Thomas Paine Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Paine was the son of a Quaker small farmer and staymaker in Norfolk, England, who always acknowledged the influence of Quaker principles on his political ideas. At thirteen he entered his father’s business, but after three years went briefly to sea. By the late 1750’s he was again working as a staymaker. In 1761 he was appointed a government excise-tax agent, only to be fired four years later for making fraudulent reports. A letter of apology got him reinstated, however, and he got a new position in Lewes. Paine’s pen first got him into trouble in 1772, when an organization of excisemen asked him to prepare a petition for higher wages. The pamphlet he wrote for them was distributed widely. In April, 1774, he was fired for being absent without leave, but the more likely explanation for his dismissal was his pamphlet.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Thomas Paine was the son of Frances Cocke and Joseph Paine. After grammar school, at the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed in his Quaker father’s trade as a corset maker until he left home at nineteen. After that he was briefly a privateer, a schoolmaster, a grocer, and a tobacconist. He also worked as an exciseman to patrol the coastline against smugglers; during this time he was twice discharged, the second time from lobbying at Parliament for higher salaries for excisemen. He was twice married, first, to Mary Lambert, who died within a year of their marriage in 1759, and then in 1771 to Elizabeth Ollive, from whom he was legally separated in 1774. He met Benjamin Franklin at Westminster, who gave him letters of introduction...

(The entire section is 872 words.)