Daniel Defoe

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Daniel Defoe (ca. 1659-1661 – 24 April 1731[1]), born Daniel Foe, was an English writer, journalist, and pamphleteer, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and is among the founders of the English novel.[2] A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote more than 500 books, pamphlets and journals on various topics (including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology and the supernatural). He was also a pioneer of economic journalism.



Early life

Daniel Foe (his original name) was probably born in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate London. (Defoe later added the aristocratic-sounding "De" to his name and on occasion claimed descent from the family of De Beau Faux.) The date and the place of his birth are uncertain, with sources often giving dates of 1659 to 1661. His father James Foe, though a member of the Butchers' Company, was a tallow chandler. In Defoe's early life he experienced first-hand some of the most unusual occurrences in English history: in 1665, 70,000 were killed by the Great Plague of London. The Great Fire of London (1666) hit Defoe's neighborhood hard, leaving only his and two other homes standing in the area.[3] In 1667, when Defoe was probably about seven years old, a Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway via the River Thames and attacked Chatham. By the time he was about thirteen years old, Defoe's mother had died.[4] His parents were Presbyterian dissenters; he was educated in a Dissenting Academy at Newington Green run by Charles Morton and is believed to have attended the church there.[5]

Although Defoe was a Christian, he decided not to become a dissenting minister and entered the world of business as a general merchant, dealing at different times in hosiery, general woollen goods and wine. Though his ambitions were great and he bought both a country estate and a ship (as well as civet cats to make perfume), he was rarely out of debt. In 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, receiving a dowry of £3,700. With his debts, their marriage was most likely a difficult one. They had eight children, six of whom survived. In 1685, he joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion but gained a pardon by which he escaped the Bloody Assizes of Judge George Jeffreys. In 1692, Defoe was arrested for payments of £700 (and his civets were seized), 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.

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