The Author passeth by the Lions in the Tower, and the other Insignia of British Royalty, and seeth a greater Curiosity, called Thomas Paine, Author of the Rights of Man: Description of his Per|son, Habit, and Manners: In this Chap|ter due meed is rendered to a great A|merican Historical Painter, and a prose Palinode over our lack of the Fine Arts.
OMITTING the lions in the tower, the regalia in the jewel office, and Page 175 the other insignia of British royalty, of which Englishmen are so justly proud, I shall content myself, with mentioning the most singular curiosity, I saw in Lon|don. It was the celebrated Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, the Rights of Man, and other writings, whose tendency is to overturn ancient opinions of government and religion.
I met this interesting personage, at the lodgings of the son of a late patriotic A|merican governour; whose genius, in the fine art of historical painting, whose for|tie at Gibralter, whose flowing drapery, faithful and bold expression, in the por|traits of our beloved president, and other leaders, both military and political, in our glorious revolution; when the love of the fine arts shall be disseminated in our land, will leave posterity to regret and admire the imbecility of contemporary patronage.
Thomas Paine resembled the great a|postle to the Gentiles, not more in his Page 176 zeal and subtlety of argument, than in personal appearance; for, like that fervid apostle, his bodily presence was both mean and contemptible. When I saw him, he was dressed in a snuff coloured coat, olive velvet vest, drab breeches, coarse hose. His shoe buckles of the size of half a dollar. A bob tailed wig cov|ered that head, which worked such mic|kle woe to courts and kings. If I should attempt to describe it, it would be in the same stile and principle, with which the veteran soldier bepraiseth an old standard: the more tattered, the more glorious. It is probable that this was the same identical wig, under the shadow of whose curls, he wrote Common Sense in America, many years before. He was a spare man, rather under size; subject to the extreme of low, and highly exhilirat|ed spirits; often sat reserved in compa|ny; seldom mingled in common chit chat. But when a man of sense and elo|cution Page 177 was present, and the company nu|merous, he delighted in advancing the most unaccountable, and often the most whimsical, paradoxes; which he defend|ed in his own plausible manner. If en|couraged by success, or the applause of the company, his countenance was ani|mated, with an expression of feature, which, on ordinary occasions, one would look for in vain, in a man so much cele|brated for acuteness of thought; but if interrupted by extraneous observation, by the inattention of his auditory, or in an irritable moment, even by the accident|al fall of the poker, he would retire into himself, and no persuasions could induce him to proceed upon the most favourite topic.