Daniel Defoe was born on the 3rd of September, in 1660 in the city of London, England. He was a bright son of James Foe, a butcher by profession, and his mother, Annie, was a housewife. In his early years, he witnessed some of the unfortunate occurrences of history: The Great Plague of London and The Great Fire of London, which left only a handful of houses in his area. These events shaped his personality insignificantly. Daniel’s mother passed away when he was ten years old.
Since his father was a Presbyterian dissenter, he could not afford to send his son to the public educational institutions of England. Daniel started his educational journey from the Rev. James Fisher’s boarding school, located in Dorking, Surrey. Aged fourteen, he was sent to Charles Morton’s dissenting academy, where he studied humanities and science. There, he also prepared himself to become a Presbyterian minister. Thus, he received less formal education with no intention of becoming a writer in the future, yet with his priceless experiences and unique literary abilities, he mesmerized the generations later.
Although Daniel Defoe produced remarkable pieces to treat his readers, his final years witnessed constant onslaughts of troubles and struggles. He was pushed and hunted by his old creditors until his sad demise. This iconic figure lost the battle of his life on the 24th of April, in 1731 and was interred in Bunhill Fields.
Some Important Facts of His Life
- Young Defoe married Mary Tuffley at the age of twenty-four in 1684 and the couple had had eight children.
- After the publication of his satirical work “The Shortest Way with Dissenters” he was imprisoned in May 1703 and charged within three days. However, he was released shortly.
- He is widely acclaimed for his work, Robinson Crusoe.
- He is said to have used at least 198 pennames.
Daniel Defoe successfully pursued two careers in life: first, he became a businessman and later enjoyed an esteemed life as a poet and writer. He entered the world of business in his teens dealing in different products such as wine, general woolen goods, and hosiery. A man with high ambitions, Defoe, had bright plans for the future, but unfortunately, luck did not favor him, and he was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1692. Soon after setting up another business, his interest in trade and politics grew stronger. Keepings the political scenario and his experiences in his view, he turned toward writing and his first writing attempt appeared in 1683.
Later, waving through the political instabilities prevalent in his country, he came up with his witty and vigorous poem “The True-Born Englishman” which proved an immediate success. Later, in 1702, his most skillful and famous pamphlet “The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters” was published anonymously. Although the work earned huge success, the style and content became the reason for his misery; he was arrested soon after the publication. Later in his life, he intended to extend his writing talent to the work of prose fiction and came up with a big hit, Robinson Crusoe. The book provides honest insight into human nature. It introduced him as the finest novelist of his age. Later in 1724, he published Roxana. His other notable works include Captain Singleton, Memoirs of a Cavalier, and A Journal of the Plague Year.
Daniel Defoe enjoyed a successful literary life. His trade experiences, political passions, and the personal tragedies he encountered during his early years played a pivotal role in his writing career. Using his unique style, he beautifully portrayed his ideas in his literary pieces. Although the satirical style and harsh tone of his political and religious pamphlets annoyed the ruling class, yet he continued presenting the true picture of his time in his writings. For example, his much-appreciated work, Robinson Crusoe, presents the realistic projection of the human psyche and emotion. Marked with the use of reflective tone, satirical style, irony, symbolism, and metaphors, his works won universal recognition. The recurring themes in most of his writings are prejudice, politics, religion, and human nature.
Some Important Works of Daniel Defoe
- Best Novels: Some of his best novels include Robinson Crusoe, Captain Singleton, Moll Flanders, Roxana, and Memoirs of a Cavalier.
- Other Works: Besides writing novels, he tried his hands on other genres, too. Some of them include “The Poor Man’s Plea”, “Giving Alms No Charity, “Employing the Poor, An Appeal to Honour and Justice, Tho’ it be of His Worst Enemies, Parochial Tyranny”, “An Essay Upon Literature” and “The Political History of the Devi”l.
Daniel Defoe’s Impact on Future Literature
Daniel Defoe’s writing style and literary qualities of his masterpieces brought praiseworthy changes in the global English literature years later him. His distinctive writing approach and unique expression have made him stand among the best historical fiction writer of his time as well as the later times. Also, his political passion and views regarding legitimacy and power had a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and other influential figures. He is so much popular at this time that intertextualities have made it easy for other writers to allude to him in every other novel they create.
- “Those people cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them because they see and covet what He has not given them. All of our discontents for what we want appear to me to spring from want of thankfulness for what we have.” (Robinson Crusoe)
- “It put me upon reflecting how little repining there would be among mankind at any condition of life, if people would rather compare their condition with those that were worse, in order to be thankful, than be always comparing them with those which are better, to assist their murmurings and complaining.” (Robinson Crusoe)
- “…in the course of our lives, the evil which in itself we seek most to shun, and which, when we are fallen into, is the most dreadful to us, is oftentimes the very means or door of our deliverance, by which alone we can be raised again from the affliction we are fallen into…” (Robinson Crusoe)
- “And I add this part here, to hint to whoever shall read it that whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find Deliverance from Sin a much greater Blessing than Deliverance from Affliction.” (Robinson Crusoe)