to subject the Memoirs to a careful collation with the edition which appeared in London in 1817, and which was the first and only edition that ever purported to have been printed from the manuscript. The results of this collation revealed the curious fact that more than twelve hundred separate and distinct changes had been made in the text, and, what is more remarkable, that the last eight pages of the manuscript, which are second in value to no other eight pages of the work, were omitted entirely.

Many of these changes are mere modernizations of style; such as would measure some of the modifications which English prose had undergone between the days of Goldsmith and Southey. Some, Franklin might have approved of; others he might have tolerated; but it is safe to presume that very many he would have rejected without ceremony.

A few specimens taken from the first chapter will show the general character of these changes.

It is a curious fact that the very first words of the edition of 1817 are interpolations. It commences:

"To William Franklin, Governor of New Jersey. "Dear Son, &c."

The autograph commences with "Dear Son," naming no person.

Though William Franklin was the Doctor's only son, and in 1771, when this was commenced, was also Governor of New Jersey, it is very unlikely that the Doctor would have given his son any titles in addressing him a communication of this domestic and confidential character. This improbability is increased by the circumstance that at the time this manuscript was revised and copied to be sent to his friend, Le Veillard, William Franklin not only was not Governor of New Jersey, but was not living upon terms even of friendly correspondence with his grandfather. The fact that the French version commences with "Mon cher fils," omitting the name and title, leaves no doubt that the titles were added by the editor in the edition of 1817.


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