Daniel Defoe is recognized as one of England’s first novelists, and, rightfully so, because to his credit, he wrote one of the most influential books ever penned and wasn’t afraid to shy away from controversy with his political leanings. Even when I’m feeling like I am on a good row of writing, the thought of putting down something that nearly eclipses the Bible or trying to shake things up with my political ideas is ridiculous; and, that’s why I took up blogging because short, non-confrontational pieces work for me, while, apparently, both long and short confrontational and epic pieces worked for Defoe.
Defoe was born in England in 1660 to a noncomformist, dissenting tallow chandler (James Foe), who sent his son to an academy in Newington Green. There, it is said, that Defoe developed a very deliberate and easy style due to the instruction of the Reverend Charles Morton, who focused on the works of Puritan preacher John Bunyan and writings from the Bible. This would come to aid Defoe later in his life as he crafted fiction that is both universally appealing and not too dense to read (there’s also a lot of adventure in his stories, which audiences love!)
Merchant and Political Activism
Defoe became a merchant later in life and after some financial difficulties (perhaps due to bad investments or “projections”) he began writing political pamphlets to speak out against Catholic James II and various other governmental grievances (britannica.com). He was thrown in prison for writing the political pamphlet The Shortest Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church, which was considered libel for its hard to scry satirical elements and pointed aggression. After a variety of political pamphlets were produced and his periodical (the Review) was lauded, he began writing novels, and the years drafting political dialogue certainly lent itself to his work in fiction.
His Contribution to Literature
So, let’s look at some of the books Defoe wrote in his novel-writing years and I will be sure to discuss some of them in later posts:
- Robinson Crusoe
- A Journal of the Plague Year (which happened to be one of Defoe’s most personal works)
- Moll Flanders
- The Storm
- The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
He has a lot of Crusoe-inspired novels, which really seemed to define his career (this is okay because he found a voice and a style that really works for his story-telling ability), and wrote a great deal of adventure novels, even if they were a little lascivious, such as “Moll Flanders.”