Literary Daybook, Jan. 10

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

Published January 10, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Today in fiction

On Jan. 10, Dr. Lanyon witnesses the transformation of Mr. Hyde into Dr. Jekyll.
-- "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1886)
by Robert Louis Stevenson

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
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Today in Literary History

On this day in 1776, Thomas Paine's 50-page, anonymously written pamphlet "Common Sense" was published. Paine's argument extended the issue of taxation into one of liberty, and his pamphlet is widely regarded as the document most responsible for the Declaration of Independence six months later. Paine had only arrived in America from England a year earlier; although he expressed hope in the introduction that "sentiments ... not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor" would be welcomed as logic eventually, his pamphlet was "turned upon the world like an orphan to shift for itself." Within a few months the orphan had sold half a million copies in America and been "received in France and all Europe with Rapture." Over the next seven years Paine's 16 "Crisis Papers," all signed "Common Sense," inspired the Revolution. When John Adams said, "Without the pen of Paine the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain," he meant it: Washington had the first "Crisis Paper" read aloud to the troops at Valley Forge. Nor was Paine all talk: He used his own pay to kick-start a relief fund for soldiers, and he applied the profits from his pamphlets toward producing cheaper editions of them or toward mittens for the troops. His belief that "the cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind" was also more than rhetoric or patriotism -- his "Rights of Man" (1791) got him indicted for treason in England and, when given a Robespierre twist, a year in the Bastille.

-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," email Steve King.

By the Salon Books Editors

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