DANIEL DEFOE (1660-1703)
- Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe, the son of a butcher, was born in London in 1660. He
attended Morton's Academy, a school for Dissenters at Newington Green with the
intention of becoming a minister, but he changed his mind and became a hosiery
In 1688 Defoe took part in the Monmouth Rebellion and joined William III and
his advancing army. Defoe became popular with the king after the publication of
his poem, The True Born Englishman (1701). The poem attacked those who were
prejudiced against having a king of foreign birth.
The publication of Defoe's The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702) upset a
large number of powerful people. In the pamphlet, Defoe, a Dissenter, ironically
demanded the savage suppression of dissent. The pamphlet was judged to be
critical of the Anglican Church and Defoe was fined, put in the Charing Cross
Pillory and then sent to Newgate Prison.
In 1703 Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, a Tory government official, employed
Defoe as a spy. With the support of the government, Defoe started the newspaper,
The Review. Published between 1704 and 1713, the newspaper appeared three times
a week. As well as carrying commercial advertising The Review reported on
political and social issues. Defoe also wrote several pamphlets for Harley
attacking the political opposition. The Whigs took Defoe court and this
resulted in him serving another prison sentence.
In 1719 Defoe turned to writing fiction. His novels include: Robinson Crusoe
(1719), Captain Singleton (1720), Journal of the Plague Year (1722), Captain
Jack (1722), Moll Flanders (1722) and Roxanda (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. Daniel Defoe died in 1731.