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Daniel Defoe. Robinson Crusoe.
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About the author
Daniel Defoe (1660 - April
21, 1731), the English writer,
gained fame for his novel
Born Daniel Foe, the son of James Foe, a butcher in the Stoke
Newington neighbourhood of London, England, he would later add
the aristocratic sounding "De" to his name as a nom de plume. He
became a famous pamphleteer, journalist and novelist at a time of the
birth of the novel in the English language, and thus fairly ranks as one
of its progenitors.
Defoe's pamphleteering and political activities resulted in his ar-
rest and placement in a pillory on July 31, 1703, principally on account
of a pamphlet entitled "The Shortest Way with Dissenters", in which
he ruthlessly satirised the High church Tories, purporting to argue for
the extermination of dissenters. The publication of his poem "Hymn to
the Pillory", however, caused his audience at the pillory to throw flow-
ers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects, and to drink
to his health.
After his three days in the pillory Defoe went into Newgate Prison.
Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, brokered his release
in exchange for Defoe's co-operation in acting as an intelligence agent
for the Tories in the Tory ministry of 1710 to 1714. After the Tories fell
from power with the death of Queen Anne, Defoe continued doing
intelligence work for the Whig government.
Defoe's famous novel Robinson Crusoe (1719), tells of a man's
shipwreck on a desert island and his subsequent adventures. The
author may have based his narrative on the true story of the shipwreck
of Alexander Selkirk.1
Defoe's next novel was Captain Singleton (1720), amazing for its
portrayal of the red