Defoe’s hand being against every member of the writing brotherhood, it was natural that his reviews should not pass without severe criticisms. He often complained of the insults, ribaldry, Billingsgate, and Bear-garden language to which he was exposed; and some of his biographers have taken these lamentations seriously, and expressed their regret that so good a man should have been so much persecuted. But as he deliberately provoked these assaults, and never missed a chance of effective retort, it is difficult to sympathise with him on any ground but his manifest delight in the strife of tongues. Infinitely the superior of his antagonists in power, he could affect to treat them with good humour, but this good humour was not easy to reciprocate when combined with an imperturbable assumption that they were all fools or knaves. When we find him, after humbly asking pardon for all his errors of the press, errors of the pen, or errors of opinion, expressing a wish that “all gentlemen on the other side would give him equal occasion to honour them for their charity, temper, and gentlemanlike dealing, as for their learning and virtue,” and offering to “capitulate with them, and enter into a treaty or cartel for exchange of good language,” we may, if we like, admire his superior mastery of the weapons of irritation, but pity is out of place.
The number of February 17, 1705, was announced by Defoe as being “the last Review of this volume, and designed to be so of this work.” But on the following Tuesday, the regular day for the appearance of the Review, he issued another number, declaring that he could not quit the volume without some remarks on “charity and poverty.” On Saturday yet another last number appeared, dealing with some social subjects which he had been urged by correspondents to discuss. Then on Tuesday, February 27, apologising for the frequent turning of his design, he issued a Preface to a new volume of the Review, with a slight change of title.