Daniel Defoe, born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, journalist and spy. He is most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe, second only to the Bible in its number of translations, he has been seen as one of the earliest proponents of the English novel, helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Aphra Behn and Samuel Richardson. Defoe wrote many political tracts and was in trouble with the authorities, spent a period in prison. Intellectuals and political leaders paid attention to his fresh ideas and sometimes consulted with him. Defoe was a prolific and versatile writer, producing more than three hundred works—books and journals—on diverse topics, including politics, religion, marriage and the supernatural, he was a pioneer of business journalism and economic journalism. Daniel Foe was born in Fore Street in the parish of St Giles Cripplegate, London. Defoe added the aristocratic-sounding "De" to his name, on occasion claimed descent from the family of De Beau Faux, his birthdate and birthplace are uncertain, sources offer dates from 1659 to 1662, with the summer or early autumn of 1660 considered the most likely.
His father, James Foe, was a prosperous tallow chandler and a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. In Defoe's early life, he experienced some of the most unusual occurrences in English history: in 1665, 70,000 were killed by the Great Plague of London, the next year, the Great Fire of London left standing only Defoe's and two other houses in his neighbourhood. In 1667, when he was about seven, a Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway via the River Thames and attacked the town of Chatham in the raid on the Medway, his mother, had died by the time he was about ten. Defoe was educated at the Rev. James Fisher's boarding school in Pixham Lane in Surrey, his parents were Presbyterian dissenters, around the age of 14, he attended a dissenting academy at Newington Green in London run by Charles Morton, he is believed to have attended the Newington Green Unitarian Church and kept practising his Presbyterian religion. During this period, the English government persecuted those who chose to worship outside the Church of England.
Defoe entered the world of business as a general merchant, dealing at different times in hosiery, general woollen goods, wine. His ambitions were great and he was able to buy a country estate and a ship, though he was out of debt, he was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1692. On 1 January 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley at St Botolph's Aldgate, she was the daughter of a London merchant, receiving a dowry of £3,700—a huge amount by the standards of the day. With his debts and political difficulties, the marriage may have been troubled, but it lasted 47 years and produced eight children. In 1685, Defoe joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion but gained a pardon, by which he escaped the Bloody Assizes of Judge George Jeffreys. Queen Mary and her husband William III were jointly crowned in 1689, Defoe became one of William's close allies and a secret agent; some of the new policies led to conflict with France, thus damaging prosperous trade relationships for Defoe, who had established himself as a merchant.
In 1692, Defoe was arrested for debts of £700, though his total debts may have amounted to £17,000. His laments were loud and he always defended unfortunate debtors, but there is evidence that his financial dealings were not always honest, he died with little evidence of lawsuits with the royal treasury. Following his release from debtor's prison, he travelled in Europe and Scotland, it may have been at this time that he traded wine to Cadiz and Lisbon. By 1695, he was back in England, now formally using the name "Defoe" and serving as a "commissioner of the glass duty", responsible for collecting taxes on bottles. In 1696, he ran a tile and brick factory in what is now Tilbury in Essex and lived in the parish of Chadwell St Mary; as many as 545 titles have been ascribed to Defoe, ranging from satirical poems and religious pamphlets, volumes. Defoe's first notable publication was An essay upon projects, a series of proposals for social and economic improvement, published in 1697. From 1697 to 1698, he defended the right of King William III to a standing army during disarmament, after the Treaty of Ryswick had ended the Nine Years' War.
His most successful poem, The True-Born Englishman, defended the king against the perceived xenophobia of his enemies, satirising the English claim to racial purity. In 1701, Defoe presented the Legion's Memorial to Robert Harley Speaker of the House of Commons—and his subsequent employer—while flanked by a guard of sixteen gentlemen of quality, it demanded the release of the Kentish petitioners, who had asked Parliament to support the king in an imminent war against France. The death of William III in 1702 once again created a political upheaval, as the king was replaced by Queen Anne who began her offensive against Nonconformists. Defoe was a natural target, his pamphleteering and political activities resulted in his arrest and placement in a pillory on 31 July 1703, principally on account of his December 1702 pamphlet entitled The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters. In it, he ruthlessly satirised both the High church Tories and those Dissenters who hypocritically practised so-called "occasional conformity", such as his Stoke Newington neighbour Sir Thomas Abney.
It was published an
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