JANE MECOM: Sister of Franklin by Carl Van Doren

JANE MECOM: Sister of Franklin

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The richness of Carl Van Doren's scholarship is singularly evident in this somewhat unexpected biography of Benjamin Franklin's beloved sister, its importance inevitably lying in the new facet of Franklin's own personality. To her- during his lifetime- he wrote-irregularly to be sure, but more frequently than to most of his correspondents, and many of his letters and some of here have been unearthed in Carl Van Doren's almost lifelong preoccupation with Franklin's letters and writings. Through these surviving letters, Mr. Van Doren has reconstructed the story of certain aspects of boyhood and youth, of family relationships, of the hardships and difficulties experienced by Franklin's Boston relations, and particularly the tragic history of the ill-starred Mecom branch, with the dominant strain of madness. But through it all there shines the star of unremitting devotion and mutual admiration between brother and sister, concern for each other's welfare, pride in her brother's fame and achievements on the part of the sister, generosity and thoughtfulness- and occasional adroitly administered brotherly rebuke and advice- on the part of Benjamin Franklin. Then too, for the scholar of the period, there is the background of the daily life of Colonial and Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary times, the household struggles with bare necessities of living, some details of furnishings, equipment, what they ate and wore. Jane turned an extra penny now and then by transforming bits of fabric and trimming into finery for the richer neighbors; and throughout her life, now and again, she made the Crown scap, famous largely through association with the Franklin name. Inventories, wills, advertisements, records as well as correspondence have contributed to a work of scholarship, which at no point will offend the purists who demand of historical biography no vestige of fictionization. For the average reader- and perhaps for writers of the future- there is here the material for the type of fictionized biographical story now more popular with the general public. This, posthumously published, will stand as probably the last completed work from the hand of one whose contribution to American letters is his finest memorial.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1950
Publisher: Viking