The Life and Works of Thomas Paine - Vol. 7

By Thomas Paine; William M. Van der Weyde | Go to book overview

TO MR. SECRETARY DUNDAS

CONCEIVE it necessary to make you acquainted with the following circumstance:--The Department of Calais having elected me a member of the National Convention of France, I set off from London the thirteenth instant, in company with Mr. Frost, of Spring Garden, and Mr. Audibert, one of the municipal officers of Calais, who brought me the certificate of my being elected. We had not arrived more, I believe, than five minutes at the York Hotel, at Dover, when the train of circumstances began that I am going to relate.

THIS second letter to Dundas (dated from Calais, France, September 15, 1792), does not intimate what a narrow escape Paine had from "capture and the scaffold" in England for having written the "Rights of Man." It curiously, if not ironically, recounts to the English Home Secretary the "annoyance" Paine and his companions had suffered at their English hotel in Dover shortly before embarking for France.

Paine's contemporaries are authority for the statement that, contrary to the evidence of this letter to Secretary Dundas, "on September 13, 1792, William Blake, the mystical artist and poet, certainly saved Paine from the scaffold by forewarning him that an order had been issued for his arrest."

Incidentally, Thomas Paine is not only depicted by Blake in his illustration of "The spiritual form of Pitt guiding Behemoth," but is mentioned by name in Blake's "Prophecy" concerning America.

We had taken our baggage out of the carriage, and put it into a room, into which we went. Mr. Frost,

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