HIS MYSTERIOUS END.
“The best step,” Defoe says, after describing the character of a deceitful talker, “such a man can take is to lie on, and this shows the singularity of the crime; it is a strange expression, but I shall make it out; their way is, I say, to lie on till their character is completely known, and then they can lie no longer, for he whom nobody deceives can deceive nobody, and the essence of lying is removed; for the description of a lie is that it is spoken to deceive, or the design is to deceive. Now he that nobody believes can never lie any more, because nobody can be deceived by him.”
Something like this seems to have happened to Defoe himself. He touched the summit of his worldly prosperity about the time of the publication of Robinson Crusoe (1719). He was probably richer then than he had been when he enjoyed the confidence of King William, and was busy with projects of manufacture and trade. He was no longer solitary in journalism. Like his hero, he had several plantations, and companions to help him in working them. He was connected with four journals, and from this source alone his income must have been considerable. Besides this, he was producing separate works at the rate, on an average, of six a year, some of them pamphlets, some of them considerable volumes, all of them calculated to the wants of the time, and several of them extremely popular, running through three or four editions in as many months. Then he had his salary from the Government, which he delicately hints at in one of his extant letters as being overdue. Further, the advertisement of a lost pocket-book in 1726, containing a list of Notes and Bills in which Defoe’s name twice appears, seems to show that he still found time for commercial transactions outside literature. Altogether Defoe was exceedingly prosperous, dropped all pretence of poverty, built a large house at Stoke Newington, with stables and pleasure-grounds, and kept a coach.
[Footnote 6: Lee’s Life, vol. i. pp. 406-7.]