Daniel Defoe was an English writer, trader, journalist, Pamphleteer, and spy. He is most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe published in 1719, which is claimed to be second only to the Bible in its number of translations. He has been seen as one of the earliest proponents of the English novel and helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Aphra Ben and Samuel Richardson. Defoe wrote many political tracts, was often in trouble with the authorities and spent a period in prison. Intellectuals and political leaders paid attention to his fresh ideas and sometimes consulted him.
HIS EARLY LIFE:
Daniel Foe was probably born in Fore Street in the parish of St Gile cripplegate, London. His birthdate and birthplace are uncertain, and 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 of Flemish descent, and a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. In Defoe’s early childhood, he experienced some of the most unusual occurrences in English history: in 1665, 70,000 were killed by the Great Plague of London, and the next year, the Great Fire of London left only Defoe’s and two other houses standing in his neighborhood. In 1667, when he was probably 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, Alice, had died by the time he was about ten.
HIS EDUCATION :
Defoe was educated at the Rev. James Fisher’s boarding school in Pixham Lane in Dorking, Surrey. His parents were Presbyterian dissenters, and around the age of 14, he was sent to Charles Morton’s dissenting academy at Newington Green, then a village just north of London, where he is believed to have attended the dissenting Church there. He lived on Church Street, Stoke Newington. During this period, the English government persecuted those who chose to worship outside the Church of England.
HIS BUSINESS CAREER:
Defoe entered the world of business as a general merchant, dealing at different times in hosiery, general woolen goods, and wine. His ambitions were great and he was able to buy a country estate and a ship (as well as civets to make perfume, though he was rarely out of debt. 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, and 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. In 1692, he was arrested for debts of £700 and, in the face of total debts that may have amounted to £17,000, was forced to declare bankruptcy. He died with little wealth and evidently embroiled in lawsuits with the royal treasury.
HIS WRITING CAREER:
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 (1697) had ended the Nine Years’ War (1688–1697). His most successful poem, The True-Born (1701), defended William against Xenophobic attacks from his political enemies in England, and English anti-immigration sentiments more generally. In 1701, Defoe presented the Legion’s Memorial to Robert Harley , then- Speaker of the House of the 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.
Published by Ayisha Shabana. M
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