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Daniel Defoe eBook

William Minto
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Daniel Defoe.
In October three pamphlets came from Defoe’s fertile pen; an Advice to the People of England to lay aside feuds and faction, and live together under the new King like good Christians; and two parts, in quick succession, of a Secret History of the White Staff.  This last work was an account of the circumstances under which the Treasurer’s White Staff was taken from the Earl of Oxford, and put his conduct in a favourable light, exonerating him from the suspicion of Jacobitism, and affirming—­not quite accurately, as other accounts of the transaction seem to imply—­that it was by Harley’s advice that the Staff was committed to the Earl of Shrewsbury.  One would be glad to accept this as proof of Defoe’s attachment to the cause of his disgraced benefactor; yet Harley, as he lay in the Tower awaiting his trial on an impeachment of high treason, issued a disclaimer concerning the Secret History and another pamphlet, entitled An Account of the Conduct of Robert, Earl of Oxford.  These pamphlets, he said, were not written with his knowledge, or by his direction or encouragement; “on the contrary, he had reason to believe from several passages therein contained that it was the intention of the author, or authors, to do him a prejudice.”  This disclaimer may have been dictated by a wish not to appear wanting in respect to his judges; at any rate, Defoe’s Secret History bears no trace on the surface of a design to prejudice him by its recital of facts. An Appeal to Honour and Justice was Defoe’s next production.  While writing it, he was seized with a violent apoplectic fit, and it was issued with a Conclusion by the Publisher, mentioning this circumstance, explaining that the pamphlet was consequently incomplete, and adding:  “If he recovers, he may be able to finish what he began; if not, it is the opinion of most that know him that the treatment which he here complains of, and some others that he would have spoken of, have been the apparent cause of his disaster.”  There is no sign of incompleteness in the Appeal; and the Conclusion by the Publisher, while the author lay “in a weak and languishing condition, neither able to go on nor likely to recover, at least in any short time,” gives a most artistic finishing stroke to it.  Defoe never interfered with the perfection of it after his recovery, which took place very shortly.  The Appeal was issued in the first week of January; before the end of the month the indomitable writer was ready with a Third Part of the Secret History, and a reply to Atterbury’s Advice to the Freeholders of England in view of the approaching elections.  A series of tracts written in the character of a Quaker quickly followed, one rebuking a Dissenting preacher for inciting the new Government to vindictive severities, another rebuking Sacheverell for hypocrisy and perjury in taking the oath of abjuration, a third rebuking the Duke of Ormond for encouraging Jacobite and High-Church mobs.  In March, Defoe published his Family Instructor, a book of 450 pages; in July, his History, by a Scots Gentleman in the Swedish Service, of the Wars of Charles XII.

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