Daniel Defoe (Foe)
|Also Known As:||"Daniel Foe"|
|Birthplace:||St Giles Cripplegate, Cripplegate, London, England|
|Death:||Died in London, England|
|Place of Burial:||London, England|
Son of James Foe; James Foe; Annie Foe and Alice Foe
|Occupation:||Writer, trader, Spy, Journalist, Pamphleteer, Novelist (Robinson Crusoe)|
|Managed by:||Terry Jackson (Switzer)|
Matching family tree profiles for Daniel Defoe
About Daniel Defoe
Born Daniel Foe
Daniel Defoe is widely considered as the father of the English novel. He wrote novels, pamphlets, and thousands of essays during his lifetime. His most famous work “Robinson Crusoe” has been a favorite book for many generations of readers from all ages.
Daniel Defoe was born in London in September 1660; the first son of James and Mary Foe. (He altered his original name Foe to Defoe in 1703.)
In 1671 Defoe studied at religious academies in preparation for a career in the Presbyterian ministry.
Daniel Defoe married Mary Tuffley in 1684. They had seven children together - two sons and five daughters.
Read More from Literature Collection
Born: 1660 London, England Died: April 24, 1731 London, England English writer, journalist, and poet
Daniel Defoe was the first of the great eighteenth-century English novelists. He wrote more than five hundred books, pamphlets, articles, and poems.
Education, marriage, and early career
Little is known about the birth and early childhood of Daniel Defoe, as no baptism record exists for him. It is likely that he was born in London, England, in 1660. James Foe, his father, was a butcher by trade and also a Protestant Presbyterian (considered to be a person who thought differently and did not believe in or belong to the Church of England). (Daniel Defoe added the De to his original last name Foe when he was forty.) He had a sister, Elizabeth, who was born a year earlier. When he was ten, his mother died. He had early thoughts of becoming a Presbyterian minister, and in the 1670s he attended the Reverend Charles Morton's famous academy near London.
In 1684 Defoe married Mary Tuffley, who brought him the handsome dowry of 3,700 pounds. They had seven children. Defoe participated briefly in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, a Protestant uprising, but escaped capture and punishment. From 1685 through 1692 he engaged in trade in London as a wholesale hosiery agent, an importer of wine and tobacco, and part owner and insurer of ships.
Defoe evidently did business with King William III (1650–1702). He suffered losses from underwriting marine insurance for the king and was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1692. Although he settled with the people to whom he owed money in 1693, he faced the threat of bankruptcy throughout his life and faced imprisonment for debt and libel (the crime of writing or publishing untrue statements that harm other people) seven times.
Journalist and secret agent
Arrested in 1703 for having published The Shortest Way with the Dissenters in 1702, Defoe was tried and sentenced, put before public abuse, and taken to prison. Robert Walpole (1676–1745) released him five months later and offered him a post as a government agent. Defoe continued to serve the government as journalist, pamphleteer, and secret agent for the remainder of his life. The most long-lived of his twenty-seven periodicals, the Review (1704–1713), was especially influential in promoting the union between England and Scotland in 1706 and 1707 and in supporting the controversial Peace of Utrecht of 1713 (one of the greatest peace settlements in history that balanced power in Europe).
His nonfiction—essays, poems
Defoe published hundreds of political and social documents between 1704 and 1719. His interests and activities reflect the major social, political, economic, and literary trends of his age. He supported the policies of William III and Mary after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and 1689, and analyzed England's growth as the major sea and mercantile (having to do with merchandise and trade) power in the Western world. He pleaded for sympathy for debtors and defended the rights of Protestant dissenters (people who opposed the beliefs of the Church of England). He used newspapers and journals to make his points.
His first major work, An Essay upon Projects (1697), proposed ways of providing better roads, insurance, and education to be supported by "a Tax upon Learning, to be paid by the Authors of Books." Many of these topics reappeared in his later works.
In 1701 Defoe published The True-Born Englishman, the most widely sold poem in English up to that time. He estimated that more than eighty thousand copies of this defense of William III against the attacks of John Tutchin were sold. Although Defoe's The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702), which ridiculed the harshness of the Church of England, led to his arrest, the popularity of his Hymn to the Pillory (1703) indicated the favor that he had found with the London public.
At the age of fifty-nine, after a full career as businessman, government servant, political pamphleteer, and journalist, Defoe began a career as novelist. Within six years he produced six novels, all of which gave him his greatest fame.
In 1719 Defoe published his most lasting work, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. The success of the story inspired Defoe to write The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe later in 1719 and Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprizing
Adventures in 1720. That year he published another travel novel, The Life, Adventures, and Pyracies of the Famous Captain Singleton.
Other major fiction
Defoe published comparatively little in 1721, because he was hard at work on the three major books that were to appear the following year. In January 1722 he published The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, probably the most successful of his novels. A Journal of the Plague Year, issued in March 1722, presented a picture of life in London during the Great Plague of 1665; it was thought to be history rather than fiction for more than a hundred years. His third novel, The History and Remarkable Life of the Truly Honourable Col. Jacque, was published in December 1722.
In 1724 and 1725 Defoe published four successful books, each displaying his characteristically clear, strong English words. The Fortunate Mistress; or, … Roxana was the first of three in 1724. The second, A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain was one of the most thorough guidebooks of the period, and the third, The History of the Remarkable Life of John, was one of his finest criminal biographies. The True and Genuine Account of the Life and Actions of the Late Jonathan Wild was the fourth book, published in 1725.
Last Works and death
Although he continued to write, only a few of Defoe's later works are worthy of note: The Complete English Tradesman (1725), The Political History of the Devil (1726), A New Family Instructor (1727), and Augusta Triumphans (1728), which was Defoe's plan to make "London the most flourishing City in the Universe."
Daniel Defoe died at age seventy-one on April 24, 1731, outside of London, England.
For More Information Hunter, J. Paul. The Reluctant Pilgrim. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1966.
Moore, John Robert. A Checklist of the Writings of Daniel Defoe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960.
Secord, Arthur W. Studies in the Narrative Method of Defoe. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1924.
Trent, William P. Daniel Defoe, How to Know Him. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1916. Reprint, New York, Phaeton Press, 1971.
(pron.: /ˌdænjəl dɨˈfoʊ/; ca. 1660 – 24 April 1731), born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer and spy, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain, and, along with others such as Samuel Richardson, is among the founders of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote more than 500 books, pamphlets and journals on various topics (including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology and the supernatural). He was also a pioneer of economic journalism.
Early life Daniel Foe (his original name) was probably born in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate, London. Defoe later added the aristocratic-sounding "De" to his name and on occasion claimed descent from the family of De Beau Faux. The date and the place of his birth are uncertain, with sources often giving dates of anywhere between 1659 to 1661. His father, James Foe, a member of the Butchers' Company, was a prosperous tallow chandler. In Defoe's early life he experienced first-hand some of the most unusual occurrences in English history: in 1665, 70,000 were killed by the Great Plague of London. The Great Fire of London (1666) left standing only Defoe's and two other homes in his neighbourhood. In 1667, when Defoe was probably about seven years old, a Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway via the River Thames and attacked Chatham. By the time he was about 10, Defoe's mother Annie had died.
His parents were Presbyterian dissenters; he was educated in a dissenting academy at Newington Green run by Charles Morton and is believed to have attended the church there. During this period, England was not tolerant of all forms of religious belief. Roman Catholics were feared and hated. Dissenters refused to conform to the services of the Church of England; they were despised and oppressed.
Defoe entered the world of business as a general merchant, dealing at different times in hosiery, general woollen goods and wine. Though his ambitions were great and he was able to buy both a country estate and a ship (as well as civet cats to make perfume), he was rarely out of debt. In 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, the daughter of a London merchant, receiving a dowry of £3,700 - a huge amount by the standards of the day. With his debts and political difficulties, the marriage was most likely troubled, but it lasted 50 years and produced eight children, six of whom survived.
In 1685, Defoe joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion but gained a pardon by which he escaped the Bloody Assizes of Judge George Jeffreys. William III was crowned in 1688, and Defoe immediately became one of his close allies and a secret agent. Some of the new king's policies, however, led to conflict with France, thus damaging prosperous trade relationships for Defoe, who had established himself as a merchant. In 1692, Defoe was arrested for debts of £700 (and his civets were seized), though his total debts may have amounted to £17,000 his laments were loud and he always defended unfortunate debtors but there is evidence that his financial dealings were not always honest.
Following his release, he probably travelled in Europe and Scotland and it may have been at this time that he traded wine to Cadiz, Porto and Lisbon. By 1695 he was back in England, now formally using the name "Defoe", and serving as a "commissioner of the glass duty", responsible for collecting taxes on bottles. In 1696 he ran a tile and brick factory in what is now Tilbury, Essex and living in the parish of Chadwell St Mary.
Pamphleteering and prison
Daniel Defoe in the pillory, 1862 line engraving by James Charles Armytage after Eyre CroweDefoe's first notable publication was An Essay upon Projects, a series of proposals for social and economic improvement, published in 1697. From 1697 to 1698 he defended the right of King William III to a standing army during disarmament after the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) had ended the Nine Years' War (1688–97). His most successful poem, The True-Born Englishman (1701), defended the king against the perceived xenophobia of his enemies, satirising the English claim to racial purity. In 1701 Defoe, flanked by a guard of sixteen gentlemen of quality, presented the Legion's Memorial to the Speaker of the House of Commons, later his employer, Robert Harley. It demanded the release of the Kentish petitioners, who had asked Parliament to support the king in an imminent war against France.
The death of William III in 1702 once again created a political upheaval as the king was replaced by Queen Anne, who immediately began her offensive against Nonconformists. A natural target, Defoe's pamphleteering and political activities resulted in his arrest and placement in a pillory on 31 July 1703, principally on account of a pamphlet entitled The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church, purporting to argue for their extermination. In it he ruthlessly satirised both the High church Tories and those Dissenters who hypocritically practised so-called "occasional conformity", such as his Stoke Newington neighbour Sir Thomas Abney. Though it was published anonymously, the true authorship was quickly discovered and Defoe was arrested. He was charged with seditious libel. After a trial at the Old Bailey in front of the notoriously sadistic judge Salathiel Lovell, Defoe was found guilty. Lovell sentenced him to a punitive fine, to public humiliation in a pillory, and to an indeterminate length of imprisonment which would only end upon the discharge of the punitive fine. According to legend, the publication of his poem Hymn to the Pillory caused his audience at the pillory to throw flowers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects and to drink to his health. The historicity of this story is questioned by most scholars, although John Robert Moore later said that "no man in England but Defoe ever stood in the pillory and later rose to eminence among his fellow men". (Thomas Cochrane, the 10th Earl of Dundonald and famous Royal Navy officer, was sentenced to the pillory but was excused for fear his popularity would cause a riot.)
"Wherever God erects a house of prayer the Devil always builds a chapel there; And 't will be found, upon examination, the latter has the largest congregation."
After his three days in the pillory, Defoe went into Newgate Prison. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, brokered his release in exchange for Defoe's co-operation as an intelligence agent for the Tories. In exchange for such cooperation with the rival political side, Harley paid some of Defoe's outstanding debts, improving his financial situation considerably. Within a week of his release from prison, Defoe witnessed the Great Storm of 1703 which raged from 26 to 27 November. It caused severe damage to London and Bristol and uprooted millions of trees and killed over 8,000 people, mostly at sea. The event became the subject of Defoe's The Storm (1704), a collection of witness accounts of the tempest. Many regard it as one of the world's first examples of modern journalism. In the same year he set up his periodical A Review of the Affairs of France which supported the Harley Ministry, chronicling the events of the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1714). The Review ran three times a week without interruption until 1713. Defoe was amazed that a man as gifted as Harley left vital state papers lying in the open, and warned that he was almost inviting an unscrupulous clerk to commit treason; his warnings were fully justified by the William Gregg affair. When Harley was ousted from the ministry in 1708 Defoe continued writing it to support Godolphin, then again to support Harley and the Tories in the Tory ministry of 1710 to 1714. After the Tories fell from power with the death of Queen Anne, Defoe continued doing intelligence work for the Whig government, writing "Tory" pamphlets that actually undermined the Tory point of view.
Not all of Defoe's pamphlet writing was political. One pamphlet (originally published anonymously) entitled A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal the Next Day after her Death to One Mrs. Bargrave at Canterbury the 8th of September, 1705, deals with interaction between the spiritual realm and the physical realm. It was most likely written in support of Charles Drelincourt's The Christian Defense against the Fears of Death (1651). It describes Mrs. Bargrave's encounter with an old friend Mrs. Veal, after she had died. It is clear from this piece and other writings, that while the political portion of Defoe's life was fairly dominant, it was by no means the only aspect.
Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707
No fewer than 545 titles, ranging from satirical poems, political and religious pamphlets and volumes have been ascribed to Defoe (note: in their Critical Bibliography (1998), Furbank and Owens argue for the much smaller number of 276 published items). His ambitious business ventures saw him bankrupt by 1692, with a wife and seven children to support. In 1703, he published a satirical pamphlet against the High Tories and in favour of religious tolerance entitled The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church. As has happened with ironic writings before and since, this pamphlet was widely misunderstood but eventually its author was prosecuted for seditious libel and was sentenced to be pilloried, fined 200 marks and detained at the Queen's pleasure.
In despair, he wrote to William Paterson the London Scot and founder of the Bank of England and part instigator of the Darien scheme, who was in the confidence of Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, leading minister and spymaster in the English Government. Harley accepted Defoe's services and released him in 1703. He immediately published The Review, which appeared weekly, then three times a week, written mostly by himself. This was the main mouthpiece of the English Government promoting the Act of Union 1707.
In 1709 Defoe authored a rather lengthy book entitled, The History Of The Union Of Great Britain; an Edinburgh publication printed by the Heirs of Anderson.
The book was not authored anonymously and cites Defoe as twice taking credit for being its author. An evolution expounded in the book which attempts to explain the facts leading up to the Act of Union 1707 dates all the way back to the 6 December 1604 when King James was presented with a proposed embellishment for unification. This so-called "first draft" for unification took place a full one-hundred years before the signing of the 1707 accord, which respectively preceded the commencement of Robinson Crusoe' by another full ten years.
Defoe began his campaign in The Review and other pamphlets aimed at English opinion, claiming that it would end the threat from the north, gaining for the Treasury an "inexhaustible treasury of men", a valuable new market increasing the power of England. By September 1706 Harley ordered Defoe to Edinburgh as a secret agent to do everything possible to help secure acquiescence in the Treaty of Union. He was conscious of the risk to himself. Thanks to books such as The Letters of Daniel Defoe (edited by G. H. Healey, Oxford 1955), which are readily available, far more is known about his activities than is usual with such agents.
His first reports included vivid descriptions of violent demonstrations against the Union. "A Scots rabble is the worst of its kind", he reported. Years later John Clerk of Penicuik, a leading Unionist, wrote in his memoirs that,
He was a spy among us, but not known as such, otherwise the Mob of Edinburgh would pull him to pieces. Defoe being a Presbyterian who had suffered in England for his convictions, was accepted as an adviser to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and committees of the Parliament of Scotland. He told Harley that he was "privy to all their folly" but "Perfectly unsuspected as with corresponding with anybody in England". He was then able to influence the proposals that were put to Parliament and reported back:
Having had the honour to be always sent for the committee to whom these amendments were referrèd, I have had the good fortune to break their measures in two particulars via the bounty on Corn and proportion of the Excise. For Scotland he used different arguments, even the opposite of those he used in England, for example, usually ignoring the English doctrine of the Sovereignty of Parliament, telling the Scots that they could have complete confidence in the guarantees in the Treaty. Some of his pamphlets were purported to be written by Scots, misleading even reputable historians into quoting them as evidence of Scottish opinion of the time. The same is true of a massive history of the Union which Defoe published in 1709 and which some historians still treat as a valuable contemporary source for their own works. Defoe took pains to give his history an air of objectivity by giving some space to arguments against the Union but always having the last word for himself.
He disposed of the main Union opponent, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun by ignoring him. Nor does he account for the deviousness of the Duke of Hamilton, the official leader of the various factions opposed to the Union, who seemingly betrayed his former colleagues when he switched to the Unionist/Government side in the decisive final stages of the debate.
Defoe made no attempt to explain why the same Parliament of Scotland which was so vehement for its independence from 1703 to 1705 became so supine in 1706. He received very little reward from his paymasters and of course no recognition for his services by the government. He made use of his Scottish experience to write his Tour thro' the whole Island of Great Britain, published in 1726, where he admitted that the increase of trade and population in Scotland which he had predicted as a consequence of the Union, was "not the case, but rather the contrary".
Defoe's description of Glasgow (Glaschu) as a "Dear Green Place" has often been misquoted as a Gaelic translation for the town. The Gaelic Glas could mean grey or green, chu means dog or hollow. Glaschu probably actually means "Green Hollow". The "Dear Green Place", like much of Scotland, was a hotbed of unrest against the Union. The local Tron minister urged his congregation "to up and anent for the City of God". The "Dear Green Place" and "City of God" required government troops to put down the rioters tearing up copies of the Treaty, as at almost every mercat cross in Scotland.
When Defoe visited in the mid 1720s, he claimed that the hostility towards his party was, "because they were English and because of the Union, which they were almost universally exclaimed against".
Late writing and novels
The extent and particulars of Defoe's writing in the period from the Tory fall in 1714 to the publication of Robinson Crusoe in 1719 is widely contested. Defoe comments on the tendency to attribute tracts of uncertain authorship to him in his apologia Appeal to Honour and Justice (1715), a defence of his part in Harley's Tory ministry (1710–14). Other works that anticipate his novelistic career include The Family Instructor (1715), a conduct manual on religious duty; Minutes of the Negotiations of Monsr. Mesnager (1717), in which he impersonates Nicolas Mesnager, the French plenipotentiary who negotiated the Treaty of Utrecht (1713); and A Continuation of the Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy (1718), a satire of European politics and religion, ostensibly written by a Muslim in Paris.
From 1719 to 1724, Defoe published the novels for which he is famous (see below). In the final decade of his life, he also wrote conduct manuals, including Religious Courtship (1722), The Complete English Tradesman (1726) and The New Family Instructor (1727). He published a number of books decrying the breakdown of the social order, such as The Great Law of Subordination Considered (1724) and Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business (1725) and works on the supernatural, like The Political History of the Devil (1726), A System of Magick (1726) and An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions (1727). His works on foreign travel and trade include A General History of Discoveries and Improvements (1727) and Atlas Maritimus and Commercialis (1728). Perhaps his greatest achievement with the novels is the magisterial A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain (1724–27), which provided a panoramic survey of British trade on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.
His novels include:
- Robinson Crusoe (1719)
- The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719)
- Serious reflections during the life and surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe: with his Vision of the angelick world (1720)
- Captain Singleton (1720)
- A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
- Colonel Jack (1722)
- Moll Flanders (1722)
- Roxana (1724)
- Memoirs of a Cavalier
Defoe also wrote a three-volume travel book, Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724–27) that provided a vivid first-hand account of the state of the country. Other non-fiction books include The Complete English Tradesman (1726) and London, the Most Flourishing City in the Universe (1728). Defoe published over 560 books and pamphlets and is considered to be the founder of British journalism.
Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe (1719) tells of a man's shipwreck on a deserted island and his subsequent adventures. The author based part of his narrative on the story of the Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk, who spent four years stranded on the island of Juan Fernandez. He may have also been inspired by the Latin or English translation of a book by the Andalusian-Arab Muslim polymath Ibn Tufail, who was known as "Abubacer" in Europe. The Latin edition of the book was entitled Philosophus Autodidactus and it was an earlier novel that is also set on a deserted island.
Tim Severin's book Seeking Robinson Crusoe (2002) unravels a much wider range of potential sources of inspiration. Severin concludes his investigations by stating that the real Robinson Crusoe figure was Henry Pitman, a castaway who had been surgeon to the Duke of Monmouth. Pitman's short book about his desperate escape from a Caribbean penal colony for his part in the Monmouth Rebellion, his shipwrecking and subsequent desert island misadventures was published by J. Taylor of Paternoster Street, London, whose son William Taylor later published Defoe's novel. Severin argues that since Pitman appears to have lived in the lodgings above the father's publishing house and since Defoe was a mercer in the area at the time, Defoe may have met Pitman and learned of his experiences as a castaway. If he didn't meet Pitman, Severin points out that Defoe, upon submitting even a draft of a novel about a castaway to his publisher, would undoubtedly have learned about Pitman's book published by his father, especially since the interesting castaway had previously lodged with them at their former premises.
Severin also provides evidence in his book that another publicised case of a real-life marooned Miskito Central American man named only as Will may have caught Defoe's attention, inspiring the depiction of Man Friday in his novel.
"One day, about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen on the sand."
— Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, 1719The novel has been variously read as an allegory for the development of civilisation, as a manifesto of economic individualism and as an expression of European colonial desires but it also shows the importance of repentance and illustrates the strength of Defoe's religious convictions. It is also considered by many to be the first novel written in English. Early critics, such as Robert Louis Stevenson admired it saying that the footprint scene in Crusoe was one of the four greatest in English literature and most unforgettable; more prosaically, Dr. Wesley Vernon has seen the origins of forensic podiatry in this episode. It has inspired a new genre, the Robinsonade as works like Johann David Wyss's The Swiss Family Robinson (1812) adapt its premise and has provoked modern postcolonial responses, including J. M. Coetzee's Foe (1986) and Michel Tournier's Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique (in English, Friday) (1967). Two sequels followed, Defoe's The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) and his Serious reflections during the life and surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe: with his Vision of the angelick world (1720). Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) in part parodies Defoe's adventure novel.
Defoe's next novel was Captain Singleton (1720), a bipartite adventure story whose first half covers a traversal of Africa and whose second half taps into the contemporary fascination with piracy. It has been commended for its sensitive depiction of the close relationship between the eponymous hero and his religious mentor, the Quaker William Walters.
Memoirs of a Cavalier
Later, Defoe wrote Memoirs of a Cavalier (1720), set during the Thirty Years' War and the English Civil War.
A Journal of the Plague Year
A work that is often read as if it were non-fiction is his account of the Great Plague of London in 1665: A Journal of the Plague Year, a complex historical novel published in 1722.
 Colonel JackColonel Jack (1722) follows an orphaned boy from a life of poverty and crime to colonial prosperity, military and marital imbroglios and religious conversion, driven by a problematic notion of becoming a "gentleman."
Moll Flanders and Roxana
Also in 1722, Defoe wrote Moll Flanders, another first-person picaresque novel of the fall and eventual redemption of a lone woman in 17th century England. The titular heroine appears as a whore, bigamist and thief, lives in The Mint, commits adultery and incest, yet manages to retain the reader's sympathy.
Moll Flanders and Defoe's final novel Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress (1724) are examples of the remarkable way in which Defoe seems to inhabit his fictional (yet "drawn from life") characters, not least in that they are women. The latter narrates the moral and spiritual decline of a high society courtesan.
Daniel Defoe died on 24 April 1731, probably while in hiding from his creditors. He was interred in Bunhill Fields, London, where his grave can still be visited.
Defoe is known to have used at least 198 pen names.
The Consolidator or, Memoirs of Sundry Transactions from the World in the Moon (1705) Atlantis Major (1711) Robinson Crusoe (1719) The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) The King of Pirates (1719) Captain Singleton (1720) Memoirs of a Cavalier (1720) A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) Moll Flanders (1722) Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress (1724) The Pirate Gow, an account of John Gow Colonel Jack
The Storm (1704) The Family Instructor (1715) A General History of the Pyrates (1724), Defoe's authorship of this pseudonymous work is disputed A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies (1724–1727) The Political History of the Devil (1726)
The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1703) Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe (1720) The Complete English Tradesman An Essay Upon Projects An Essay Upon Literature (1726) Mere Nature Delineated (1726) Conjugal Lewdness (1727) A Plan of the English Commerce (1728)
The True-Born Englishman: A Satyr (1701) Hymn to the Pillory (1703)
^ According to Paul Duguid in "Limits of self organization", First Monday (September 11, 2006): "Most reliable sources hold that the date Defoe’s his birth was uncertain and may have fallen in 1659 or 1661. The day of his death is also uncertain." ^ a b c Adams, Gavin John (2012). Letters to John Law. Newton Page. pp. liii-lv. http://books.google.com/books?id=espxkAw-5bsC&pg=PR53&dq=&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false. ^ a b West, Richard. Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. 1998. ISBN 978-0-7867-0557-3 Daniel Defoe ^ a b c d e f g h i The Broadview Anthology of Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. Toronto: Broadview Press. 2006. ISBN 978-1-55111-611-2. ^ a b Richetti, John J. The Life of Daniel Defoe. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. ^ "Defoe in Stoke Newington". Arthur Secord, P.M.L.A. Vol. 66, p. 211, 1951. Cited in Thorncroft, p. 9, who identifies him as "an American scholar". ^ "The shortest way with the Dissenters". http://www.bartleby.com/27/12.html. Retrieved 2010-09-18. ^ The Storm: or, a collection of the most remarkable casualties and disasters which happen'd in the late dreadful tempest, both by sea and land. London: 1704. ^ John J. Miller, "Writing Up a Storm", Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2011. ^ The History Of The Union Of Great Britain, 1709; Edinburgh, Heirs of Anderson. at TrueScans ^ First Defoe book author reference -- cited as DANIEL DEFOE ^ Second Defoe book author crediting -- stipulated as D. DE FOE ^ Page 19 from the chapter entitled, A General History of Unions in Britain; The History Of The Union Of Great Britain, 1709; Edinburgh, Heirs Of Anderson. ^ Nawal Muhammad Hassan (1980), Hayy bin Yaqzan and Robinson Crusoe: A study of an early Arabic impact on English literature, Al-Rashid House for Publication. ^ Cyril Glasse (2001), New Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 202, Rowman Altamira, ISBN 0-7591-0190-6. ^ Amber Haque (2004), "Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists", Journal of Religion and Health 43 (4): 357–77 . ^ Martin Wainwright, Desert island scripts, The Guardian, 22 March 2003. ^ William Dampier, A New Voyage round the World, 1697 . ^ – "The appendixes offer even more: a listing of Voltaire's and Daniel Defoe's numerous pseudonyms (178 and 198, respectively)..."
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Daniel Defoe Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Daniel Defoe
Works by Daniel Defoe at Project Gutenberg Daniel Defoe fiction at The Literature Network Full online versions of various copies of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and the Robinsonades TrueScans.com Click on Defoe to obtain comprehensive information on The History Of The Union Of Great Britain Edinburgh, Heirs of Anderson, 1709 Full texts in German and English – eLibrary Projekt (eLib) The Journeys of Daniel Defoe around Britain (from a Vision of Britain) Russian toponyms in Daniel Defoe's novels Life of Daniel Defoe at luminarium.org Defoe, Daniel 1661?-1731 WorldCat Identity Dermot Kavanagh's article on the London Fictions site about the London of 'A Journal of the Plague Year' The Pamphleteers by James A. Oliver ISBN: 978-0-9551834-4-7 (PBK) & ISBN: 978-0-9551834-5-4 (HBK)
Daniel Defoe (/ˌdænjəl dɨˈfoʊ/; c. 1660 – 24 April 1731), born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer, and spy, now most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain, and, along with others such as Samuel Richardson, is among the founders of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote more than 500 books, pamphlets and journals on various topics (including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology and the supernatural). He was also a pioneer of economic journalism.
NNDB This is a beta version of NNDB Search: for
Daniel Defoe Daniel DefoeAKA Daniel Foe
Born: Sep-1660 Birthplace: London, England Died: 24-Apr-1731 Location of death: London, England Cause of death: unspecified Remains: Buried, Bunhill Fields Cemetery, London, England
Gender: Male Race or Ethnicity: White Sexual orientation: Straight Occupation: Author
Nationality: England Executive summary: Robinson Crusoe
English author, born in the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, London, in the latter part of 1659 or early in 1660, of a nonconformist family. His grandfather, Daniel Foe, lived at Etton, Northamptonshire, apparently in comfortable circumstances, for he is said to have kept a pack of hounds. As to the variation of name, Defoe or Foe, its owner signed either indifferently until late in life, and where his initials occur they are sometimes D.F. and sometimes D.D.F. Three autograph letters of his are extant, all addressed in 1705 to the same person, and signed respectively D. Foe, de Foe and Daniel Defoe. His father, James Foe, was a butcher and a citizen of London.
Daniel was well educated at a famous dissenting academy, Mr. Charles Morton's of Stoke Newington, where many of the best-known nonconformists of the time were his schoolfellows. With few exceptions all the known events of Defoe's life are connected with authorship. In the older catalogues of his works two pamphlets, Speculum Crapegownorum, a satire on the clergy, and A Treatise against the Turks, are attributed to him before the accession of King James II, but there seems to be no publication of his which is certainly genuine before The Character of Dr. Annesley (1697).
He had, however, before this, taken up arms in Monmouth's expedition, and is supposed to have owed his lucky escape from the clutches of the king's troops and the law, to his being a Londoner, and therefore a stranger in the west country. On the 26th of January 1688 he was admitted a liveryman of the city of London, having claimed his freedom by birth. Before his western escapade he had taken up the business of hosiery factor. At the entry of William and Mary into London he is said to have served as a volunteer trooper "gallantly mounted and richly accoutred."
In these days he lived at Tooting, and was instrumental in forming a dissenting congregation there. His business operations at this period appear to have been extensive and various. He seems to have been a sort of commission merchant, especially in Spanish and Portuguese goods, and at some time to have visited Spain on business. In 1692 he failed for £17,000. His misfortunes made him write both feelingly and forcibly on the bankruptcy laws; and although his creditors accepted a composition, he afterwards honorably paid them in full, a fact attested by independent and not very friendly witnesses. Subsequently, he undertook first the secretaryship and then the management and chief ownership of some tile-works at Tilbury, but here also he was unfortunate, and his imprisonment in 1703 brought the works to a standstill, and he lost £3000. From this time forward we hear of no settled business in which he engaged.
The course of Defoe's life was determined about the middle of the reign of William III by his introduction to that monarch and other influential persons. He frequently boasts of his personal intimacy with the "glorious and immortal" king, and in 1695 he was appointed accountant to the commissioners of the glass duty, an office which he held for four years. During this time he produced his Essay on Projects (1698), containing suggestions on banks, road-management, friendly and insurance societies of various kinds, idiot asylums, bankruptcy, academies, military colleges, high schools for women, etc. It displays Defoe's lively and lucid style in full vigor, and abounds with ingenious thoughts and apt illustrations, though it illustrates also the unsystematic character of his mind.
In the same year Defoe wrote the first of a long series of pamphlets on the then burning question of occasional conformity. In this, for the first time, he showed the unlucky independence which, in so many other instances, united all parties against him. While he pointed out to the dissenters the scandalous inconsistency of their playing fast and loose with sacred things, yet he denounced the impropriety of requiring tests at all. In support of the government he published, in 1698, An Argument for a Standing Army, followed in 1700 by a defense of William's war policy called The Two Great Questions considered, and a set of pamphlets on the Partition Treaty. Thus in political matters he had the same fate as in ecclesiastical; for the Whigs were no more prepared than the Tories to support William through thick and thin. He also dealt with the questions of stock-jobbing and of electioneering corruption. But his most remarkable publication at this time was The True-Born Englishman (1701), a satire in rough but extremely vigorous verse on the national objection to William as a foreigner, and on the claim of purity of blood for a nation which Defoe chooses to represent as crossed and dashed with all the strains and races in Europe. He also took a prominent part in the proceedings which followed the Kentish petition, and was the author, some say the presenter, of the Legion Memorial, which asserted in the strongest terms the supremacy of the electors over the elected, and of which even an irate House of Commons did not dare to take much notice. The theory of the indefeasible supremacy of the freeholders of England, whose delegates merely, according to this theory, the Commons were, was one of Defoe's favorite political tenets, and he returned to it in a powerfully written tract entitled The Original Power of the Collective Body of the People of England examined and asserted (1701).
At the same time he was occupied in a controversy on the conformity question with John How (or Howe) on the practice of "occasional conformity." Defoe maintained that the dissenters who attended the services of the English Church on particular occasions to qualify themselves for office were guilty of inconsistency. At the same time he did not argue for the complete abolition of the tests, but desired that they should be so framed as to make it possible for most Protestants conscientiously to subscribe to them. Here again his moderation pleased neither party.
The death of William was a great misfortune to Defoe, and he soon felt the power of his adversaries. After publishing The Mock Mourners, intended to satirize and rebuke the outbreak of Jacobite joy at the king's death, he turned his attention once more to ecclesiastical subjects, and, in an evil hour for himself, wrote the anonymous Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702), a statement in the most forcible terms of the extreme "high-flying" position, which some high churchmen were unwary enough to endorse, without any suspicion of the writer's ironical intention. The author was soon discovered; and, as he absconded, an advertisement was issued offering a reward for his apprehension, and giving the only personal description we possess of him, "as a middle-sized spare man about forty years old, of a brown complexion and dark brown-colored hair, but wears a wig; a hooked nose, a sharp chin, grey eyes, and a large mole near his mouth." In this conjuncture Defoe had really no friends, for the dissenters were as much alarmed at his book as the high-flyers were irritated. He surrendered, and his defense appears to have been injudiciously conducted; at any rate he was fined 200 marks, and condemned to be pilloried three times, to be imprisoned indefinitely, and to find sureties for his good behavior during seven years. It was in reference to this incident that Alexander Pope, whose Catholic rearing made him detest the abettor of the Revolution and the champion of William of Orange, wrote in the Dunciad, "Earless on high stands unabash'd Defoe" -- though he knew that the sentence to the pillory had long ceased to entail the loss of ears. Defoe's exposure in the pillory (July 29, 30, 31) was, however, rather a triumph than a punishment, for the populace took his side; and his Hymn to the Pillory, which he soon after published, is one of the best of his poetical works. Unluckily for him his condemnation had the indirect effect of destroying his business at Tilbury.
He remained in prison until August 1704, and then owed his release to the intercession of Robert Harley, who represented his case to the queen, and obtained for him not only liberty but pecuniary relief and employment, which, of one kind or another, lasted until the termination of Anne's reign. Defoe was uniformly grateful to the minister, and his language respecting him is in curious variance with that generally used. There is no doubt that Harley, who understood the influence wielded by Defoe, made some conditions. Defoe says he received no pension, but his subsequent fidelity was at all events indirectly rewarded; moreover, Harley's moderation in a time of the extremest party-insanity was no little recommendation to Defoe.
During his imprisonment he was by no means idle. A spurious edition of his works having been issued, he himself produced a collection of twenty-two treatises, to which some time afterwards he added a second group of eighteen more. He also wrote in prison many short pamphlets, chiefly controversial, published a curious work on the famous storm of the 26th of November 1703, and started in February 1704 perhaps the most remarkable of all his projects, The Review. This was a paper which was issued during the greater part of its life three times a week. It was entirely written by Defoe, and extends to eight complete volumes and some few score numbers of a second issue. He did not confine himself to news, but wrote something very like finished essays on questions of policy, trade apd domestic concerns; he also introduced a "Scandal Club", in which minor questions of manners and morals were treated in a way which undoubtedly suggested the Tatlers and Spectators which followed. Only one complete copy of the work is known to exist, and that is in the British Museum. It is probable that if bulk, rapidity of production, variety of matter, originality of design, and excellence of style be taken together, hardly any author can show a work of equal magnitude.
After his release Defoe went to Bury St. Edmunds, though he did not interrupt either his Review or his occasional pamphlets. One of these, Giving Alms no Charity, and Employing the Poor a Grievance to the Nation (1704), is extraordinarily far-sighted. It denounces both indiscriminate alms-giving and the national work shops proposed by Sir Humphrey Mackworth.
In 1705 appeared The Consolidator, or Memoirs of Sundry Transactions from the World in the Moon, a political satire which is supposed to have given some hints for Jonathan Swift's Gullivers Travels; and at the end of the year Defoe performed a secret mission, the first of several of the kind, for Harley. In 1706 appeared the True Relation of the Apparition of one Mrs Veal, long supposed to have been written for a bookseller to help off an unsaleable translation of Drelincourt, On Death, but considerable doubt has been cast upon this by William Lee. Defoe's next work was Jure divino, a long poetical argument in (bad) verse; and soon afterwards (1706) he began to be much employed in promoting the union with Scotland. Not only did he write pamphlets as usual on the project, and vigorously recommend it in The Review, but in October 1706 he was sent on a political mission to Scotland by Sidney Godolphin, to whom Harley had recommended him. He resided in Edinburgh for nearly sixteen months, and his services to the government were repaid by a regular salary. He seems to have devoted himself to commercial and literary as well as to political matters, and prepared at this time his elaborate History of the Union, which appeared in 1709. In this year Henry Sacheverell delivered his famous sermons, and Defoe wrote several tracts about them and attacked the preacher in his Review.
In 1710 Harley returned to power, and Defoe was placed in a somewhat awkward position. To Harley himself he was bound by gratitude and by a substantial agreement in principle, but with the rest of the Tory ministry he had no sympathy. He seems, in fact, to have agreed with the foreign policy of the Tories and with the home policy of the Whigs, and naturally incurred the reproach of time-serving and the hearty abuse of both parties. At the end of 1710 he again visited Scotland. In the negotiations concerning the Peace of Utrecht, Defoe strongly supported the ministerial side, to the intense wrath of the Whigs, displayed in an attempted prosecution against some pamphlets of his on the all-important question of the succession. Again the influence of Harley saved him. He continued, however, to take the side of the dissenters in the questions affecting religious liberty, which played such a prominent part towards the close of Anne's reign. He naturally shared Harley's downfall; and, though the loss of his salary might seem a poor reward for his constant support of the Hanoverian claim, it was little more than his ambiguous, not to say trimming, position must have led him to expect.
Defoe declared that Lord Annesley was preparing the army in Ireland to join a Jacobite rebellion, and was indicted for libel; and prior to his trial (1715) he published an apologia entitled An Appeal to Honour and Justice, in which he defended his political conduct. Having been convicted of the libel he was liberated later in the year under circumstances that only became clear in 1864, when six letters were discovered in the Record Office from Defoe to a Government official, Charles Delafaye, which, according to William Lee, established the fact that in 1718 at least Defoe was doing not only political work, but that it was of a somewhat equivocal kind -- that he was, in fact, sub-editing the Jacobite Mists Journal, under a secret agreement with the government that he should tone down the sentiments and omit objectionable items. He had, in fact, been released on condition of becoming a government agent. He seems to have performed the same not very honorable office in the case of two other journals -- Dormer's Letter and the Mercurius Politicus; and to have written in these and other papers until nearly the end of his life. Before these letters were discovered it was supposed that Defoe's political work had ended in 1715.
Up to that time Defoe had written nothing but occasional literature, and, except the History of the Union and Jure Divino, nothing of any great length. In 1715 appeared the first volume of The Family Instructor, which was very popular during the 18th century. The first volume of his most famous work, the immortal story -- partly adventure, partly moralizing -- of The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, was published on the 25th of April 1719. It ran through four editions in as many months, and then in August appeared the second volume. Twelve months afterwards the sequel Serious Reflections, now hardly ever reprinted, appeared. Its connection with the two former parts is little more than nominal, Crusoe being simply made the mouthpiece of Defoe's sentiments on various points of morals and religion.
Meanwhile the first two parts were reprinted as a feuilleton in Heathcote's Intelligencer, perhaps the earliest instance of the appearance of such a work in such a form. The story was founded on William Dampier's Voyage round the World (1697), and still more on Alexander Selkirk's adventures, as communicated by Selkirk himself at a meeting with Defoe at the house of Mrs. Damaris Daniel at Bristol. Selkirk afterwards told Mrs. Daniel that he had handed over his papers to Defoe. Robinson Crusoe was immediately popular, and a wild story was set afloat of its having been written by Lord Oxford in the Tower of London. A curious idea, at one time revived by Henry Kingsley, is that the adventures of Robinson are allegorical and relate to Defoe's own life. This idea was certainly entertained to some extent at the time, and derives some color of justification from words of Defoe's, but there seems to be no serious foundation for it. Robinson Crusoe (especially the story part, with the philosophical and religious moralizings largely cut out) is one of the world's classics in fiction. Crusoe's shipwreck and adventures, his finding the footprint in the sand, his man "Friday" -- the whole atmosphere of romance which surrounds the position of the civilized man fending for himself on a desert island -- these have made Defoe's great work an imperishable part of English literature. Contemporaneously appeared The Dumb Philosopher, or Dickory Cronke, who gains the power of speech at the end of his life and uses it to predict the course of European affairs.
In 1720 came The Life and Adventures of Mr. Duncan Campbell. This was not entirely a work of imagination, its hero, the fortune-teller, being a real person. There are amusing passages in the story, but it is too desultory to rank with Defoe's best. In the same year appeared two wholly or partially fictitious histories, each of which might have made a reputation for any man. The first was the Memoirs of a Cavalier, which Lord Chatham believed to be true history, and which William Lee considers the embodiment at least of authentic private memoirs. The Cavalier was declared at the time to be Andrew Newport, made Lord Newport in 1642. His elder brother was born in 1620 and the Cavalier gives 1608 as the date of his birth, so that the facts do not fit the dates. It is probable that Defoe, with his extensive acquaintance with English history, and his astonishing power of working up details, was fully equal to the task of inventing it. As a model of historical work of a certain kind it is hardly surpassable, and many separate passages -- accounts of battles and skirmishes -- have never been equalled except by Thomas Carlyle. Captain Singleton, the last work of the year, has been unjustly depreciated by most of the commentators. The record of the journey across Africa, with its surprising anticipations of subsequent discoveries, yields in interest to no work of the kind known to us; and the semi-piratical Quaker who accompanies Singleton in his buccaneering expeditions is a most lifelike character. There is also a Quaker who plays a very creditable part in Roxana (1724), and Defoe seems to have been well affected to the Friends. In estimating this wonderful productiveness on the part of a man sixty years old, it should be remembered that it was a habit of Defoe's to keep his work in manuscript sometimes for long periods.
In 1721 nothing of importance was produced, but in the next year three capital works appeared. These were The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, The Journal of the Plague Year, and The History of Colonel Jack. Moll Flanders and The Fortunate Mistress (Roxana), which followed in 1724, have subjects of a rather more than questionable character, but both display the remarkable art with which Defoe handles such subjects. It is not true, as is sometimes said, that the difference between the two is that between gross and polished vice. The real difference is much more one of morals than of manners. Moll is by no means of the lowest class. Notwithstanding the greater degradation into which she falls, and her originally dependent position, she has been well educated, and has consorted with persons of gentle birth. She displays throughout much greater real refinement of feeling than the more highflying Roxana, and is at any rate flesh and blood, if the flesh be somewhat frail and the blood somewhat hot. Neither of the heroines has any but the rudiments of a moral sense; but Roxana, both in her original transgression and in her subsequent conduct, is actuated merely by avarice and selfishness -- vices which are peculiarly offensive in connection with her other failing, and which make her thoroughly repulsive. The art of both stories is great, and that of the episode of the daughter Susannah in Roxana is consummate; but the transitions of the later plot are less natural than those in Moll Flanders. It is only fair to notice that while the latter, according to Defoe's more usual practice, is allowed to repent and end happily, Roxana is brought to complete misery; Defoe's morality, therefore, required more repulsiveness in one case than in the other.
In the Journal of the Plague Year, sometimes called, from the title of the second edition, A History of the Plague, the accuracy and apparent veracity of the details is so great that many persons have taken it for an authentic record, while others have contended for the existence of such a record as its basis. But here too the genius of Mrs. Veal's creator must, in the absence of all evidence to the contrary, be allowed sufficient for the task. The History of Colonel Jack is an unequal book. There is hardly in Robinson Crusoe a scene equal, and there is consequently not in English literature a scene superior, to that where the youthful pickpocket first exercises his trade, and then for a time loses his ill-gotten gains. But a great part of the book, especially the latter portion, is dull; and in fact it may be generally remarked of Defoe that the conclusions of his tales are not equal to the beginning, perhaps from the restless indefatigability with which he undertook one work almost before finishing another.
To this period belong his stories of famous criminals, of Jack Sheppard (1724), of Jonathan Wild (1725), of the Highland Rogue, i.e. Rob Roy (1723). The pamphlet on the first of these Defoe maintained to be a transcript of a paper which he persuaded Sheppard to give to a friend at his execution.
In 1724 appeared also the first volume of A Tour through the whole Island of Great Britain, which was completed in the two following years. Much of the information in this was derived from personal experience, for Defoe claims to have made many more tours and visits about England than those of which we have record; but the major part must necessarily have been dexterous compilation. In 1725 appeared A New Voyage round the World, apparently entirely due to the author's own fertile imagination and extensive reading. It is full of his peculiar verisimilitude and has all the interest of Anson's or Dampier's voyages, with a charm of style superior even to that of the latter.
In 1726 Defoe published a curious and amusing little pamphlet entitled Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business, or Private Abuses Public Grievances, exemplified in the Pride, Insolence, and Exorbitant Wages of our Women-Servants, Footmen, etc. This subject was a favorite one with him, and in the pamphlet he showed the immaturity of his political views by advocating legislative interference in these matters. Towards the end of this same year The Complete English Tradesman, which may be supposed to sum up the experience of his business life, appeared, and its second volume followed two years afterwards. This book has been variously judged. It is generally and traditionally praised, but those who have read it will be more disposed to agree with Charles Lamb, who considers it "of a vile and debasing tendency", and thinks it "almost impossible to suppose the author in earnest." The intolerable meanness advocated for the sake of the paltriest gains, the entire ignoring of any pursuit in life except money-getting, and the representation of the whole duty of man as consisting first in the attainment of a competent fortune, and next, when that fortune has been attained, in spending not more than half of it, are certainly repulsive enough. But there are no reasons for thinking the performance ironical or insincere, and it cannot be doubted that Defoe would have been honestly unable even to understand Lamb's indignation.
To 1726 also belongs The Political History of the Devil. This is a curious book, partly explanatory of Defoe's ideas on morality, and partly belonging to a series of demonological works which he wrote, and of which the chief others are A System of Magic (1726), and An Essay on the History of Apparitions (1728), issued the year before under another title. In all these works his treatment is on the whole rational and sensible; but in The History of the Devil he is somewhat hampered by an insufficiently worked-out theory as to the nature and personal existence of his hero, and the manner in which he handles the subject is an odd and not altogether satisfactory mixture of irony and earnestness. A Plan of English Commerce, containing very enlightened views on export trade, appeared in 1728.
During the years from 1715 to 1728 Defoe had issued pamphlets and minor works too numerous to mention. The only one of them perhaps which requires notice is Religious Courtship (1722), a curious series of dialogues displaying Defoe's unaffected religiosity, and at the same time the rather meddling intrusiveness with which he applied his religious notions. This was more flagrantly illustrated in one of his latest works, The Treatise Concerning the Use and Abuse of the Marriage Bed (1727), which was originally issued with a much more offensive name, and has been called "an excellent book with an improper title." The Memoirs of Captain Carleton (1728) were long attributed to Defoe, but the internal evidence is strongly against his authorship. They have been also attributed to Swift, with greater probability as far as style is concerned. The Life of Mother Ross, reprinted in Bohn's edition, has no claim whatever to be considered Defoe's.
There is little to be said of Defoe's private life during this period. He must in some way or other have obtained a considerable income. In 1724 he had built himself a large house at Stoke Newington, which had stables and grounds of considerable size. From the negotiations for the marriage of his daughter Sophia it appears that he had landed property in more than one place, and he had obtained on lease in 1722 a considerable estate from the corporation of Colchester, which was settled on his unmarried daughter at his death. Other property was similarly allotted to his widow and remaining children, though some difficulty seems to have arisen from the misconduct of his son, to whom, for some purpose, the property was assigned during his father's lifetime, and who refused to pay what was due. There is a good deal of mystery about the end of Defoe's life; it used to be said that he died insolvent, and that he had been in jail shortly before his death. As a matter of fact, after great suffering from gout and stone, he died in Ropemaker's Alley, Moorfields, on Monday the 26th of April 1731, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. He left no will, all his property having been previously assigned, and letters of administration were taken out by a creditor. How his affairs fell into this condition, why he did not die in his own house, and why in the previous summer he had been in hiding, as we know he was from a letter still extant, are points not clearly explained. He was, however, attacked by Mist, whom he wounded, in prison in 1724. It is most likely that Mist had found out that Defoe was a government agent and quite probable that he communicated his knowledge to other editors, for Defoe's journalistic employment almost ceased about this time, and he began to write anonymously, or as "Andrew Moreton." It is possible that he had to go into hiding to avoid the danger of being accused as a real Jacobite, when those with whom he had contracted to assume the character were dead and could no longer justify his attitude.
Defoe married, on New Year's Day, 1684, Mary Tuffley, who survived until December 1732. They had seven children. His second son, Bernard or Benjamin Norton, has, like his father, a scandalous niche in the Dunciad. In April 1877 public attention was called to the distress of three maiden ladies, directly descended from Defoe, and bearing his name; and a crown pension of £75 a year was bestowed on each of them. His youngest daughter, Sophia, who married Henry Baker, left a considerable correspondence, now in the hands of her descendants. There are several portraits of Defoe, the principal one being engraved by Vandergucht.
In his lifetime, Defoe, as not belonging to either of the great parties at a time of the bitterest party strife, was subjected to obloquy on both sides. The great Whig writers leave him unnoticed. Swift and Gay speak slightingly of him -- the former, it is true, at a time when he was only known as a party pamphleteer. Pope, with less excuse, put him in the Dunciad towards the end of his life, but he confessed to Spence in private that Defoe had written many things and none bad. At a later period he was unjustly described as a "scurrilous party writer", which he certainly was not; but, on the other hand, Samuel Johnson spoke of his writing "so variously and so well", and put Robinson Crusoe among the only three books that readers wish longer. From Sir Walter Scott downwards the tendency to judge literary work on its own merits to a great extent restored Defoe to his proper place, or, to speak more correctly, set him there for the first time. Macaulay's description of Roxana, Moll Flanders and Colonel Jack as "utterly nauseous and wretched" must be set aside as a freak of criticism.
Scott justly observed that Defoe's style "is the last which should be attempted by a writer of inferior genius; for though it be possible to disguise mediocrity by fine writing, it appears in all its naked inanity when it assumes the garb of simplicity." The methods by which Defoe attains his result are not difficult to disengage. They are the presentment of all his ideas and scenes in the plainest and most direct language, the frequent employment of colloquial forms of speech, the constant insertion of little material details and illustrations, often of a more or less digressive form, and, in his historico-fictitious works, as well as in his novels, the most rigid attention to vivacity and consistency of character. Plot he disregards, and he is fond of throwing his dialogues into regular dramatic form, with by-play prescribed and stage directions interspersed. A particular trick of his is also to divide his arguments after the manner of the preachers of his day into heads and subheads, with actual numerical signs affixed to them. These mannerisms undoubtedly help and emphasize the extraordinary faithfulness to nature of his fictions, but it would be a great mistake to suppose that they fully explain their charm. Defoe possessed genius, and his secret is at the last as impalpable as the secret of genius always is.
The character of Defoe, both mental and moral, is very clearly indicated in his works. He, the satirist of the true-born Englishman, was himself a model, with some notable variations and improvements, of the Englishman of his period. He saw a great many things, and what he did see he saw clearly. But there were also a great many things which he did not see, and there was often no logical connection whatever between his vision and his blindness. The most curious example of this inconsistency, or rather of this indifference to general principle, occurs in his Essay on Projects. He there speaks very briefly and slightingly of life insurance, probably because it was then regarded as impious by religionists of his complexion. But on either side of this refusal are to be found elaborate projects of friendly societies and widows' funds, which practically cover, in a clumsy and roundabout manner, the whole ground of life insurance. In morals it is evident that he was, according to his lights, a strictly honest and honorable man. But sentiment of any "high-flying" description -- to use the cant word of his time -- was quite incomprehensible to him, or rather never presented itself as a thing to be comprehended. He tells us with honest and simple pride that when his patron Harley fell out, and Godolphin came in, he for three years held no communication with the former, and seems quite incapable of comprehending the delicacy which would have obliged him to follow Harley's fallen fortunes. His very anomalous position in regard to Mist is also indicative of a rather blunt moral perception. One of the most affecting things in his novels is the heroic constancy and fidelity of the maid Amy to her exemplary mistress Roxana. But Amy, scarcely by her own fault, is drawn into certain breaches of definite moral laws which Defoe did understand, and she is therefore condemned, with hardly a word of pity, to a miserable end. Nothing heroic or romantic was within Defoe's view; he could not understand passionate love, ideal loyalty, aesthetic admiration or anything of the kind; and it is probable that many of the little sordid touches which delight us by their apparent satire were, as designed, not satire at all, but merely a faithful representation of the feelings and ideas of the classes of which he himself was a unit.
His political and economical pamphlets are almost unmatched as clear presentations of the views of their writer. For driving the nail home no one but Swift excels him, and Swift perhaps only in The Drapier's Letters. There is often a great deal to be said against the view presented in those pamphlets, but Defoe sees nothing of it. He was perfectly fair but perfectly one-sided, being generally happily ignorant of everything which told against his own view.
The same characteristics are curiously illustrated in his moral works. The morality of these is almost amusing in its downright positive character. With all the Puritan eagerness to push a clear, uncompromising, Scripture-based distinction of right and wrong into the affairs of everyday life, he has a thoroughly English horror of casuistry, and his clumsy canons consequently make wild work with the infinite intricacies of human nature. He is, in fact, an instance of the tendency, which has so often been remarked by other nations in the English, to drag in moral distinctions at every turn, and to confound everything which is novel to the experience, unpleasant to the taste, and incomprehensible to the understanding, under the general epithets of wrong, wicked and shocking. His works of this class therefore are now the least valuable, though not the least curious, of his books.
There is considerable uncertainty about many of Defoe's writings; and even if all contested works be excluded, the number is still enormous. Besides the list in Bohn's Lowndes, which is somewhat of an omnium gatherum, three lists drawn with more or less care were compiled in the 19th century. Wilson's contains 210 distinct works, three or four only of which are marked as doubtful; Hazlitt's enumerates 183 "genuine" and 52 "attributed" pieces, with notes on most of them; Lee's extends to 254, of which 64 claim to be new additions.
Daniel Defoe's Timeline
Cripplegate, London, England
December 1, 1701
April 24, 1731