Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard, by Sally Cabot

Benjamin Farnklin's BastardWhen we think of Benjamin Franklin, we undoubtedly reflect on his unequivocal achievements. A noted polymath, Franklin is a famous scientist, inventor, congressman, printer, philosopher, musician and economist.

What we most likely don’t consider about Franklin is the lesser-known turmoil of his personal life. In Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard, Cabot has pieced together a chronology of Franklin’s life up to the War of Independence. Interspersed with this she gives a credible, although fictional, account of the more private aspects of his family.

A prime example of this is Franklin’s illegitimate son, William. The identity of the boy’s mother has never been divulged publicly. Factual evidence and letters from Franklin’s life, however, combined with the conjecture that she was a whore, result in an historical novel that feasibly fills in the gaps.

Franklin’s marriage to Deborah Read is also explained, along with his steadfast protection of both the son he loved and the woman he refused to reveal. As the years advanced and the Patriot persuasions of the father conflicted with the Loyalist obsessions of the son, however, the two become irreconcilably separated. One persistent trait would always bind them, however: each generation’s failure to resist temptation – like father like son like grandson.

Franklin was certainly an amazing man. His discoveries and inventions spanned a plethora of disciplines. Cabot’s illustration of his personal life enables us to glimpse a more human side to his character, and let’s face it; we all love a scandal, especially when it involves high-profile people. History provides us with ample evidence of the unrepressed urges and indiscrete behaviours of men and women we purportedly look up to. Injudiciousness is nothing new, of course, we simply acknowledge it more humanely and with less of a kerfuffle than we used to.


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