Daniel Defoe (2004)
Daniel Defoe was a pioneering novelist, pamphleteer, journalist, secret agent. He was the son of a butcher: James Foe, and Defoe used that form of his surname until he was about fortythree.
He studied at Charles Morton's Academy, London, and was educated for the Presbyterian ministry, but in 1682 he abandoned the idea and went into business as a hosiery merchant in Cornhill.
After serving briefly as a soldier in the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion, he became well established as a merchant and travelled widely in England, as well as on the Continent.
He tried his hand at different kids of work and went bankrupt.
In 1684 he married Mary Tuffley, they have two sons and five daughters.
Defoe gained his first literary success in 1708, with The True-born Englishman. It was a satirical poem which stressed the fact that the English are a mixed race and defended the protestant king William III against attacks on his foreign nationality.
This poem was followed by the pamphlet The Shortest way with the Dissenters; he mimicked the extreme attitudes of High Anglican Tories and pretended to argue for the extermination of all Dissenters. Defoe was imprisoned and pilloried, but he was regarded by the people as a martyr and, while in the pillory, he was pelted with flowers.
While still in prison he started his newspaper The Review, which he continued to publish unaided by other writers for more than nine years.
When he left prison, it appears he was employed as a secret agent and played some part behind the scenes in bringing about the union between England and Scotland in 1707.
He achieved literary immortality when in April 1719 he published Robinson Crusoe, which was based partly on the memoirs of voyagers and castaways, such as Alexander Selkirk. It appeared when he was about sixty.
Employing a first-person narrator and apparently genuine journal entries, Defoe created a realistic frame for the novel, which distinguished it from its predecessors.
By giving a vivid reality to a theme with large mythic implications, the story has since fascinated generations of readers as well as authors like Joachim Heinrich Campen, Jules Verne, R.L. Stevenson, J.M. Coetzee, and other creators of Robinsonade stories.
He than wrote and published in rapid succession a series of novels, mostly in autobiographical form, which bore some analogy to his masterpiece, as well as tales of rogues.
Chief among such works are: Capitain Singleton, containing a vivid account of travels in Africa.; Moll Flanders ; Colonel Jack; Journal of the Plague Year. His last great work: Roxana, appeared in 1724.
In 1720 Defoe had ceased to be politically controversial in his writings, and he produced several historical works, a guide book: A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-27), The Great Law of Subordination (1724) (ctr. non citata nel testo di Praz), considered, an examination of the treatment of servants, and The Complete English Tradesman (1726).
Defoe produced in his last years also works involving the supernatural, The Political History of the Devil (1726) and An Essay on the History and Reality of apparitions (1727).
Over 200 books and pamphlets are attributed to him.
He died on 26 April 1731 in his lodgings in Ropemaker's Alley, Moorfields.
Annate: 2004 (1)