Robert Treat Paine


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(1773–1811), was reared in the best society of Boston, but after his graduation from Harvard (1792) drifted from business into bohemianism, and through his writing and actions estranged himself from his conventional background. He edited the Federal Orrery (1794–96), a strongly Federalist journal that specialized in satire of Jacobin politics. His marriage to an actress, constant indebtedness, and vehement manner placed him beyond the pale of Boston society, but his satirical ability, facile versification, and general eccentricity caused him to be considered a genius. His poetry, including The Invention of Letters (1795) and The Ruling Passion (1796), was widely read. Adams and Liberty⧫ (1798), his most famous work, was sung throughout the nation. Until 1801 he used his christened name, Thomas Paine, but that year he adopted the name of a dead brother, presumably because of his opposition to the ideas of the pamphleteer. His Works (1812) includes early neoclassical verse, later political satire, and patriotic prose.

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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