Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Back in England, Paine’s trial for “Rights of Man” went on without him; he was found guilty, and outlawed. “If the French kill their King, it will be a signal for my departure,” Paine had pledged before he left for France, but now he had no choice: not only could he not return to England; he couldn’t venture an Atlantic crossing to the United States, for fear of being captured by a British warship. Instead, he stayed in his rooms in Paris, and waited for the worst. As the Reign of Terror unfolded, he drafted the first part of “The Age of Reason.” In December, 1793, when the police knocked at his door, he handed a stash of papers to his friend the American poet and statesman Joel Barlow. Barlow carried the manuscript to the printers; the police carried Paine to an eight-by-ten cell on the ground floor of a prison that had once been a palace. There he would write most of the second part of “The Age of Reason” as he watched other inmates go daily to their deaths. (In six weeks in the summer of 1794, more than thirteen hundred people were executed.)

When the United States government failed to secure his release, Paine at first despaired. Then he raged, writing to the American Ambassador, James Monroe, “I should be tempted to curse the day I knew America. By contributing to her liberty I have lost my own.” Finally, after ten months, he was freed. But he left prison an invalid. Ravaged by typhus, gout, recurring fevers, and a suppurating wound on his belly, he never fully recovered.

- Jill Lepore, in her book review The Sharpened Quill, in the October 16, 2006 New Yorker.

Definitions of suppurating on the Web:

forming pus

forming and/or discharging pus

-definition from the Google search define: suppurating

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