Page 10 - Jupiter Spotlight - August '18
P. 10

Page 10, Jupiter Spotlight

      Book Review from page 9                            and thorough was                                  calendar of all the letters written by Jane and Benjamin,
                                                         the research for                                  and others, from January 1727 to July 1793; a chapter
      until I scanned my collection for a book to consider for   this book on the                          about all of the books that Jane had in her home library,
      this August review column.                         part of its author,                               and how she obtained them; and, best of all, a remarkably
        The result is one of the most compelling, most   Jill Lepore, who                                  comprehensive and helpful 90-page section of notes tied
      emotionally moving, most impressive works of history I   is Professor of                             to footnotes from each chapter in the book (see an example
      have ever had the good fortune to experience. More than   American History at                        in the next paragraph), and an index.
      once, as I finished a chapter, I put this book down for a   Harvard University                         Here is an example of the kind of information you will
      few minutes and simply sat quietly, pondering with a deep   and a staff writer                       find by turning to the notes section from time to time.
      empathy the life of Jane Franklin – the youngest of her   at The New Yorker                          In chapter four, after the following sentences, there is a
      parents’ 17 children, seven girls and 10 boys. The youngest   magazine. She has                      footnote marked 8: “Men waged wars, but for women each
      of her brothers was Benjamin, who was six years older than   been a finalist for                     birth was another battle. No woman dared imagine herself
      her. Jenny and Benny (as they were called) would be close,   the Pulitzer Prize,                     spared, not by grace, not by wealth: pain was her portion.
      caring and adoring brother and sister for all their lives, into   and a winner                       Even if she survived childbirth, she could scarcely expect
      old age, the last of their family to survive. But that is the   of the Bancroft                      that her child would.”
      only thing they had in common.                     Prize. Lepore                                       So I turned to the notes section at the back of the book,
        Benjamin, who left home at the age of 15 and did not   studied  Benjamin                           to number 8 under chapter four, and this is what I found:
      return for decades, would come to be revered throughout   Franklin’s  letters,                       “On average, an eighteenth-century white woman could
      the world as statesman, philosopher, scientist, author,   many of which refer                        expect to become pregnant between five and ten times, to
      businessman, man of letters, governor, our nation’s first   to the content of his                    give birth to between five and seven live children. Mary Beth
      diplomat – a signer of the Declaration of Independence and   sister’s letters in his                 Norton, Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience
      Constitution – while Jane would marry at 15 a man who   responses to them, which enabled the author to determine   of American Women, 1750-1800 (Boston: Little, Brown,
      failed at everything, borrowed his way into debtors’ prison   much of what Jane wrote.               1980), 72.” I found that extra fact quite interesting.
      and eventually went mad. She bore 12 children and buried     Adding enormously both to the pleasure and the     With unanimous praise from reviewers who described
      11 of them. Because she was a woman in the 1700s, Jane   information in Book of Ages is the unusually extensive   this book as “luminous,” “marvelous,” “fantastic,” and
      was taught to read so that she could pray in church, but was   162-page reference section that follows the almost 300-  “eloquent,” perhaps The Washington Post said it best: “We
      not taught to write because women of her day were taught   page history that is the heart of the book. While some will   may know about Jane Franklin only because of her famous
      instead to cook, sew, and learn other appropriate household   simply ignore this addendum, I found it fascinating. It   brother, but he is not why she matters.”
      duties.                                            includes an explanation of Lepore’s methods and sources     And Time Magazine said, “Jane Franklin’s indomitable
        However, Jane was intelligent. She taught herself to write   used to gather so many of the previously lost details of   voice and hungry, searching intellect shine through these
      by sounding out the words, so she wrote phonetically, and   Jane’s life; a genealogy of the Franklin family dating back   pages; she will not be forgotten, and the world is richer for
      apologized for her poor spelling in almost every letter she   to 1665 (which is very helpful, since many of the children   it.”
      wrote. At one point she wanted her brother to know that   were named for parents, grandparents, etc.); a detailed     Read this book. You will be richer for it.
      she admired how he had handled himself in an appearance
      before the British Parliament. She wrote, “Yr. Ansurs to the
      Parlement are thought by the best Judges to Exeed all that   Introductory Massage
      has been wrot on the subject, & being given in the manner                                                  $59
      they were are a Proof they Proceeded from Prinsiple.”  End Of SuMMEr
        The book’s title, Book of Ages, is taken from one that
      Jane herself created, “the paper made from rags, soaked
      and pulped and strained and dried. Her thread was made   SpEcIal
      from flax, and spun and twisted and dyed ...” Its purpose
      was to record dates: the births and deaths of her family. Her
      first entries were of her husband and her own:

        Edward Mecom Senr Born in December 1704
        Jane Franklin Born on March 27 – 1712
        Edward Mecom Marryed to Jane Franklin the 27th of
      July 1727                                                 561/328-0172

        Through the years, she would add many entries,            654 West Indiantown
      including the births of 12 children and the deaths of 11 of
      them. Hers was not an easy life, but one that participated   Road, Jupiter, FL 33458
      in the great events of her time and our nation’s history.
        After serving as a printer and bookseller in Philadelphia,
      Benjamin had gone to England and lived there for decades
      during the colonial period, developing his reputation there
      (fathering a bastard son during that time) and returning
      home for visits only once every 10 years. His relationship
      with Jane, as loving and close as it truly was, was therefore
      limited  to  their  two-way  correspondence  of  hundreds                  pickupS FOR AuTiSM ...
      of letters that were carried by mutual friends across the
      Atlantic.                                                                                                      ... and Related Disabilities
        Through these letters we become first-hand witnesses
      to the founding of our nation as she experienced them,
      an average colonist in Boston: “the shot heard ‘round the
      world” that lit the flame of the Revolution; the mob of
      colonists disguised as Mohawks who attacked the British        GOT cluTTeR?                                            DOnATe YOuR
      ship in the harbor to protest the tea tax, an event that became
      known as the Tea Party; the secret meetings in taverns,                                                                  GenTlY uSeD
      the rumors of uprisings, Paul Revere’s ride to warn of the
      British invasion, and much more. Jane wrote to her brother                                                                             iTeMS
      of all that was happening around her, and her fear of the
      coming war.                                                                                                                Call us now
        Across the Atlantic, Benjamin – though acclaimed and                                                             for a free piCkup
      celebrated in England over a period of many years – was
      now sending secret messages of his own to contacts in the                                                           561-361-0032
      colonies, providing valuable information about the king’s
      military plans, until one of his messages was intercepted by                                              
      a traitor and he was deported from England. In the colonies,
      his own son, the Governor of New Jersey, continued to be                                                                1.888.9.pickup
      a Royalist who protested against the Revolution and was
      eventually branded a traitor to the new nation.
        Perhaps the most striking, and saddest, example of the
      difference in Benjamin’s and Jane’s status is the fact that
      hundreds of Benjamin’s letters are preserved in archives
      and are worth fortunes today, whereas the first letter from
      Jane that survives is one she wrote not to her brother but
      to his wife (who had stayed behind in Philadelphia, did not
      see Benjamin for years at a time, and died while he was                                                                       All Donations are Tax Deductible
      still in England); Jane wrote that letter when she was 45                                                                    Certificates of Insurance Available
      years old! All the letters she had written before that time
      have been lost to history because they were not considered
      important!                                            Clothing • Linens • Furniture • Jewelry • Art • Toys • Household Goods
        This fact alone makes clear how incredibly diligent
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