There has been needed a sound and balanced biography of Barnum. There is the one in the Landmark series; there is Alice Desmond's Natnum Presents' General Tom Thumb which divides the emphasis. And now there is this, slightly more mature in approach and handling, and a good successor to Helen Wells' excellent biography of Adam Gimbel. Here she skillfully traces Barnum's rise from a monotonous boyhood of farming and clerking in a puritanical New England community -- to the goals achieved by the driving force that carried through his eighty years of life. There are the escapades and the gambles he took with Jenny Lind, with Jumbo the elephant, with dwarfs and with royalty; there are his personal appearances before Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria. The tales are colorfully told in a sort of real-life Tom Sawyer adventure tale, of a boy who grew up to fulfill his childhood's flamboyant dreams. As they unfold -- in an era characterized by the exuberance of frontier life, of Civil War tragedy, of Barnum's own fateful series of frightful fires, they show a growing understanding on Barnum's part of human nature that made him, despite adversity, the leading entrepreneur of two continents.