The English writer Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) is renowned especially for his first novel, The Life and Strange and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner (1719). This story of the adventures of a man who survives on a desert island has never lost its original success. Innumerable reprints, translations, commentaries and adaptations in all kinds of media and genres - a.o. 'robinsonades' - have turned the book into a classic novel, a myth of Western civilization.

Nevertheless, Robinson Crusoe is only one work in an oeuvre that counts more than 250 publications. Defoe became famous as, successively:
novel writer

From a young age, Defoe wrote many pamphlets and essays, taking position in the social issues of his day. His occupation - he had a shop in knitting wares - was to be overshadowed by his political and religious (Protestant) engagement.. In 1685 he took part in the rebellion against the Catholic (Stuart) King Jacob II, and gave his support to the tolerant Protestant William III. Daniel Defoe became notorious as a pamphleteer with A True-born Englishman (1701) and The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702). In this last pamphlet, he 'defends' the anti-Puritan government of the Anglican Queen Anna in such an ironic way that it brought him into prison. After his release, however, he was rewarded for his successful publications with the post of a government agent. Writing for conservative (Tory) publications, he spied for the liberal (Whig) Government. Many believed him to be an unreliable opportunist.

In 1704, deriving the benefit of his large experience and many connections, Defoe set up the weekly journal The Review , and became the 'world's first journalist'. He was in a good position to observe the social, political en economic reality of his days: the expansion of the power of the trading bourgeoisie, with its principles of rationality and self-confident individualism; the expansion of London into the commercial center of Europe; and the further establishment of the British colonial empire. He travelled Europe and read the popular, adventurous travel stories and log-books; all of which attested to the growing Western dominance in the world.

Rational and individualistic characters can also be found in Defoe's later, fictional prose. By the realism and individualism in these works - often combined autobiography and memoire - they are situated at the beginning of the novelistic tradition. Robinson Crusoe (1719), the first novel, was followed by more picaresque stories, such as the exotic Captain Singleton (1720), and Moll Flanders (1722) and Roxana (1724), two pseudo-biographical stories with female narrators. A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) is a documentary `eye witness' report' of the plague that struck London in 1655 (although Defoe was then only five years old). Less known are Colonel Jacque (1722) and The memoirs of a Cavalier (1724).

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Creada: 22/02/2000 Última Actualización: 27/03/2000