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Excerpted from ‘Book of Ages’ by Jill Lepore

From “Book of Ages’’ by Jill Lepore:

Benjamin Franklin’s sister Jane thought of her brother as her “Second Self.” He was the youngest of ten sons; she was the youngest of seven daughters. Benny and Jenny, they were called, when they were little. No two people in their family were more alike.

Their lives could hardly have been more different. He ran away from home when he was seventeen. She never left. He taught himself to write with wit and force and style; she never learned how to spell. The day he turned twenty-one, he wrote her a letter — she was fourteen — beginning a correspondence that would last until his death sixty-three years later. He became a printer, a philosopher, and a statesman. She became a wife, a mother, and a widow. He signed the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitution. She strained to form the letters of her name. He loved no one longer. She loved no one better. He wrote more letters to her than he wrote to anyone. All her life, she wrote back: letter after letter filled with news and recipes and gossip and, when she was truly, sorely vexed, and only then, with her blistering opinions about politics.