Daniel Defoe eBook

William Minto
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 180 pages of information about Daniel Defoe.
   The Pict and painted Briton, treacherous Scot,
   By hunger, theft, and rapine hither brought;
   Norwegian pirates, buccaneering Danes,
   Whose red-haired offspring everywhere remains;
   Who joined with Norman French compound the breed
   From whence your true-born Englishmen proceed.”

   “And lest, by length of time, it be pretended,
   The climate may this modern breed have mended,
   Wise Providence, to keep us where we are,
   Mixes us daily with exceeding care;
   We have been Europe’s sink, the jakes where she
   Voids all her offal outcast progeny;
   From our fifth Henry’s time the strolling bands
   Of banished fugitives from neighbouring lands
   Have here a certain sanctuary found: 
   The eternal refuge of the vagabond,
   Wherein but half a common age of time,
   Borrowing new blood and manners from the clime,
   Proudly they learn all mankind to contemn,
   And all their race are true-born Englishmen.”

As may be judged from this specimen, there is little delicacy in Defoe’s satire.  The lines run on from beginning to end in the same strain of bold, broad, hearty banter, as if the whole piece had been written off at a heat.  The mob did not lynch the audacious humourist.  In the very height of their fury against foreigners, they stopped short to laugh at themselves.  They were tickled by the hard blows as we may suppose a rhinoceros to be tickled by the strokes of an oaken cudgel.  Defoe suddenly woke to find himself the hero of the hour, at least with the London populace.  The pamphlet was pirated, and eighty thousand copies, according to his own calculation, were sold in the streets.  Henceforth he described himself in his title-pages as the author of the True-Born Englishman, and frequently did himself the honour of quoting from the work as from a well-established classic.  It was also, he has told us, the means of his becoming personally known to the King, whom he had hitherto served from a distance.

Defoe was not the man to be abashed by his own popularity.  He gloried in it, and added to his reputation by taking a prominent part in the proceedings connected with the famous Kentish Petition, which marked the turn of the tide in favour of the King’s foreign policy.  Defoe was said to be the author of “Legion’s Memorial” to the House of Commons, sternly warning the representatives of the freeholders that they had exceeded their powers in imprisoning the men who had prayed them to “turn their loyal addresses into Bills of Supply.”  When the Kentish Petitioners were liberated from the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, and feasted by the citizens at Mercers’ Hall, Defoe was seated next to them as an honoured guest.

Project Gutenberg
Daniel Defoe from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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