Bruce's Reviews > The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1207684
's review
Aug 25, 2010

liked it
Read on August 25, 2010

I read this book as a teenager and was so captivated that I tried Franklin’s scheme of cultivating the virtues, probably with only marginal success. It was fun to reacquaint myself with the work.

Franklin first of all affirms that he would live his life over again unchanged, were he given the opportunity. Compare this with Nietzsche’s assertion that such would be repugnant to most men. Thus one can see that Franklin was essentially a content and optimistic man. This book is a candid and non-florid account of his development from a poor and ignorant child to a success in many fields. In this respect he is not reluctant to admit his failures, his misjudgments and follies. He had a fair amount of good luck, too, particularly with respect to helpful people being drawn to him and recognizing his talents. Franklin’s style is not highly literary but almost reportorial. And his presentation is quintessentially secular, with almost none of the pious or even sanctimonious rhetoric associated with such contemporaries as Jonathan Edwards; in this sense he comes across as very modern, thus increasing his relevance for readers today. Franklin affirms his Deism, his rejection of divine revelation, and his essential irreligiousness in practice if not in belief. Franklin is a true heir of the Enlightenment, and his work shows little Romantic sentiment or appreciation. A true polymath, Franklin unabashedly enumerates his activities and accomplishments in many areas of endeavor. His style is not introspective or psychological but an enumeration of events and facts. Yet the narrative flows and is easily readable and entertaining. Here is a prescient comment on politics: “The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but forc'd by the occasion.”

This brief, instructive, and entertaining book is worth the reading, as it sheds light on an important figure in American history and on the 18th century in this country.
11 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

07/21/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Abott (new) - added it

Abott I will be reading this for the sake of cultivating the virtues which I heard about several times What do you think of his approach?


Bruce I found his approach interesting primarily from a historical standpoint. That is not to say that the virtues he describes are not worth cultivating. But he writes from an age that predated the psychological insights of the 20th century. I myself prefer a more introspective approach in terms of guiding my own life. But I am sure his approach would appeal to some people. And the end result is certainly commendable.


Dallas I am also trying to cultivate these characteristics, although I, as well, think that there are some more modern lists of virtue that jive better with modern thinking. I don't know, but I love this book and found this review very interesting and entertaining. Oh, we're we all to have the success of Benjamin Franklin, we too would be happy and content.


Dallas I am also trying to cultivate these characteristics, although I, as well, think that there are some more modern lists of virtue that jive better with modern thinking. I don't know, but I love this book and found this review very interesting and entertaining. Oh, we're we all to have the success of Benjamin Franklin, we too would be happy and content.


back to top