Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

Overview
Daniel Defoe (ˌdænjəl dɨˈfoʊ; ca. 1659–1661 to 24 April 1731), born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer
Pamphleteer
A pamphleteer is a historical term for someone who creates or distributes pamphlets. Pamphlets were used to broadcast the writer's opinions on an issue, for example, in order to get people to vote for their favorite politician or to articulate a particular political ideology.A famous pamphleteer...

, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe that was first published in 1719. Epistolary, confessional, and didactic in form, the book is a fictional autobiography of the title character—a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and...

. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and along with others such as Richardson
Samuel Richardson
Samuel Richardson was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He is best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded , Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady and The History of Sir Charles Grandison...

, is among the founders of the English novel
English novel
The English novel is an important part of English literature.-Early novels in English:A number of works of literature have each been claimed as the first novel in English. See the article First novel in English.-Romantic 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).
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Daniel Defoe'
Start a new discussion about 'Daniel Defoe'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Quotations

Alas the Church of England! What with Popery on one hand, and schismatics on the other, how has she been crucified between two thieves!

s:The Shortest Way with the Dissenters|The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702)

Reason, it is true, is DICTATOR in the Society of Mankind; from her there ought to lie no Appeal; But here we want a Pope in our Philosophy, to be the infallible Judge of what is or is not Reason.

An Essay upon Publick Credit (1710)

All men would be tyrants if they could.

The Kentish Petition (1712-1713)

The best of men cannot suspend their fate:The good die early, and the bad die late.

Character of the Late Dr. S. Annesley (1715)

'Tis very strange Men should be so fond of being thought wickeder than they are.

A System of Magick (1726)

Wherever God erects a house of prayer,The Devil always builds a chapel there;And 'twill be found, upon examination,The latter has the largest congregation.

Pt. I, l. 1. Compare: "Where God hath a temple, the Devil will have a chapel", Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, part iii, section 4, Memb. 1, Subsect. 1.

From this amphibious ill-born mob beganThat vain, ill-natured thing, an Englishman.

Pt. I, l. 132.

The royal refugee our breed restoresWith foreign courtiers and with foreign whores,And carefully repeopled us again,Throughout his lazy, long, lascivious reign.

Pt. I, l. 233-236

Wealth, howsoever got, in England makesLords of mechanics, gentlemen of rakes;Antiquity and birth are needless here;‘Tis impudence and money makes a peer.

Pt. I, l. 360-363

Great families of yesterday we show,And lords whose parents were the Lord knows who.

Pt. I, l. 374.
Encyclopedia
Daniel Defoe (ˌdænjəl dɨˈfoʊ; ca. 1659–1661 to 24 April 1731), born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer
Pamphleteer
A pamphleteer is a historical term for someone who creates or distributes pamphlets. Pamphlets were used to broadcast the writer's opinions on an issue, for example, in order to get people to vote for their favorite politician or to articulate a particular political ideology.A famous pamphleteer...

, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe that was first published in 1719. Epistolary, confessional, and didactic in form, the book is a fictional autobiography of the title character—a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and...

. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and along with others such as Richardson
Samuel Richardson
Samuel Richardson was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He is best known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded , Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady and The History of Sir Charles Grandison...

, is among the founders of the English novel
English novel
The English novel is an important part of English literature.-Early novels in English:A number of works of literature have each been claimed as the first novel in English. See the article First novel in English.-Romantic 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
St Giles-without-Cripplegate
St Giles-without-Cripplegate is a Church of England church in the City of London, located within the modern Barbican complex. When built it stood without the city wall, near the Cripplegate. The church is dedicated to St Giles, patron saint of beggars and cripples...

 Cripplegate
Cripplegate
Cripplegate was a city gate in the London Wall and a name for the region of the City of London outside the gate. The area was almost entirely destroyed by bombing in World War II and today is the site of the Barbican Estate and Barbican Centre...

 London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. 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 1659 to 1661. His father James Foe, though a member of the Butchers' Company
Worshipful Company of Butchers
The Worshipful Company of Butchers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London, England. Records indicate that an organization of Butchers existed as early as 975; the Butchers' Guild, the direct predecessor of the present Company, was granted the right to regulate the trade in 1331. The...

, was a tallow
Tallow
Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.In industry,...

 chandler
Chandlery
A chandlery was originally the office in a medieval household responsible for wax and candles, as well as the room in which the candles were kept. It was headed by a chandler. The office was subordinated to the kitchen, and only existed as a separate office in larger households...

. In Defoe's early life he experienced first-hand some of the most unusual occurrences in English history
History of England
The history of England concerns the study of the human past in one of Europe's oldest and most influential national territories. What is now England, a country within the United Kingdom, was inhabited by Neanderthals 230,000 years ago. Continuous human habitation dates to around 12,000 years ago,...

: in 1665, 70,000 were killed by the Great Plague of London
Great Plague of London
The Great Plague was a massive outbreak of disease in the Kingdom of England that killed an estimated 100,000 people, 20% of London's population. The disease is identified as bubonic plague, an infection by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, transmitted through a flea vector...

. The Great Fire of London
Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of the English city of London, from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall...

 (1666) hit Defoe's neighbourhood hard, leaving only his and two other homes standing. In 1667, when Defoe was probably about seven years old, a Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway
River Medway
The River Medway, which is almost entirely in Kent, England, flows for from just inside the West Sussex border to the point where it enters the Thames Estuary....

 via the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 and attacked Chatham. By the time he was about 10, Defoe's mother Annie had died.

His parents were Presbyterian
Presbyterianism
Presbyterianism refers to a number of Christian churches adhering to the Calvinist theological tradition within Protestantism, which are organized according to a characteristic Presbyterian polity. Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures,...

 dissenters
English Dissenters
English Dissenters were Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.They originally agitated for a wide reaching Protestant Reformation of the Established Church, and triumphed briefly under Oliver Cromwell....

; he was educated in a dissenting academy
Dissenting academies
The dissenting academies were schools, colleges and nonconformist seminaries run by dissenters. They formed a significant part of England’s educational systems from the mid-seventeenth to nineteenth centuries....

 at Newington Green
Newington Green
Newington Green is an open space in north London which straddles the border between Islington and Hackney. It gives its name to the surrounding area, roughly bounded by Ball's Pond Road to the south, Petherton Road to the west, the southern section of Stoke Newington with Green Lanes-Matthias Road...

 run by Charles Morton
Charles Morton (educator)
Charles Morton was a Cornish nonconformist minister and founder of an early dissenting academy, later in life associated in New England with Harvard College.-Life:...

 and is believed to have attended the church there
Newington Green Unitarian Church
Newington Green Unitarian Church in north London is one of England's oldest Unitarian churches. It has had strong ties to political radicalism for over 300 years, and is London's oldest Nonconformist place of worship still in use...

. During this time period, England was not tolerant in religion. Controversy of religion was a political issue. Roman Catholics were feared and hated. Dissenter
Dissenter
The term dissenter , labels one who disagrees in matters of opinion, belief, etc. In the social and religious history of England and Wales, however, it refers particularly to a member of a religious body who has, for one reason or another, separated from the Established Church.Originally, the term...

s refused to conform to the services of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

; they were despised and oppressed.

James Foe wanted his son to enter in ministry, but Daniel Defoe preferred other things. When he was about 18, he left school. After some years of preparations, he went into the hosiery
Hosiery
Hosiery, also referred to as legwear, describes garments worn directly on the feet and legs. The term originated as the collective term for products of which a maker or seller is termed a hosier; and those products are also known generically as hose...

 business.

Business career


Although Defoe was a Christian, he decided not to become a dissenting minister and 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 bought both a country estate and a ship (as well as civet cats
Civet
The family Viverridae is made up of around 30 species of medium-sized mammal, including all of the genets, the binturong, most of the civets, and the two African linsangs....

 to make perfume), he was rarely out of debt. In 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, the daughter of a London merchant, and received a dowry of £3,700. With his debts and political trouble, their marriage was most likely a difficult one. It lasted 50 years, however, and together they had eight children, six of whom survived.

In 1685, he joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion
Monmouth Rebellion
The Monmouth Rebellion,The Revolt of the West or The West Country rebellion of 1685, was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland at the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II was a Roman Catholic, and some...

 but gained a pardon by which he escaped the Bloody Assizes
Bloody Assizes
The Bloody Assizes were a series of trials started at Winchester on 25 August 1685 in the aftermath of the Battle of Sedgemoor, which ended the Monmouth Rebellion in England....

 of Judge George Jeffreys
George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys
George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, PC , also known as "The Hanging Judge", was an English judge. He became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor .- Early years and education :Jeffreys was born at the family estate of Acton Hall, near Wrexham,...

. William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 was crowned in 1688, and Foe 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 payments 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
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

, Porto
Porto
Porto , also known as Oporto in English, is the second largest city in Portugal and one of the major urban areas in the Iberian Peninsula. Its administrative limits include a population of 237,559 inhabitants distributed within 15 civil parishes...

 and Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

. By 1695 he was back in England, using the name "Defoe", and serving as a "commissioner of the glass duty", responsible for collecting the tax on bottles. In 1696 he was operating a tile and brick factory in what is now Tilbury
Tilbury
Tilbury is a town in the borough of Thurrock, Essex, England. As a settlement it is of relatively recent existence, although it has important historical connections, being the location of a 16th century fort and an ancient cross-river ferry...

, Essex
History of Essex
Essex is a county in the East of England which originated as the ancient Kingdom of Essex and one of the seven kingdoms, or heptarchy, that went on to form the Kingdom of England.- Origins :...

 and living in the parish of Chadwell St Mary
Chadwell St Mary
Chadwell-St-Mary is a dispersed settlement in the unitary authority of Thurrock in Essex, England. It is one of the traditional parishes in Thurrock and former civil parish. It is a few miles east of the town of Grays and is located north of the modern town of Tilbury which was part of the parish...

.

Pamphleteering and prison


Defoe'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
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 to a standing army
Standing army
A standing army is a professional permanent army. It is composed of full-time career soldiers and is not disbanded during times of peace. It differs from army reserves, who are activated only during wars or natural disasters...

 during disarmament after the Treaty of Ryswick
Treaty of Ryswick
The Treaty of Ryswick or Ryswyck was signed on 20 September 1697 and named after Ryswick in the Dutch Republic. The treaty settled the Nine Years' War, which pitted France against the Grand Alliance of England, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the United Provinces.Negotiations started in May...

 (1697) had ended the Nine Years' War (1688–97). His most successful poem, The True-Born Englishman
The True-Born Englishman
"The True-Born Englishman" is a satirical poem published in 1701 by Daniel Defoe defending King William, who was Dutch, against xenophobic attacks, and ridiculing the notion of English racial purity. It became a popular success.. According to a preface Defoe supplied to an edition of 1703, the...

 (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
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 in 1702 once again created a political upheaval as the king was replaced by Queen Anne, who immediately began her offensive against Nonconformists
Nonconformism
Nonconformity is the refusal to "conform" to, or follow, the governance and usages of the Church of England by the Protestant Christians of England and Wales.- Origins and use:...

. A natural target, Defoe's pamphleteering and political activities resulted in his arrest and placement in a pillory
Pillory
The pillory was a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal...

 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
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 Tories
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 and those Dissenter
Dissenter
The term dissenter , labels one who disagrees in matters of opinion, belief, etc. In the social and religious history of England and Wales, however, it refers particularly to a member of a religious body who has, for one reason or another, separated from the Established Church.Originally, the term...

s who hypocritically practised so-called "occasional conformity", such as his Stoke Newington
Stoke Newington
Stoke Newington is a district in the London Borough of Hackney. It is north-east of Charing Cross.-Boundaries:In modern terms, Stoke Newington can be roughly defined by the N16 postcode area . Its southern boundary with Dalston is quite ill-defined too...

 neighbour Sir Thomas Abney
Thomas Abney
Sir Thomas Abney was Lord Mayor of London.Abney was born in Willesley, which at the time was in Derbyshire but is now in Leicestershire. He was educated at Loughborough Grammar School, where a house is named after him....

. Though it was published anonymously, the true authorship was quickly discovered and Defoe was arrested. 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
Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald
Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, 1st Marquess of Maranhão, GCB, ODM , styled Lord Cochrane between 1778 and 1831, was a senior British naval flag officer and radical politician....

, the 10th Earl of Dundonald
Earl of Dundonald
Earl of Dundonald is a title in the Peerage of Scotland.The Earldom was created in 1669 for the Scottish soldier and politician William Cochrane, 1st Earl of Dundonald, along with the subsidiary title of Lord Cochrane of Paisley and Ochiltree, with remainder to his heirs male, failing which to his...

 and famous Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 officer, was sentenced to the pillory but was excused for fear his popularity would cause a riot.
After his three days in the pillory, Defoe went into Newgate Prison
Newgate Prison
Newgate Prison was a prison in London, at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey just inside the City of London. It was originally located at the site of a gate in the Roman London Wall. The gate/prison was rebuilt in the 12th century, and demolished in 1777...

. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer
Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer
Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer was a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1711 for the statesman Robert Harley, with remainder, failing heirs male of his body, to those of his grandfather, Sir Robert Harley...

, brokered his release in exchange for Defoe's co-operation as an intelligence agent for the Tories. In exchange for his 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
Great Storm of 1703
The Great Storm of 1703 was the most severe storm or natural disaster ever recorded in the southern part of Great Britain. It affected southern England and the English Channel in the Kingdom of Great Britain...

 which raged from 26 to 27 November. It caused severe damage to London and Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 and uprooted millions of trees and killed over 8,000 people, mostly at sea. The event became the subject of Defoe's The Storm
The Storm (Daniel Defoe)
The Storm is a pioneering work of journalism and science reporting by British author Daniel Defoe. It has been called the first substantial work of modern journalism, the first account of a hurricane in Britain, and was the first book-length work of Defoe's career. It details the events of a...

 (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
Harley Ministry
The Harley Ministry was a British government that existed between 1710 and 1714 in the reign of Queen Anne. It was headed by Robert Harley and composed largely of Tories. Harley was a former Whig who had changed sides, bringing down the seemingly powerful Whig Junto. The Ministry vigorously pushed...

, chronicling the events of the War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought among several European powers, including a divided Spain, over the possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. As France and Spain were among the most powerful states of Europe, such a unification would have...

 (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
William Gregg
William Gregg VC DCM MM was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.-Details:...

 affair. When Harley was ousted from the ministry in 1708 Defoe continued writing it to support Godolphin
Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin
Sir Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, KG, PC was a leading English politician of the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

, 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
Charles Drelincourt
Charles Drelincourt was a French Protestant divine.-Life:His father, Pierre Drelincourt, fled from Protestant persecution in Caen and became secretary to Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon at Sedan, Ardennes...

'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.

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 are thought to anticipate his novelistic career include: The Family Instructor (1715), an immensely successful conduct manual on religious duty; Minutes of the Negotiations of Monsr. Mesnager (1717), in which he impersonates Nicolas Mesnager
Nicolas Mesnager
Nicolas Mesnager was a French diplomat.He belonged to a wealthy merchant family, but gave up a commercial career for the law, and became advocate before the parlement of Rouen. In 1700 he was sent as deputy of Rouen to the council of commerce which was established in Paris for the extension of...

, the French plenipotentiary who negotiated the Treaty of Utrecht
Treaty of Utrecht
The Treaty of Utrecht, which established the Peace of Utrecht, comprises a series of individual peace treaties, rather than a single document, signed by the belligerents in the War of Spanish Succession, in the Dutch city of Utrecht in March and April 1713...

 (1713) and A Continuation of the Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy
Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy
Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy is an eight-volume collection of fictional letters claiming to have been written by an Ottoman spy named "Mahmut", in the French court of Louis XIV....

 (1718), a satire on European politics and religion, professedly written by a Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 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
The Political History of the Devil
The Political History of the Devil is a book by Daniel Defoe .General scholarly opinion is that Defoe really did think of the Devil as a participant in world history...

 (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
A tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain
A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain is an account of his travels by English author Daniel Defoe, first published in three volumes between 1724 and 1727....

 (1724–27), which provided a panoramic survey of British trade on the eve of the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

.

Novels


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)
  • Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
  • Captain Jack (1722)
  • Moll Flanders (1722)
  • Roxana (1724)


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
Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe that was first published in 1719. Epistolary, confessional, and didactic in form, the book is a fictional autobiography of the title character—a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and...

(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
Alexander Selkirk
Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish sailor who spent four years as a castaway when he was marooned on an uninhabited island. It is probable that his travels provided the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe....

, 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
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

-Arab Muslim polymath Ibn Tufail
Ibn Tufail
Ibn Tufail was an Andalusian Muslim polymath: an Arabic writer, novelist, Islamic philosopher, Islamic theologian, physician, vizier,...

, who was known as "Abubacer" in Europe. The Latin edition of the book was entitled Philosophus Autodidactus
Hayy ibn Yaqdhan
Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān is an Arabic philosophical novel and allegorical tale written by Ibn Tufail in the early 12th century.- Translations :* from Wikisource* English translations of Hayy bin Yaqzan...

 and it was an earlier novel that is also set on a deserted island.

Tim Severin
Tim Severin
Tim Severin is a British explorer, historian and writer. Severin is noted for his work in retracing the legendary journeys of historical figures. Severin was awarded both the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Livingstone Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society...

'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
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, 1st Duke of Buccleuch, KG, PC , was an English nobleman. Originally called James Crofts or James Fitzroy, he was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter...

. 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
Paternoster Row
Paternoster Row was a London street in which clergy of the medieval St Paul's Cathedral would walk, chanting the Lord's Prayer . It was devastated by aerial bombardment in The Blitz during World War II. Prior to this destruction the area had been a centre of the London publishing trade , with...

, 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
Mercery
Mercery initially referred to silk, linen, and fustian textiles imported to England in the 12th century.The term later extended to goods made of these and the sellers of those goods.-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.

The 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
First novel in English
The following works of literature have each been claimed as the first novel in English.* Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur, * William Baldwin, Beware the Cat,...

. Early critics, such as Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

 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
Forensic Podiatry
Forensic Podiatry is a sub-discipline of forensic science wherein knowledge of forensic medicine is used in conjunction with knowledge of the anatomy, function, deformities and diseases of the foot, ankle, lower extremities, and at times, the entire human body, to examine foot-related evidence in a...

 in this episode. It has inspired a new genre, the Robinsonade
Robinsonade
Robinsonade is a literary genre that takes its name from the 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. The success of this novel spawned enough imitations that its name was used to define a genre, which is sometimes described simply as a "desert island story"...

 as works like Johann David Wyss
Johann David Wyss
Johann David Wyss is best remembered for his book The Swiss Family Robinson. It is said that he was inspired by Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, but wanted to write a story from which his own children would learn, as the father in the story taught important lessons to his children...

's The Swiss Family Robinson
The Swiss Family Robinson
-History:Written by Swiss pastor Johann David Wyss and edited by his son Johann Rudolf Wyss, the novel was intended to teach his four sons about family values, good husbandry, the uses of the natural world and self-reliance...

 (1812) adapt its premise and has provoked modern postcolonial
Postcolonialism
Post-colonialism is a specifically post-modern intellectual discourse that consists of reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism...

 responses, including J. M. Coetzee's Foe
Foe (novel)
Foe is a 1986 novel by South African author J. M. Coetzee. Woven around the existing plot of Robinson Crusoe, Foe is written from the perspective of Susan Barton, a castaway who landed on the same island inhabited by "Cruso" and Friday as their adventures were already underway...

 (1986) and Michel Tournier
Michel Tournier
Michel Tournier is a French writer.His works are highly considered and have won important awards such as the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française in 1967 for Friday, or, The Other Island and the Prix Goncourt for The Erl-King in 1970...

's Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique
Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique
Friday, or, The Other Island is a 1967 novel by French writer Michel Tournier. It retells Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. The first edition of the book was published 15th March 1967...

 (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
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

's Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver's Travels
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, better known simply as Gulliver's Travels , is a novel by Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of...

 (1726) in part parodies Defoe's adventure novel.

Defoe's next novel was Captain Singleton
Captain Singleton
The Life, Adventures and Piracies of the Famous Captain Singleton is a novel by Daniel Defoe. It is believed to have been partly inspired by the exploits of English pirate Henry Every....

(1720), a bipartite adventure story whose first half covers a traversal of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 and whose second half taps into the contemporary fascination with piracy
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

. It has been commended for its sensitive depiction of the close relationship between the eponymous hero and his religious mentor, the Quaker
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

 William Walters.

Colonel Jack (1722) follows an orphaned boy from a life of poverty and crime to colonial prosperity, military and marital imbroglios and religious conversion, always driven by a quaint and misguided notion of becoming a gentleman.

Also in 1722, Defoe wrote Moll Flanders
Moll Flanders
The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders is a novel written by Daniel Defoe in 1722, after his work as a journalist and pamphleteer. By 1722, Defoe had become a recognised novelist, with the success of Robinson Crusoe in 1719...

, another first-person picaresque novel
Picaresque novel
The picaresque novel is a popular sub-genre of prose fiction which is usually satirical and depicts, in realistic and often humorous detail, the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society...

 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
Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress
Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress is a 1724 novel by Daniel Defoe.-Plot summary:The novel concerns the story of an...

(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.

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 Journal of the Plague Year
A Journal of the Plague Year is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in March 1722.The novel is a fictionalised account of one man's experiences of the year 1665, in which the Great Plague struck the city of London...

, a complex historical novel
Historical novel
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...

 published in 1722. In November 1703, a hurricane-like storm hit London, now known as The Great Storm. (It remains one of the greatest storms in British history.) Yet another of the remarkable events in Defoe's life, the storm was the subject of his book The Storm. Defoe describes the aftermath of the incident, “The streets lay so covered with tiles and slates from the tops of the houses [. . .] that all the tiles in 50 miles round would be able to repair but a small part of it." Later, Defoe also wrote Memoirs of a Cavalier
Memoirs of a Cavalier
Memoirs of a Cavalier is a work of historical fiction by Daniel Defoe, set during the Thirty Years' War and the English Civil Wars. The full title, which bore no date, was:-External links:...

 (1720), set during the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

 and the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

.

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
P. N. Furbank
Philip Nicholas Furbank FRSL is an English writer, scholar and critic, and a professor of the Open University.-Works:...

 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
High Tories
High Toryism is a term used in Britain, Canada and elsewhere to refer to a traditionalist conservatism which is in line with the Toryism originating in the 17th century. It tends to be at odds with the modern emphasis of the Conservative Party in these countries. High Toryism has been described as...

 and in favour of religious tolerance
Toleration
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

 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
Seditious libel
Seditious libel was a criminal offence under English common law. Sedition is the offence of speaking seditious words with seditious intent: if the statement is in writing or some other permanent form it is seditious libel...

 and was sentenced to be pilloried, fined 200 marks
Mark (money)
Mark was a measure of weight mainly for gold and silver, commonly used throughout western Europe and often equivalent to 8 ounces. Considerable variations, however, occurred throughout the Middle Ages Mark (from a merging of three Teutonic/Germanic languages words, Latinized in 9th century...

 and detained at the Queen's pleasure.
In despair, he wrote to William Paterson
William Paterson (banker)
Sir William Paterson was a Scottish trader and banker.- Early life :...

 the London Scot and founder of the Bank of England
Bank of England
The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world...

 and part instigator of the Darien scheme
Darién scheme
The Darién scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called "New Caledonia" on the Isthmus of Panama in the late 1690s...

, 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
Acts of Union 1707
The Acts of Union were two Parliamentary Acts - the Union with Scotland Act passed in 1706 by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland - which put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706,...

.

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
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 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
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 as a secret agent to do everything possible to help secure acquiescence in the Treaty of Union
Treaty of Union
The Treaty of Union is the name given to the agreement that led to the creation of the united kingdom of Great Britain, the political union of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland, which took effect on 1 May 1707...

. 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
John Clerk of Penicuik
Sir John Clerk of Pennycuik, 2nd Baronet was a Scottish politician, lawyer, judge, composer and architect.He was Vice-President of the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, the pre-eminent learned society of the Scottish Enlightenment.-Early life:...

, a leading Unionist, wrote in his memoirs that,
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
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is the sovereign and highest court of the Church of Scotland, and is thus the Church's governing body[1] An Introduction to Practice and Procedure in the Church of Scotland, A Gordon McGillivray, 2nd Edition .-Church courts:As a Presbyterian church,...

 and committees of the Parliament of Scotland
Parliament of Scotland
The Parliament of Scotland, officially the Estates of Parliament, was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland. The unicameral parliament of Scotland is first found on record during the early 13th century, with the first meeting for which a primary source survives at...

. 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:
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
Parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. In the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, a legislative body has absolute sovereignty, meaning it is supreme to all other government institutions—including any executive or judicial bodies...

, 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
East Saltoun and West Saltoun
East Saltoun and West Saltoun are separate villages in East Lothian, Scotland, about 5 miles south-west of Haddington and 20 miles east of Edinburgh.- Geography :...

 by ignoring him. Nor does he account for the deviousness of the Duke of Hamilton
Duke of Hamilton
Duke of Hamilton is a title in the Peerage of Scotland, created in 1643. It is the senior dukedom in that Peerage , and as such its holder is the Premier Peer of Scotland, as well as being head of both the House of Hamilton and the House of Douglas...

, 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
Independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

 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
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 (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
St George's-Tron Church
The St George's-Tron Church in Glasgow, Scotland, commonly known simply as "The Tron", is a Church of Scotland parish church in Glasgow's city centre, located in Nelson Mandela Place near Queen Street Station...

 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
Mercat cross
A mercat cross is a market cross found in Scottish cities and towns where trade and commerce was a part of economic life. It was originally a place where merchants would gather, and later became the focal point of many town events such as executions, announcements and proclamations...

 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".

Death


Daniel Defoe died on 24 April 1731, probably while in hiding from his creditors. He was interred in Bunhill Fields
Bunhill Fields
Bunhill Fields is a cemetery in the London Borough of Islington, north of the City of London, and managed by the City of London Corporation. It is about 4 hectares in extent, although historically was much larger....

, London, where his grave can still be visited.

Defoe is known to have used at least 198 pen names.

External links