Life Of P. T. Barnum

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?I have been in jails and in palaces; have known poverty and abundance; have travelled over a large portion of two Continents,? says Phineas T. Barnum in the preface of his autobiography The Life of P.T. Barnum. A consummate showman, Barnum was dubbed the ?patron saint of promoters? by Life magazine. His candid account of his life experiences from his birth in 1810 to 1854 reads more like a novel than a work of nonfiction. His desire to show the ?comic incidents,? glorious hoaxes, and his own foibles (which he refers to as ?humbugs?), is balanced by those occasions where he is in ?imminent personal peril? or coping with heartbreaking events. His frequent use of lively character dialogues reveals his showman?s eye for the dramatic, and exemplifies a style that might be recognized as a precursor to creative nonfiction.