Art: Far from Home

The brown obscurity of the painting glowed faintly with candlelight and with rose, blue and yellow waistcoats. The clock on the wall pointed to 2 a.m. and everyone seemed to be having a splendid time splicing the main brace—except for an old salt named Jonas Wanton. Jonas had passed out cold, but he remained a center of attention: one wassailer was being sick beside him, while Stephen Hopkins (who was later to sign the Declaration of Independence for Rhode Island) blessed his bald head with grog.

The scene showed how not-so-puritanical New Englanders used to...

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