An excellent study of Thomas Paine by the head of the English department at Hunter College (the author of The Angry Decade and Heroes, Highbrows and the Popular Mind), forms a full picture of the man in relation to the social upheavals and the personal ironies that marked his life. Departing from the chronological, up-from-childhood pattern common in juveniles, the narrative plunges immediately into the thick of things, at a point when Paine had already become famous as the creator of Common Sense, and as a soldier with Washington's army in retreat outside Newark, as he wrote the Crisis pamphlets. By reference then to the social and political issues at stake we are let in on the meaning of Paine's ideas and fluency with words. Then, by degrees, we see the larger and larger areas of his background as they in turn had meaning for the events in his life, which became so abruptly different when he left England at 37 with little more than an introduction to Benjamin Franklin in his pocket. As the author writes, always in full command of his subject, the further episodes of Paine's life-as practical scientist, as a maker of powerful enemies, as a person who saw ""man in the abstract""- take on a vigorous historical accuracy that make them a valuable reading experience. Highly recommended.