Publication Number 29
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
University of California
H. Richard Archer, Clark Memorial Library
Richard C. Boys, University of Michigan
Edward Niles Hooker, University of California, Los Angeles
John Loftis, University of California, Los Angeles
W. Earl Britton, University of Michigan
Emmett L. Avery, State College of Washington
Benjamin Boyce, Duke University
LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, University of Michigan
CLEANTH BROOKS, Yale University
JAMES L. CLIFFORD, Columbia University
ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, University of Chicago
LOUIS A. LANDA, Princeton University
SAMUEL H. MONK, University of Minnesota
ERNEST MOSSNER, University of Texas
JAMES SUTHERLAND, Queen Mary College, London
H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., University of California, Los Angeles
A Vindication of the Press is one of Defoe’s most characteristic pamphlets and for this reason as well as for its rarity deserves reprinting. Besides the New York Public Library copy, here reproduced, I know of but one copy, which is in the Indiana University Library. Neither the Bodleian nor the British Museum has a copy.
Like many items in the Defoe canon, this tract must be assigned to him on the basis of internal evidence; but this evidence, though circumstantial, is convincing. W.P. Trent included A Vindication in his bibliography of Defoe in the CHEL, and later bibliographers of Defoe have followed him in accepting it. Since the copy here reproduced was the one examined by Professor Trent, the following passage from his ms. notes is of interest:
The tract was advertised, for “this day,” in the St. James Evening Post, April 19-22, 1718. It is not included in the chief lists of Defoe’s writings, but it has been sold as his, and the only copy I have seen, one kindly loaned me by Dr. J.E. Spingarn, once belonged to some eighteenth century owner, who wrote Defoe’s name upon it. I was led by the advertisement mentioned above to seek the pamphlet, thinking it might be Defoe’s; but I failed to secure a sight of it until Professor Spingarn asked me whether in my opinion the ascription to Defoe was warranted, and produced his copy.
Perhaps the most striking evidence for Defoe’s authorship of A Vindication is the extraordinary reference to his own natural parts and to the popularity of The True-Born Englishman some seventeen years after that topical poem had appeared [pp. 29f.]. Defoe was justly proud of this verse satire, one of his most successful works, and referred to it many times in later writings; it is hard to believe, however, that anyone but Defoe would have praised it in such fulsome terms in 1718.