Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Daniel Defoe

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Daniel Defoe 'The True-Born Englishman'


Daniel Defoe was born in London in 1660, probably in September, third child and first son of James and Mary Defoe. Daniel received a very good education, as his father hoped he would become a minister, but Daniel wasnt interested. His family were Dissenters, Presbyterians to be precise, and those sects were being persecuted a bit at this time, so maybe Daniel had the right idea. He was always very tolerant of others religious ideas himself. His mother died when he was ten, and his father sent him to a boarding school, after which he attended Mortons Academy, as he could not graduate from Oxford or Cambridge without taking an oath of loyalty to the Church of England. He was a very good student, and his teacher, the Reverend Mr. Norton himself, would later show up as a character in some of Daniel's fiction. Daniel graduated in 1677, and by then hed pretty much decided against the ministry, though he wrote and spoke in favor of the Dissenters all his life.

1700 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 1711, 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.

He was nearly sixty when he turned to writing novels. In 1719 he published his famous 'The Father  Adventures of Robinson Crusoe', followed by two less engrossing sequels. Robinson

Crusoe describes the daily life of a man stuck on a desert island. Although there are exciting episodes in the novel Crusoe rescuing his man Friday from cannibalsits main interest derives from the way in which Crusoe overcomes the extraordinary difficulties of life on the island while preserving his human integrity. Robinson Crusoe is considered by some critics to be the first true novel in English.

Defoes great novels were not published under his name but as authentic memoirs, with the intention of gulling his readers into thinking his fictions true. Two excellent examples of his semihistorical recreations are the picaresque adventure 'Moll Flanders' (1722), the story of a London prostitute and thief, and an account of the 1665 great plague in London entitled 'A Journal of the Plague Year' (1722).

Defoes writing is always straightforward and vivid, with an astonishing concern for circumstantial detail. His other major works include 'Captain Singleton' (1720), 'Colonel Jack' (1722), 'Roxana' (1724), and 'A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain' (1724-1727). In 1724 'A General History of the Pyrates' by a Captain Charles Johnson was published; it was not until 100 years later that Defoe was discovered to be the true author of the work.  Daniel Defoe died in 1731.

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