Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

A selective list of literary criticism for the eighteenth-century American writer, journalist, autobiographer, scientist, and statesman, Benjamin Franklin, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars and articles published in reviewed sources

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Introduction, Biography, Historical Context

"Benjamin Franklin." A very brief introduction to Franklin's life and writing, from the textbook publisher Heath Anthology of American Literature.

LeMay, J.A. Leo. Benjamin Franklin: A Documentary History. Prof. LeMay, a well-known authority on Franklin, has repurposed his research notes for Franklin's biography as a web site. Detailed information about Franklin's life is provided year by year, along with summaries of the political and social context.

Canada, Mark. "Benjamin Franklin." An essay by Prof. Canada covers Franklin's life, his Autobiography, and his journalistic writing. Web published.

Campbell, James. Summary of Chap. 8: "The pragmatist in Franklin" in The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin.

Morgan, Edmund S. "The Reluctant Revolutionary." A review of Morgan's biography of Benjamin Franklin (Yale UP 2002), in the New York Times 20 Oct. 2002. Also "A Revolutionary American: Edmund S. Morgan on Benjamin Franklin," an interview with Prof. Morgan, at

"Benjamin Franklin." An educational site on Franklin from PBS, includes a "virture quiz," which raises questions about ethics that can be discussed in contemporary terms.

Irvin, Benjamin H. "Benjamin Franklin's 'Enriching Virtues.'" On Franklin's role in printing the paper money used in the early years of America. Common-place 6, 3 (April 2006).

"The World of Benjamin Franklin." Includes the following open-access articles: "Benjamin Franklin and Apprenticeship in the 18th Century," by Susan E. Klepp; "The Emergence of the American Colonial Press," by Ralph Frasca; "Franklin's Comic Environment," by Paul M. Zall; "'To Cultivate the Finer Arts, and Improve the Stock of Knowledge': Benjamin Franklin and Enlightened Science," by Nina Reid-Maroney; "Food for Thought: America's Accessible Founder," by Michael Zuckerman; "Window on the Collections: Franklin in France," by Melissa Mandell; "At Work: Apprentices in the Age of Franklin," by Laura Beardsley. Pennsylvania Legacise 6, 1 (May 2006), Pennsylvania Historical Society.

"Document Library: Ben Franklin." Complete texts for a rich selection of Franklin's journalism and letters are available here: To the Royal Academy of Farting; A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity; Pleasure and Pain; The Busy-Body, No. 1; On the Providence of God in the Government of the World; On Censure or Backbiting; Old Mistresses Apologue; The Speech of Miss Polly Baker; Letter to Peter Collinson; Benjamin Franklin to Governor William Shirley; The Way to Wealth; Reasons Against Satirizing Religion; Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway; Benjamin Franklin to Lord Howe; Information to Those Who Would Remove to America; An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz. The Court of the Press; An Address to the Public.

"Ben Franklin." ed. Donna Campbell. Prof. Campbell's site recommends links for a wide range of American authors and provides a timeline for tracing the social and political context of American Literature: a good general resource for students researching topics in Early American Literature.

Lena, Alberto. Introduction to Franklin's Autobiography. Literary Encyclopedia 4 Dec. 2002 [subscription service].

Literary Criticism

Aldridge, Alfred Owen. Franklin and His French Contemporaries (NYU Press, 1957). "Here [Prof. Aldridge] extricates the real Franklin from the myths, misconceptions, and legends with which French adoration surrounded him." The complete book is available open-access at the Internet Archive.

Baker, Jennifer Jordan. "Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and the Credibility of Personality." Early American Literature, 2000 [first half of article only].

England, A.B. "Some Thematic Patterns in Franklin's Autobiography." Eighteenth-Century Studies, 5, 3 (Spring 1972) [first page of article only].

Foreman, Lee. "The Dichotomy of Perception and Behavior in Franklin's 'The Way to Wealth': A Review of Critical Commentary." Foreman summarizes the arguments of five leading authorities who have written on Franklin's "The Way to Wealth." At

Lemay, J.A. Leo. A review of Melvin H. Buxbaum's Benjamin Franklin and the Zealous Presbyterians. Early American Literature 10, 2 (Fall, 1975) [first page of article only].

Shurr, William H. "'Now, Gods, Stand Up for Bastards': Reinterpreting Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography." American Literature, 64, 3 (Sept. 1992) [first page of article only].

Walters, Kerry S. A review of Benjamin Franklin and His Gods. Reviewed by Todd L. Adams in Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 35, 3 (Summer 1999) [first page of article only].

"Finding Franklin: A Resource Guide." A list of books by and about Benjamin Franklin, from the Library of Congress.

The American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. Web site for the scholarly journal.

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