Daniel Defoe eBook

William Minto
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Daniel Defoe.
convict’s own lips.  It would have had such an air of authenticity, and would have been corroborated by such an array of trustworthy witnesses, that nobody in later times could have doubted its truth.  Defoe always wrote what a large number of people were in a mood to read.  All his writings, with so few exceptions that they may reasonably be supposed to fall within the category, were pieces de circonstance.  Whenever any distinguished person died or otherwise engaged public attention, no matter how distinguished, whether as a politician, a criminal, or a divine, Defoe lost no time in bringing out a biography.  It was in such emergencies that he produced his memoirs of Charles XII., Peter the Great, Count Patkul, the Duke of Shrewsbury, Baron de Goertz, the Rev. Daniel Williams, Captain Avery the King of the Pirates, Dominique Cartouche, Rob Roy, Jonathan Wild, Jack Sheppard, Duncan Campbell.  When the day had been fixed for the Earl of Oxford’s trial for high treason, Defoe issued the fictitious Minutes of the Secret Negotiations of Mons. Mesnager at the English Court during his ministry.  We owe the Journal of the Plague in 1665 to a visitation which fell upon France in 1721, and caused much apprehension in England.  The germ which in his fertile mind grew into Robinson Crusoe fell from the real adventures of Alexander Selkirk, whose solitary residence of four years on the island of Juan Fernandez was a nine days’ wonder in the reign of Queen Anne.  Defoe was too busy with his politics at the moment to turn it to account; it was recalled to him later on, in the year 1719, when the exploits of famous pirates had given a vivid interest to the chances of adventurers in far-away islands on the American and African coasts.  The Life, Adventures, and Piracies of the famous Captain Singleton, who was set on shore in Madagascar, traversed the continent of Africa from east to west past the sources of the Nile, and went roving again in the company of the famous Captain Avery, was produced to satisfy the same demand.  Such biographies as those of Moll Flanders and the Lady Roxana were of a kind, as he himself illustrated by an amusing anecdote, that interested all times and all professions and degrees; but we have seen to what accident he owed their suggestion and probably part of their materials.  He had tested the market for such wares in his Journals of Society.

In following Defoe’s career, we are constantly reminded that he was a man of business, and practised the profession of letters with a shrewd eye to the main chance.  He scoffed at the idea of practising it with any other object, though he had aspirations after immortal fame as much as any of his more decorous contemporaries.  Like Thomas Fuller, he frankly avowed that he wrote “for some honest profit to himself.”  Did any man, he asked, do anything without some regard to his own advantage?  Whenever he hit upon a profitable vein, he worked

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Daniel Defoe from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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