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Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe (1660 - April 21, 1731) was an English writer, most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe.

Born "Daniel Foe", the son of James Foe, a butcher in the Stoke Newington neighborhood of London, England, he would later add the aristocratic sounding "De" to his name as a nom de plume. He was a famous pamphleteer, journalist and novelist, at a time when the novel form was in its infancy in the English language, and can thus fairly be said to be one of its progenitors.

Defoe's pamphleting and political activities resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in 1703, principally on account of a pamphlet entitled "The Shortest Way with Dissenters", in which he ruthlessly satirised the High Anglican Tories, purporting to argue for the extermination of dissenters. He was released early in return for his cooperation.

He is most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe (1719), about a man's shipwreck on a desert island and his subsequent adventures. It is arguably the first novel written in English. The story may have been based on the true story of the shipwreck of Alexander Selkirk. (Refer to different opinions under the title of the book.)

He wrote an account of the Great Plague of 1665, A Journal of the Plague Year[?].

He also wrote Moll Flanders[?] (1722), a picaresque first-person narration of the fall and eventual redemption of a lone woman in 17th century England. She is a whore, bigamist, thief, commits adultery and incest yet manages to keep the reader's sympathy. Both this work and Roxana (1724) are remarkable for the way in which Defoe seems to inhabit his fictional (yet "drawn from life") characters, not least in that they are women.

Daniel Defoe died on April 21, 1731 and was interred in Bunhill Fields, London, England.

Quotations

"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." -- from Robinson Crusoe

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.
(from The True-Born Englishman, 1701)

External Links e-texts of some of Daniel Defoe's works:



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