Lewes is a Sussex town with real charm - and a brilliant second-hand bookshop and wonderful flea markets. It was a revelation when I visited for the first time in the past week.
What I hadn't expected is that Lewes would have taken the radical and freethinker Tom Paine to its heart.
The portrait of the man above is on the wall of a bijou fruit, veg and food market. And there's lots of Paine around, even though he only lived here for six years.
If truth be told, Paine was from Thetford in Norfolk where his father was a stay maker - stays being a particularly restrictive type of corset. So Paine was sometimes caricatured, as here, tying up stays.
He was more famous of course for writing The Rights of Man, and championing both American independence and French republicanism. Good for Tom!
Lewes does not strike me as a bastion of leftism, or even liberalism. But you can't walk through the town centre without being assaulted by reminders of Lewes's most famous (if fleeting) onetime resident revolutionary.
I suppose it helps that he lived in one of the sweetest buildings in this distinctly pretty small town ...
... and of course, as Paine is lionised in the US (where he went to live after tiring of Sussex), it can only help in bringing in high-rolling tourists.
And even better that you can toast Tom Paine in the excellent local brew, Harvey's.
Wonderfully, the local tourist information office has details of a Tom Paine trail. Try it out! And remember those words:
'We have it in our power to build the world anew!'
Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason - an attack on institutionalised religion from a Deist perspective - was published in pamphlet form in three parts, in 1794, 1795 and 1807. It was written in Paine's typically robust, irreverent style - and provoked a torrent of pamphlet rebuttals and ripostes. It's been described as "the anti-Bible of all lower-class nineteenth-century infidel agitators".
Richard Carlile was prosecuted in 1818 for republishing this title, and responded by reading out the entire work in court, ensuring it was part of the court record. In subsequent years he disseminated the work widely - though this edition remains scarce, especially with a publication date as early as 1819.
The wonderful cartoonist George Cruikshank turned his attention in October 1819 to the duo of Tom Paine (by now dead) and Richard Carlile, with wonderful effect - judge for yourself.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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