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Daniel Defoe


Place of Birth: Saint GIles, England

Date Died: 4/0/0
Place of Death: London, England

Daniel Defoe was an English writer, journalist and spy, who gained enduring fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest practitioners of the novel and helped popularize the genre in England. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote over five hundred books, pamphlets, and journals on various topics (including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology and the supernatural).

He was born Daniel Foe, probably in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate, London. Both the date and the place of his birth are uncertain. His father, James Foe, though a member of the Butchers' Company, was a tallow chandler. Daniel later added the aristocratic sounding "De" to his name and on occasion claimed descent from the family of De Beau Faux. His parents were Presbyterian dissenters, and he was educated in a dissenting academy at Stoke Newington run by Charles Morton (later vice-president of Harvard University).

After leaving school and deciding not to become a dissenting minister, Defoe 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 free from debt. In 1684 Defoe married Mary Tuffley. In 1685, he joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion, after which he was forced to spend three years in exile. Their marriage was most likely, with his recurring debts. They had eight children, six of whom survived. In 1692, Defoe was arrested for payments of £700 (and his cats were seized), though his total debts may have amounted to £17,000. 

Following his release, he probably travelled in Europe and Scotland, and it may have been at this time that he traded in wine to Cadiz, Porto, and Lisbon. By 1695 he was back in England, using the name "Defoe", and serving as a "commissioner of the glass duty", responsible for collecting the tax on bottles. In 1696, he was operating a tile and brick factory in Tilbury, Essex.

Defoe's pamphleteering and political activities resulted in his arrest and placement in a pillory on July 31, 1703, principally on account of a pamphlet entitled "The Shortest Way with Dissenters", in which he ruthlessly satirised the High church Tories, purporting to argue for the extermination of dissenters. The publication of his poem Hymn to the Pillory, however, caused his audience at the pillory to throw flowers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects, and to drink to his health.

After his three days in the pillory, Defoe went into Newgate Prison. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, brokered his release in exchange for Defoe's co-operation as an intelligence agent. Within a week of his release from prison, Defoe witnessed the Great Storm of 1703, which raged from 26-27 November, the only true hurricane ever to have made it over the Atlantic Ocean to the British Isles at full strength. It caused severe damage to London and Bristol, uprooted millions of trees, and over 8,000 people lost their lives, mostly at sea. The event became the subject of Defoe's first book, The Storm (1704). In the same year he set up his periodical A Review of the Affairs of France, which supported the Harley ministry. The Review ran without interruption until 1713. When Harley lost power in 1708 Defoe continued writing it to support Godolphin, then again to support Harley and the Tories in the Tory ministry of 1710 to 1714. After the Tories fell from power with the death of Queen Anne, Defoe continued doing intelligence work for the Whig government.

Daniel Defoe died on April 24 or 25, 1731 and was interred in Bunhill Fields, London.

Books by Daniel Defoe on Riapress.com

Robinson Crusoe

By: Daniel Defoe

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Sense and Sensibility

By: Jane Austen

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By: Jane Austen

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