Books: A Collision of Genes and Temper :A Little Revenge: Benjamin Franklin and His Son

A Little Revenge: Benjamin Franklin and His Son by Willard Sterne Randall; Little, Brown; 558 pages; $22.50

His is not one of the faces on Mount Rushmore, but Benjamin Franklin has a position in American mythology that could hardly be loftier. Canny diplomat and dispenser of moral apothegms, scientist and pioneer in electrical experiment and theory, Franklin is everyone's favorite patriot, the kindly uncle of the American Revolution. There was, however, a dark side to the familiar beaming countenance, an aspect that might have come from one of Freud's case histories of an overheated family crucible. This provocative and enlightening account overturns the legend by examining William, Benjamin's only son, born out of wedlock in 1731. Once his...

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