FRANKLIN: What Manner of Man? by David Freeman Hawke

FRANKLIN: What Manner of Man?

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This Franklin is charming but emotionally reserved, prone to make political enemies, a calculating but not blunder-proof businessman, and a diplomat suspiciously Anglophile for a true colonial son. If it were not that Hawke's centennial biography includes snatches of Franklin's writings, one would find him an enterprising but banal figure rather than one of the most creative thinkers of his period. Hawke not only ventures petty speculations that Franklin didn't hold the famous kite, but also underplays his theoretical grasp of electricity. Moreover, though Hawke suggests that Franklin's efforts toward reconcilation expressed sympathies for the British per se, the book's material implies that his aversion to a revolutionary war could more justly be explained by a fear of being cut off from European science, technology, and letters. Perhaps Hawke's un-kindest slight, however, is his disdain for Franklin's Yankee version of Rabelaisian humor. A superficial biography which underrates not only Franklin but the American contribution to the 18th century.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1976
Publisher: Harper & Row