Donnish humor

The Baltimore Sun

I have been reading Alan Taylor’s formidably learned and formidably researched American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804, learning things on every page about an era in which I thought I was tolerably well informed.

It is a delight and a relief in pursuing such a work to come across a welcome moment of lightness, as in Professor Taylor’s description of Benjamin Franklin’s efforts to win French support for an alliance with the rebellious colonists in 1778:

“During the early 1770s in London, Franklin had taken pains to appear wealthy and genteel, but in Paris he shrewdly cultivated a new persona as the plain and honest American of simple but dignified clothes and manners. He deftly appealed to the French fashion for romanticizing America as a land of purer simpletons, early versions of Jerry Lewis.”

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