Daniel Defoe and the characteristics of his novel

Daniel Defoe as an English writer and pamphleteer, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. His later life and writings. Satirical poem "The True-Born Englishman". Daniel Defoe as one of the greatest journalists and the father of journalism.

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Ministry of education and science of Ukraine

Drohobych State Teacher Training University named after Ivan Franko.

Individual task on the topic:

«Daniel Defoe and the characteristics of his novel»

Done by:

Mytsyak Irina EP-57



1. Early life

2.Pamphleteering and prison

3. Later life and writings

4. Novels & poems




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 merchant instead. In 1685 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. 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. 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 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. Daniel Defoe died in 1731. James Foe was a Dissenter. Thirteen years old Daniel was not admitted to either Oxford or Cambridge Universities as he did not take an oath of loyalty to the Church of England. He was sent to the excellent academy at Newington Green, administrated by Reverend Charles Morton. From Charles Morton, Defoe learned a vast deal; and the standard of Morton's teaching was almost parallel to that of any English University. Defoe's literary style was based on Morton's clarity, simplicity and ease in writing style. His destiny was almost decided as his father wanted him to enter the church. Along with his study in classics, he learnt Latin and Greek as well as Spanish, French, Dutch and Italian. This, in fact, helped him in his career as a pamphleteer and a writer.

As the years passed he felt more and more uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a minister. His leaning towards becoming a word-smith disturbed his parents. But, respecting his decision, James Foe invited him to join his business. Daniel, however, could not function as a butcher all his life. During this time he traveled to Spain, France and Portugal as an agent or a negotiator. These tours provided him with vast knowledge and experiences as well as intimate relations. As he dealt in many commodities as a merchant, he had enough opportunities to travel, which helped him in becoming an intelligent economic theorist.

He wrote of himself : "No man has tasted differing fortunes more, And thirteen times I have been rich and poor."

Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularize the form in Britain and is even referred to by some as 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.

1. Early life

Daniel Foe was probably born in the parish of St. Giles Cripple gate London. 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, was a 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) hit Defoe's neighborhood hard, leaving only his and two other homes standing in the area.[3] 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 thirteen years old, Defoe's mother 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. 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 to make perfume), he was rarely out of debt. In 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, receiving a dowry of ?3,700. With his debts, their marriage was most likely a difficult one. They had eight children, six of whom survived. In 1685, he joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion but gained a pardon by which he escaped the Bloody Assizes of Judge George Jeffreys. 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 in wine to Cadiz, Porto and Lisbon. 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.

2. 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 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, satirizing 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. 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 satirized both the High church Tories and those Dissenters who hypocritically practiced so-called "occasional conformity", such as his Stoke Newington neighbour Sir Thomas Abney. 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 J. R. Moore later said that “no man in England but Defoe ever stood in the pillory and later rose to eminence among his fellow men.” After his three days in the pillory, Defoe went into Newgate Prison. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, brokered his release in exchange for Defoe's co-operation as an intelligence agent. Within a week of his release from prison, Defoe witnessed the Great Storm of 1703 which raged from 26 to 27 November, the only hurricane ever to have made it over the Atlantic Ocean to the British Isles at full strength. 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. 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. 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, it is widely thought Defoe continued doing intelligence work for the Whig government.

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.

3. Later life and writings

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, the French plenipotentiary who negotiated the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and A Continuation of the Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy (1718), a satire on European politics and religion, professedly written by a Muslim in Paris.

From 1719 to 1724, Defoe published the novels for which he is famous . 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.Daniel Defoe died on April 24, 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.

4. Novels and poems

"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." -- Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe that was first published in 1719. The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character--a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Venezuela, encountering Native Americans, captives, and mutineers before being rescued.

Crusoe sets sail from the Queen's Dock in Hull on a sea voyage in September 1651, against the wishes of his parents, who want him to stay at home and pursue a career, possibly in law. After a tumultuous journey that sees his ship wrecked in a storm, his lust for the sea remains so strong that he sets out to sea again. This journey too ends in disaster as the ship is taken over by Sale pirates and Crusoe becomes the slave of a Moor. After two years of slavery, he manages to escape in a boat with a boy named Xury; later, Crusoe is rescued and befriended by the Captain of a Portuguese ship off the west coast of Africa. The ship is en route to Brazil. There, with the help of the captain, Crusoe becomes owner of a plantation.Years later, he joins an expedition to bring slaves from Africa but he is shipwrecked in a storm about forty miles out to sea on an island (which he calls the Island of Despair) near the mouth of the Orinoco river on September 30, 1659. His companions all die. Having overcome his despair, he fetches arms, tools and other supplies from the ship before it breaks apart and sinks. He proceeds to build a fenced-in habitation near a cave which he excavates himself. He keeps a calendar by making marks in a wooden cross built by himself, hunts, grows corn and rice, dries grapes to make raisins for the winter months, learns to make pottery, raises goats, etc., using tools created from stone and wood which he harvests on the island and adopts a small parrot. He reads the Bible and becomes religious, thanking God for his fate in which nothing is missing but human society. Years later, he discovers native cannibals who occasionally visit the island to kill and eat prisoners. At first he plans to kill them for committing an abomination but later realizes that he has no right to do so as the cannibals do not knowingly commit a crime. He dreams of obtaining one or two servants by freeing some prisoners; when a prisoner manages to escape, Crusoe helps him, naming his new companion "Friday" after the day of the week he appeared. Crusoe then teaches him English and converts him to Christianity.

After another party of natives arrives to partake in a cannibal feast, Crusoe and Friday manage to kill most of the natives and save two of the prisoners. One is Friday's father and the other is a Spaniard, who informs Crusoe that there are other Spaniards shipwrecked on the mainland. A plan is devised wherein the Spaniard would return with Friday's father to the mainland and bring back the others, build a ship and sail to a Spanish port. Before the Spaniards return, an English ship appears; mutineers have taken control of the ship and intend to maroon their former captain on the island. Crusoe and the ship's captain strike a deal in which he helps the captain and the loyal sailors retake the ship from the mutineers, whereupon they intend to leave the worst of the mutineers on the island. Before they leave for England, Crusoe shows the former mutineers how he lived on the island and states that there will be more men coming. Crusoe leaves the island December 19, 1686 and arrives in England on June 11, 1687. He learns that his family believed him dead and there was nothing in his father's will for him. Crusoe departs for Lisbon to reclaim the profits of his estate in Brazil, which has granted him a large amount of wealth. In conclusion, he takes his wealth overland to England to avoid traveling at sea. Friday comes with him and along the way they endure one last adventure together as they fight off hundreds of famished wolves while crossing the Pyrenees. daniel defoe robinson crusoe

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. 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. It has inspired a new genre, the Robinsonade as works like Johann 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 of Robinson Crusoe (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. The narrative describes the life of an Englishman, stolen from a well-to-do family as a child and raised by Gypsies who eventually makes his way to sea. One half of the book concerns Singleton's crossing of Africa and the later half concerns his life as a pirate in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. Defoe's description of piracy focuses for the most part on matters of economics and logistics, making it an intriguing if not particularly gripping read. Singleton's pirate behaves more like a merchant adventurer, perhaps Defoe's comment on the mercantilism of his day.

Also in 1722, Defoe wrote Moll Flanders, another first-person picaresque novel of the fall and eventual redemption of a lone woman in seventeenth-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.

The full title of the novel is Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress. The novel concerns the story of an unnamed "fallen woman", the second time Defoe created such a character (the first was a similar female character in Moll Flanders). In Roxana, a woman who takes on various pseudonyms, including "Roxana," describes her fall from wealth thanks to abandonment by a "fool" of a husband and movement into prostitution upon his abandonment. Roxana moves up and down through the social spectrum several times, by contracting an ersatz marriage to a jeweler, secretly courting a prince, being offered marriage by a Dutch merchant, and is finally able to afford her own freedom by accumulating wealth from these men. 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.

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. 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 fifty miles round would be able to repair but a small part of it." Later, Defoe also wrote Memoirs of a Cavalier (1720), set during the Thirty Years War and the English Civil Wars.

Besides D. Defoe wrote very popular poems called «The True-Born Englishman». It 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 poem's declared target is not Englishness as such but English xenophobia. Defoe's argument was that the English nation as it already existed in his time was a product of various incoming racial groups, from Ancient Britons to Anglo-Saxons, Normans and beyond.


Daniel Defoe was a prolific writer (over 370 known publications) who could-and would-turn his hand to almost any topic; he has been called one of the greatest journalists and the father of journalism. To many of his contemporaries, he was a man who sold his pen to the political party in office and so lacking integrity. He was not taken seriously by literary men, though his skill at writing was acknowledged. Alexander Pope said of him, "The first part of Robinson Crusoe is very good-De Foe wrote a vast many things; and none bad, though none excellent, except this" (1742).

Daniel was a strong willed person, but so was his mother. Once, Daniel refused to eat in order to have his own way in doing something. Mrs Foe accepted the challenge and Daniel had to go through starvation. The foes were very affectionate parents to Daniel, constantly nourishing his inquisitiveness and curious nature. The intelligent, active and enquiring little boy always came up with his insatiable thirst for knowledge and information. Even in his early education, his parents played an important part, as he was not given any formal education till 1674. He established a business of his own in 1683. He started his firm dealing in export of drugs, perfumes and stockings. Meanwhile in 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, daughter of a well-to-do merchant. She was 'bland, passionate and deeply religious'. They had eight children in due course of time - two sons and six daughters. She was not mentioned in Defoe's writings. But she was a loyal, capable and devoted wife. They had eight children. Their marital life lasted 47 years ending with the sad demise of Defoe. She had generally been a single parent to her children as Defoe was travelling most of the time. He preferred to travel on horse, at his own speed, so that he could ponder over various subjects uninterrupted.

Defoe had seen many ups-and-downs in his life. The market fluctuations affected Defoe's business and in those times Mary had to take help from her family and from her in-laws. He incurred a loss of Ј 17,000. The main reason for his bankruptcy was the loss he incurred while insuring ships during the war with France. Within 10 years, however, he repaid all but Ј 5000. Other reasons for his misfortune were his indulgence in rash speculations and projects, and his being less fastidious. He even characterized himself as one of those tradesmen who had "done things which their own principles condemned, which they are not ashamed to blush for." Misfortune dogged him continually. Robinson Crusoe his most popular novel was published on April 25, 1719. It was tremendously popular with the lower and lower middle class readers. His experiences of Newgate, while undergoing the imprisonment for a second time are reflected in Moll Flanders, a novel. This work established him as a social historian. He followed the success of Crusoe with Captain Singleton (1720), Journal of the Plague Year (1722), Captain Jack (1722), Moll Flanders (1722), and Roxana (1724). Defoe did not confine himself to fiction; he also wrote several popular travel books, including the vivid Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-27).

He spent rest of his life mostly concentrating on writing. He also worked with a publisher named Mr Applebee, between 1720 to 1726, writing biographies of criminals. At the same time he worked on economic issues as well and wrote a travel book too. He was also associated with some newspapers. Even the last years of his life were not free from legal controversies. He died under the burden of heavy debts, always hiding, now and then, from his creditors, on April 26, 1731, at his lodgings in Ropemaker's Alley, Moorfields. Before his death in 1731, Daniel Defoe published over 500 books and pamphlets. Defoe is regarded as one of the founders of the English novel. Before his time fiction was primarily written in verse or in the form of plays, but Defoe and, to a lesser extent, Samuel Richardson, developed a new form of storytelling - one which remains with us today. He can also be credited with being one of the founding fathers of English journalism.

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1. Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. 1998.

2. John J. The Life of Daniel Defoe. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

3. 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".

4. Shinagel, Michael, ed. (1994). Robinson Crusoe. Norton Critical Edition.

5. Ross, Angus, ed. (1965) Robinson Crusoe. Penguin.

6. "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe - Project Gutenberg". Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2008-10-01.

7. Daniel Defoe : The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures - Richard West Carroll & Graf

8. Daniel Defoe - By Francis Watson, Longmans, Green & Co., London.

9.The Incredible De Foe : by William Freeman, London, Herbert Jenkins.

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