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Defoe

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DEFOE, Daniel, English journalist and novelist, author of 'Robinson Crusoe' : b. Lon don 1659 or 1660; d. London, 26 April 1731. He was the son of James Foe, a butcher, and was born in the parish of Saint Giles, Cripplegate. The date of his birth used to be given as 1661 from a statement in the preface of his (Protestant Monastery' (1727), that he was then in his 67th year; but the late G. A. Aitken showed (Athe neum, 23 Aug. 1890) that he was born late in 1659 or early in 1660. Little is known of his early years save that he was bright and active and well grounded by his parents in the Bible and in the Presbyterian faith. At about 14 he was sent to a Dissenters' school kept at New ington Green by the Rev. Charles Morton, after ward vice-president of . Harvard. Here he studied theology, the classics, some of the mod ern languages, mathematics, and history and geography, becoming later extraordinarily pro ficient in the two subjects last named. In after years Defoe, defending the school, laid special emphasis on the instruction in English composi tion. His school course was intended to fit him for the Presbyterian ministry, Dissenters being not then allowed at the universities; but some where about 1678 he came to the conclusion that the position of a Dissenting clergyman was not an enviable one and that he would do better to go into business.

Scarcely anything is known of his life for the next five years, save that he was interested in public affairs during the °Popish Plot)) and that he wrote — whether he published is doubt ful — in favor of Austria against the Turks. In 1683 he was established in Cornhill, probably as a °hose factor? or wholesale dry-goods mer chant. On 1 Jan. 1683-84 he married Mary Tuffley, by whom he soon had several children. It appears from his writings that he made voy ages to Spain and Portugal and resided in Spain for a time, but no dates are given. Probably this was before his marriage, and at this same period he may have done the traveling in Italy and elsewhere of which he makes mention. Equally obscure is his share in the Monmouth uprising, yet it seems likely that he took part in that visionary enterprise and, unlike some of his old schoolmates, escaped being brought before Jeffreys. During the short reign of James II he appears to have used his pen against the Declaration of Indulgence, but his tract or tracts cannot be identified, the 'Letter) believed by Lee to be Defoe's seeming to be Bishop Burnet's. In January 1687-88 he was enrolled in the Butcher's Company, thus becoming a liveryman of the city of London. There is also some evidence that he was a resident of subur ban places and that his standing in Presbyterian and commercial circles was good.

At the close of 1688 Defoe joined the army of William III at Henley, and ever after he made that monarch his special hero, praising him in his writings whenever he could. In 1691 he published his first definitely identified work, a satire on a recent Jacobite plot against William, (A New Discovery of an Old Intreague.' For many years he continued to essay poetry, but only on one or two occasions did he rise above mediocrity, his genius being essentially that of a prose writer. In 1692 his affairs, which had probably been going wrong for some time, partly through the multiplicity of his interests, forced him into bankruptcy with a deficit of f17,000. He may have gone into hiding from his creditors, possibly at Bristol. Then he com pounded with them and, according to the testi mony of a journalistic rival, Tutchin, he later i discharged in full some of the obligations that had been scaled. Rejecting an offer to take charge of some business in Spain, he became secretary of a tile factory at Tilbury and was also for four years (1695-99) accountant to the commissioners of the glass duty. He seems to have had some reputation as a financier and he may have pleased the government by urging in a pamphlet a vigorous prosecution of the war avinst France ((The Englishman's Choice,' 1694). His writings between 1691 and 1697 are, however, practically unrecoverable and may not have been notable in quantity. By 1697 he'had re-established himself in comfortable circum stances, and before the close of 1700 he had issued a considerable number of tracts dealing with the question of a standing army, with reformation of manners, with foreign affairs and with the vexed problem of the occasional conformity of Dissenters. The only work of extended compass and interesting to the general reader is the (Essay upon Projects' (1697, but in part written earlier), in which he made numerous and often highly valuable suggestions about such matters of public interest as banks, insurance, good roads, asylums for idiots, and academies, especially for women, in whose wel fare he was more interested than almost any other man of his time. The tracts on occasional conformity were vigorous performances that gave anxiety to easy-going Dissenters, and his strong defense of William's policy with regard to the army and in foreign affairs may have helped him to obtain the confidence of that monarch when a little later he was introduced at court.

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