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Critics acclaim Prof. Lemay’s ’Life of Benjamin Franklin’

J. A. Leo Lemay, H. F. duPont Winterthur Professor of English Literature

3:43 p.m., March 13, 2007--J. A. Leo Lemay, H. F. duPont Winterthur Professor of English Literature at UD, is garnering critical acclaim for the first two volumes of his recently published work, The Life of Benjamin Franklin, a comprehensive biography of the versatile founding father.

Published in November 2005 by the University of Pennsylvania Press, the two volumes, which will be joined at intervals by five more, have been reviewed and praised by such periodicals as the Journal of American History and the Library Journal, and just last month the New York Sun elected both volumes to their “best books of 2006” list.

“I cannot imagine a more authoritative work than this one,” Carl Rollyson of the New York Sun wrote in a Feb. 6 review.

“Lemay's in-progress biography of Franklin is...magisterial,” a staff writer at the Journal of American History wrote in a review last December. “His Life of Benjamin Franklin is the fruit of a lifetime of careful, dedicated and loving research, and we are all the richer for it.”

Andrew Burstein of the American Historical Review had similar praise in his February 2007 review, saying that “Lemay's in-depth analysis of Franklin's writings will answer the needs of the most inquiring historian.”

One of the nation's leading Franklin scholars, Lemay spent decades researching Franklin for the seven-volume biographical work. He also published an earlier, critically acclaimed book on Franklin, Benjamin Franklin: Writings, which was cited in best-selling books on Franklin by Walter Issacson, Gordon Wood and Edmund Morgan.

Lemay's first volume on Franklin covers Franklin's life up to his 1730 marriage and explores previously unknown influences on Franklin's philosophy and writing.

Volume two covers the period between 1730 and Franklin's retirement from printing in 1748. It assesses Franklin's writings up to that point and notes the birth of William Franklin, Franklin's illegitimate son.

From the comprehensive and thorough caliber of Lemay's work, it's clear that, like any true scholar, he loves his subject matter and values his human side as well as his talents. “[Franklin] tried hard and meant to do good,” Lemay said. “He wanted to improve himself, others and the world he lived in.”

Article by Becca Hutchinson
Photo by Kathy Atkinson

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