Daniel Defoe – author of Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe was born in Bristol in 1660 into the family of a butcher called James Foe. Later the writer changed his name to Defoe, because it was a more fashionable name.
As a child he witnessed both the Plague and the Great Fire of London.
His parents wanted him to become a priest. So Daniel entered a boarding school. There he studied not only theology, but rather a wide range of subjects – geography, astronomy, history, foreign languages. However, the boy didn’t want to become a priest.
After leaving the school, the young man traveled around Europe. He traveled to Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Holland. He was engaged in trade. Daniel had several different businesses, but they were not very successful. Once he was even put in prison for debts!
Defoe entered the circle of famous British publicists. He wrote pamphlets and small works in verse and prose on contemporary political and social themes, and even published his own newspaper Observer. In 1697 he wrote An Essay on The Projects – a small work in which he one of the first in Europe talked about the idea of women’s education.
Many people call him the ‘father’ of British journalism.
In 1684, he married Mary Tuffley. They had 2 sons and 5 daughters.
In 1685, Defoe took part in a rebellion against James II. While hiding in a graveyard after the rebellion was put down, he noticed the name Robinson Crusoe on a stone, and later gave it to his famous hero.
In 1703 the writer was arrested for an article against the church and the government.
Defoe travelled a lot, started his own newspaper, worked as a spy, and has more than 500 pieces of writings to his name.
He died in 1731 in London. After his death the tombstone with the inscription “Daniel Defoe – author of Robinson Crusoe” was installed.
Defoe was nearly 60 when he wrote Robinson Crusoe. It was the first real novel in English literature. When the book came out in 1719, it was an immediate success. It was the first novel written in English. It was also the first best-seller! No one had written anything like that before!
Defoe used the true story of a Scottish sailor called Alexander Selkirk, who was left by pirates on a small island in the Pacific Ocean. He lived there alone for four years, and was rescued by a ship in 1709.
The full title of the book was The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.
It is an exciting novel.
Robinson is bored with his quiet life at home in England. He decides to be a sailor and to travel the seas of the world. He has many exciting adventures, and in 1659 he is in a ship sailing from Brazil to Africa. One day there is a terrible storm. The ship begins to break up, and soon Crusoe and his friends are fighting for their lives in an angry sea. He reaches land and finds himself alive, but alone, on a small island with no food, no boat, no way of escape. He will be there for the next twenty-seven years…
Defoe describes Robinson’s adventures in a lot of detail which makes the story realistic. Critics at the time didn’t like the style of Robinson Crusoe. They thought that it was not elegant. But Defoe had changed English literature for ever. He is called the father of the English prose.
Robinson Crusoe has been translated into many languages, and many films and TV serials have been made of it.
The popularity of the novel was so great that the writer released continuation of the story of his hero, and a year later he added Robinson’s travel to Russia.
Robinson followed by other novels – The Life, Adventures and Piracies of the Famous Captain Singleton, Moll Flanders, Journal of the Plague Year, Colonel Jacques and Roxanne. But their success couldn’t be compared with the first book of Defoe.