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A Great Improvisation : Franklin, France, and the Birth of America - Stacy Schiff

A Great Improvisation

Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

Paperback

Published: 10th January 2006
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"Stunning . . . a remarkably subtle and penetrating portrait of Franklin and his diplomacy."--"The New York Review of Books
" When Benjamin Franklin embarked for France in 1776, he well understood that he was taking on the greatest gamble of his career. The colonies were without money, munitions, gunpowder, or common cause; dispatched amid great secrecy, across a winter sea thick with enemy cruisers, Franklin was seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary French. His eight-year posting there serves not only as Franklin's most vital service to his country--it was in large part on account of his fame, charisma, and ingenuity that France underwrote the American Revolution, and it was Franklin who helped negotiate the peace of 1783--but as the most revealing of the man. The French mission would prove the most inventive act in a life of astonishing inventions.
In "A Great Improvisation," Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff draws from new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. From these pages emerge a particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father, as well as a profound sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.

-In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations. Her Paris unfolds as a glittering carnival of spies, rogues, frauds, and flawed reformers, eccentric nobility and perpetually squabbling American diplomats. Towering above all is the protean figure of Franklin, an improbable compound of wit, cunning, hypocrisy, courage, and tireless devotion to his country. C'est magnifique!- --Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton-This is a book to savor. Every page has some new nugget of insight, or some graceful turn of phrase that generates a verbal airburst over the most psychologically agile American of his time, perhaps of all time. Schiff has given a genuine jolt to the recent surge of interest in Franklin, along the way demonstrating why she is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today.- --Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers and His Excellency: George Washington-What a brilliant book. A Great Improvisation pays tribute to the extraordinary love affair between monarchist France and the republican Benjamin Franklin. Their child was America, conceived at home and nurtured into maturity by France. It is a story full of intrigue, jealousy and passion. But ultimately it is a celebration of one American's love for his country. Stacy Schiff has written a masterpiece, capturing a fleeting moment when the stars aligned between Congress and Versailles. - --Amanda Foreman, Author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire-Stacy Schiff's extensive scholarship, her eye for the colorful detail, and her lively wit combine to bring alive -- in full dress and in an absorbing narrative -- the cast of statesmen, adventurers, spies, courtiers, patriots and con men who have a part in the story of Benjamin Franklin's negotiations for American independence, and to fix among them America's greatest diplomat, winning his way (and America's) in a style of calculated disarray. An extraordinary book.- --Edmund S. Morgan, author of Benjamin Franklin-This remarkable book breaks new ground. Stacy Schiff has dug deep into the archives of France (no mean feat!) and brought up a motherlode of gems which, polished by her wit, illuminate the doublespeak of the ambassadorial world, as well as the ferocious backbiting among the colonial envoys. From this maelstrom emerges Franklin, inventing the American foreign service as he had figured out electricity, bifocals, a new stove, the glass armonica -- step by cautious step.- --Claude-Anne Lopez, Author of Mon Cher Papa: Franklin and the Ladies of Paris "In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations. Her Paris unfolds as a glittering carnival of spies, rogues, frauds, and flawed reformers, eccentric nobility and perpetually squabbling American diplomats. Towering above all is the protean figure of Franklin, an improbable compound of wit, cunning, hypocrisy, courage, and tireless devotion to his country. C'est magnifique!" --Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton"This is a book to savor. Every page has some new nugget of insight, or some graceful turn of phrase that generates a verbal airburst over the most psychologically agile American of his time, perhaps of all time. Schiff has given a genuine jolt to the recent surge of interest in Franklin, along the way demonstrating why she is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today." --Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers and His Excellency: George Washington"What a brilliant book. A Great Improvisation pays tribute to the extraordinary love affair between monarchist France and the republican Benjamin Franklin. Their child was America, conceived at home and nurtured into maturity by France. It is a story full of intrigue, jealousy and passion. But ultimately it is a celebration of one American's love for his country. Stacy Schiff has written a masterpiece, capturing a fleeting moment when the stars aligned between Congress and Versailles. " --Amanda Foreman, Author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire"Stacy Schiff's extensive scholarship, her eye for the colorful detail, and her lively wit combine to bring alive -- in full dress and in an absorbing narrative -- the cast of statesmen, adventurers, spies, courtiers, patriots and con men who have a part in the story of Benjamin Franklin's negotiations for American independence, and to fix among them America's greatest diplomat, winning his way (and America's) in a style of calculated disarray. An extraordinary book." --Edmund S. Morgan, author of Benjamin Franklin"This remarkable book breaks new ground. Stacy Schiff has dug deep into the archives of France (no mean feat!) and brought up a motherlode of gems which, polished by her wit, illuminate the doublespeak of the ambassadorial world, as well as the ferocious backbiting among the colonial envoys. From this maelstrom emerges Franklin, inventing the American foreign service as he had figured out electricity, bifocals, a new stove, the glass armonica -- step by cautious step." --Claude-Anne Lopez, Author of Mon Cher Papa: Franklin and the Ladies of Paris In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations. Her Paris unfolds as a glittering carnival of spies, rogues, frauds, and flawed reformers, eccentric nobility and perpetually squabbling American diplomats. Towering above all is the protean figure of Franklin, an improbable compound of wit, cunning, hypocrisy, courage, and tireless devotion to his country. C'est magnifique! Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton This is a book to savor. Every page has some new nugget of insight, or some graceful turn of phrase that generates a verbal airburst over the most psychologically agile American of his time, perhaps of all time. Schiff has given a genuine jolt to the recent surge of interest in Franklin, along the way demonstrating why she is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today. Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers and His Excellency: George Washington What a brilliant book. A Great Improvisation pays tribute to the extraordinary love affair between monarchist France and the republican Benjamin Franklin. Their child was America, conceived at home and nurtured into maturity by France. It is a story full of intrigue, jealousy and passion. But ultimately it is a celebration of one American's love for his country. Stacy Schiff has written a masterpiece, capturing a fleeting moment when the stars aligned between Congress and Versailles. Amanda Foreman, Author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire Stacy Schiff's extensive scholarship, her eye for the colorful detail, and her lively wit combine to bring alive -- in full dress and in an absorbing narrative -- the cast of statesmen, adventurers, spies, courtiers, patriots and con men who have a part in the story of Benjamin Franklin's negotiations for American independence, and to fix among them America's greatest diplomat, winning his way (and America's) in a style of calculated disarray. An extraordinary book. Edmund S. Morgan, author of Benjamin Franklin This remarkable book breaks new ground. Stacy Schiff has dug deep into the archives of France (no mean feat!) and brought up a motherlode of gems which, polished by her wit, illuminate the doublespeak of the ambassadorial world, as well as the ferocious backbiting among the colonial envoys. From this maelstrom emerges Franklin, inventing the American foreign service as he had figured out electricity, bifocals, a new stove, the glass armonica -- step by cautious step. Claude-Anne Lopez, Author of Mon Cher Papa: Franklin and the Ladies of Paris" In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations. Her Paris unfolds as a glittering carnival of spies, rogues, frauds, and flawed reformers, eccentric nobility and perpetually squabbling American diplomats. Towering above all is the protean figure of Franklin, an improbable compound of wit, cunning, hypocrisy, courage, and tireless devotion to his country. C'est magnifique! "Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton" This is a book to savor. Every page has some new nugget of insight, or some graceful turn of phrase that generates a verbal airburst over the most psychologically agile American of his time, perhaps of all time. Schiff has given a genuine jolt to the recent surge of interest in Franklin, along the way demonstrating why she is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today. "Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers and His Excellency: George Washington" What a brilliant book. "A Great Improvisation" pays tribute to the extraordinary love affair between monarchist France and the republican Benjamin Franklin. Their child was America, conceived at home and nurtured into maturity by France. It is a story full of intrigue, jealousy and passion. But ultimately it is a celebration of one American's love for his country. Stacy Schiff has written a masterpiece, capturing a fleeting moment when the stars aligned between Congress and Versailles. "Amanda Foreman, Author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire" Stacy Schiff's extensive scholarship, her eye for the colorful detail, and her lively wit combine to bring alive -- in full dress and in an absorbing narrative -- the cast of statesmen, adventurers, spies, courtiers, patriots and con men who have a part in the story of Benjamin Franklin's negotiations for American independence, and to fix among them America's greatest diplomat, winning his way (and America's) in a style of calculated disarray. An extraordinary book. "Edmund S. Morgan, author of Benjamin Franklin" This remarkable book breaks new ground. Stacy Schiff has dug deep into the archives of France (no mean feat!) and brought up a motherlode of gems which, polished by her wit, illuminate the doublespeak of the ambassadorial world, as well as the ferocious backbiting among the colonial envoys. From this maelstrom emerges Franklin, inventing the American foreign service as he had figured out electricity, bifocals, a new stove, the glass armonica -- step by cautious step. "Claude-Anne Lopez, Author of Mon Cher Papa: Franklin and the Ladies of Paris"" "In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations. Her Paris unfolds as a glittering carnival of spies, rogues, frauds, and flawed reformers, eccentric nobility and perpetually squabbling American diplomats. Towering above all is the protean figure of Franklin, an improbable compound of wit, cunning, hypocrisy, courage, and tireless devotion to his country. C'est magnifique!" -- Ron Chernow, author of "Alexander Hamilton" "This is a book to savor. Every page has some new nugget of insight, or some graceful turn of phrase that generates a verbal airburst over the most psychologically agile American of his time, perhaps of all time. Schiff has given a genuine jolt to the recent surge of interest in Franklin, along the way demonstrating why she is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today."--Joseph J. Ellis, author of "Founding Brothers" and" His Excellency: George Washington " "What a brilliant book. "A Great Improvisation" pays tribute to the extraordinary love affair between monarchist France and the republican Benjamin Franklin. Their child was America, conceived at home and nurtured into maturity by France. It is a story full of intrigue, jealousy and passion. But ultimately it is a celebration of one American's love for his country. Stacy Schiff has written a masterpiece, capturing a fleeting moment when the stars aligned between Congress and Versailles. "-- Amanda Foreman, Author of "Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire" "Stacy Schiff's extensive scholarship, her eye for the colorful detail, and her lively wit combine to bring alive -- in full dress and in an absorbing narrative -- the cast of statesmen, adventurers, spies, courtiers, patriots and con men who have a part in the story of Benjamin Franklin's negotiations for American independence, and A meticulously researched and judicious account of his eight years as a diplomatic dazzler and charmer in Paris . . . The most important recent addition to original Franklin scholarship."--"The New York Times Book Review" "Engaging . . . An entertaining story, bringing alive a cast of colorful characters, strange plot twists and bizarre anecdotes, which sometimes reads like a movie script replete with intrigues, ultimatums, swindles and vendettas." --"The Washington Post Book World """"This is a book to savor. Every page has some new nugget of insight. Schiff has given a genuine jolt to the recent surge of interest in Franklin, along the way demonstrating why she is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today."--Joseph J. Ellis, author of "Founding Brothers" and "His Excellency: George Washington""""This meticulously researched account captures a key moment in [Franklin's] history, and in ours, with verve, elan, and wit."--"The New Yorker""""Magnificent . . . Schiff has such command of tempo that she sends shivers down a reader's spine." --"Los Angeles Times" "In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations."--Ron Chernow, author of "Alexander Hamilton""Irresistible . . . An artful portrait of Franklin's year in France.""--The Boston Globe" "A masterpiece."--Amanda Foreman, author of "Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire"

Cast of Charactersp. xi
Introductionp. 1
The First Mistake in Public Business Is the Going into It 1776p. 7
Half the Truth Is Often a Great Lie 1776-1777p. 36
Three Can Keep a Secret, If Two of Them Are Dead 1777p. 65
The Cat in Gloves Catches No Mice 1777-1778p. 94
There Is No Such Thing as a Little Enemy 1778p. 126
Admiration Is the Daughter of Ignorance 1778p. 165
Success Has Ruined Many a Man 1779p. 196
Everyone Has Wisdom Enough to Manage the Affairs of His Neighbors 1780p. 229
The Sting of a Reproach Is the Truth of It 1780-1781p. 260
Those Who in Quarrels Interpose May Get Bloody Nose 1782p. 291
The Absent Are Never Without Fault 1783p. 325
Creditors Have Better Memories Than Debtors 1784-1785p. 359
Epiloguep. 398
Chronologyp. 413
Notesp. 419
Selected Bibliographyp. 459
Acknowledgmentsp. 463
Indexp. 467
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780805080094
ISBN-10: 0805080090
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 528
Published: 10th January 2006
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 20.93 x 14.12  x 2.24
Weight (kg): 0.45
Edition Number: 1