Was Thomas Paine a disheveled drunk?

No. Again, most of the “biographies” and myths about Paine originate from the early slander campaign by the British royalty and the Federalists, and that is where this myth started. Paine resided with the most prosperous, gentile people of his day, including Lords. They all praise his habits, temperment, and politeness. WJ Linton in a letter to the editor of Scribner’s Monthly wrote:

“For his brandy-bibbing there is as little warrant as for the atheism. I have before me a letter of his, to a friend intending to visit him (it is dated some years later than the bar-room period, but there is no record of any variation in his habits), in which he says:

“When you come you must take such fare as you meet with, for I live upon tea, milk, fruit, pies, plain dumplings, and a piece of meat when I get it; but I live with that retirement and quiet that suits me.”

See WJ Linton on Paine’s Habits. The myths about Paine were bolstered by Howard Fast’s “Citizen Paine”, who took these false slanders and embraced them as the model of a working-class hero. Unfortunately he solidified the anti-Paine propaganda by doing so, leaving many people with the impression that the misinformation might be true. It isn’t.