The Loyal Son
- Sarah Longaker
Former Patrick Henry Writing Fellow Daniel Mark Epstein returns to Chestertown on October 4 to discuss his new book The Loyal Son: The War in Ben Franklin’s House
While many recognize Benjamin Franklin as a notable—if not colorful—founding father of the United States, his son William, a prominent Loyalist, remains obscure. Author Daniel Mark Epstein will explore the turbulent relationship between this founding father and his illegitimate son as he discusses his new book The Loyal Son: The War in Ben Franklin’s House on Wednesday, October 4 at 5:30 p.m.
Sponsored by the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the program at Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, will be followed by a book signing. The event is free and open to the public.
Epstein throws the spotlight on one of the more enigmatic aspects of Franklin’s biography: his complex and confounding relationship with his forbidden son, William. Once inseparable, the outbreak of the American Revolution caused a devastating split between the Franklins. By then, William was Royal Governor of New Jersey, while Ben was one of the foremost champions of American independence. In 1776, the Continental Congress imprisoned William for treason. George Washington made efforts to win William’s release, while his father appeared to have abandoned him to his fate.
A fresh take on the combustible politics of the age of independence, The Loyal Son is a gripping account of how the agony of the American Revolution devastated one of America’s most distinguished families. Like Nathaniel Philbrick and David McCullough, Epstein is a storyteller first and foremost, a historian who weaves together fascinating incidents discovered in long-neglected documents to draw us into the private world of the men and women who made America.
An award-winning poet, best-selling biographer, and dramatist, Epstein has penned biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Nat King Cole, Bob Dylan, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as nine volumes of poetry. His verse has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review, among other publications. The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded Epstein the Rome Prize in 1977 and an Arts and Letters Award in 2006.
Epstein was the 2013-14 Patrick Henry Writing Fellow at the Starr Center. During his residency, he drafted portions of The Loyal Son and taught a seminar entitled “The Muse of History.” In his new book, he acknowledges his fellowship experience: “One of the benefits was the pleasure of living in the Patrick Henry House, an eighteenth-century dwelling on Queen Street in the heart of [Chestertown’s] historic district. I had no idea, before accepting the fellowship, that the charming Georgian house also serves as quarters for the Leo LeMay Library of Americana, one of the finest collections of books about Benjamin Franklin and colonial and revolutionary America anywhere.” The late Franklin historian J.A. Leo LeMay donated his massive library to the Starr Center.
About the Patrick Henry Fellowship:
Launched by the Starr Center in 2008, the Patrick Henry Fellowship aims to encourage reflection on the links between American history and contemporary culture, and to foster the literary art of historical writing. It is co-sponsored by the Rose O’Neill Literary House, Washington College’s center for literature and the literary arts. The Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship’s funding is permanently endowed by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with further support provided by the Starr Foundation, the Hodson Trust, and other donors.