A Tale of Benjamin Franklin's Family
In the Days Leading up to The American Revolution
Is Temple's Diary fact or fiction? I wish to stress that as far as historical events are concerned — the battles, the political developments, Franklin's roles — I have taken no liberties. With one exception, the characters in this story were real people, given their real names and personalities — an easy task since, in collaboration with Eugenia Herbert, I wrote The Private Franklin: The Man and his Family (WW. Norton, 1976). The one exception is Abigail, invented in fond memory of my sons' romantic longings when they were fifteen.
George Fox, who became a doctor, remained a life-long friend of Temple, despite the fact that they never met again after Temple went off to Europe in 1791, after his grandfather's death, and died in Paris in 1823.
The Elphinston school in the Kensington part of London really existed, and the Provost of the College of Philadelphia — to become eventually the University of Pennsylvania — was really the Reverend William Smith, Franklin's arch-enemy.
The fiction appears only in the presentation of the material, often taking the form of dialogue rather than straight narrative. I have tried to offer as many facets as I could of eighteenth-century life, but made no attempt to reproduce the style of those days; it appears only in a few direct quotations.
And finally, Temple himself. He came into my editorial life at a time when one of my sons was going through the difficult process of detachment known as adolescence, as identity crisis. Temple, in contrast, did not know his identity, and was keener on attaching himself to a family rather than pulling away. I became fond of that motherless boy.
I thought that American students his own age would relate to him and relate to history while reading about him, caught between the opposite sides of the Revolution, somewhat like the children of divorced parents. When I showed my work in progress to a few kids his age, they liked it but said that to make it really cool, Temple should have adventures. Adventures? A boy living at home and going daily to school? That would imply fiction, or the world of magic. But Temple lived in the real world, and his great adventure was of another kind. It was emotional.
Which is why, finally, I created Temple's Diary, the diary HE could and should have written himself, but then, as he told his great-aunt Jane, he tended "to put off things until tomorrow." And I have, of course, inserted the illustrations.