Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern NationsBook - 2006
In Craig Nelsons Thomas Paine we now have a rich and vivid portrait that does justice to this towering figure of our history, one that brings him to life against the dramatic backdrop of the Revolutionary era and the heady intellectual exhilaration of the Age of Enlightenment. Nelson traces Paines path from his years as a struggling London mechanic to his journey to seek his fortune in the New World (in which he arrived on a stretcher, after a nearly deadly bout of shipboard typhus); from his early career as a crusading pamphleteer to his emergence as the heroic voice of revolutionary fervor on two continents; from his miraculous escape from execution in Paris during The Terror to his final years in America, where the once-lionized patriot spent his final days nearly impoverished and in the throes of dementia. Throughout his insightful portrait Nelson takes full account of this paradoxical figure, whom some contemporaries judged as brilliant and charismatic and others disparaged as abrasive and egotistical, a cherished patriot who was nonetheless dismissed by John Adams as a disastrous meteor and Teddy Roosevelt as a dirty little atheist.
Five years in the making, drawing on both the most recent scholarship and the archives of Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Paris, London, Lewes, and Thetford, Thomas Paine restores this often misunderstood man to the stature that he deserves, and reveals him, a man who famously asserted that we have it in our power to begin the world over again, to be as much a man of our own time as a paragon of the Enlightenment. BACKCOVER: Thomas Paine has had many biographers, but this is the first book to recover him in his own electrical style. Nelson's account brings Paine to life with all the flaws and foibles flaming away amidst the greatness. The story is poignant and the prose is incandescent.
Joseph J. Ellis, author, most recently, of His Excellency: George Washington