Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe (1719)

 

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

1660 born Daniel Foe in London (he later changed his name to Defoe to sound more aristocratic)– his father is a middle class wax and candle maker.

Attended school in Dorking. Not admitted to Oxford or Cambridge as he’s a Presbyterian so entered Morton’s Academy and considered becoming a minister.

Married Mary Tuffley who brought him a huge dowry.

1683  became a traveling hosiery salesman, traveling to Holland, France and Spain.

1685-1888   forced out of England for supporting a rebellion against King James II.

1692  became bankrupt

1703  after a short jail sentence, he works as a publicist and sometimes as a spy

1719   begins writing fiction at the age of 60 with Robinson Crusoe, based on a true story of a shipwrecked seaman named Alexander Selkirk

1722  Moll Flanders, about a heroine whose fortunes rise and fall

His focus on the conditions of everyday life, as opposed to the often celebrated courtly life in prior fiction, launched the new genre; the novel.

1731   died in London

 

Robinson Crusoe

An Englishman from York, Crusoe initially studies law to please his father but eventually turns to the sea. A storm almost kills him and his friend. The friend stays away from sea, but Robinson becomes a merchant on a ship leaving London.

First voyage succeeds and he leaves his money with a widow.

Moorish pirates capture the second voyage, enslaving Robinson in Sallee, North African.

Escapes with another slave boy, rescued by Portuguese captain who buys the slave boy from Crusoe and takes Crusoe to Brazil where he becomes a successful plantation owner.

Goes on a slave-gathering expedition to West Africa but ends up shipwrecked off the coast of Trinidad.

Finding himself alone on the island, he begins to gather what remains from the shipwreck to build his shelter. He marks his days on a cross he made and keeps a journal of his daily activities.

After years alone, he finds footsteps. Assuming it’s that of cannibals, he arms himself and escapes to an underground cellar he built.

He hears gunshot, checks and finds another shipwreck, but no survivors.

Soon he sees human bones around the island and deduces that cannibals live on the island.

Sees cannibals with their victims. One victim escapes, Crusoe saves him and names him Friday and begins teaching him some English and some religion.

Friday tells Crusoe that the cannibals only eat their own enemies and that they saved the people from the shipwreck. Those people, Spaniards, live somewhere on the island.

Crusoe rescues a Spaniard and Friday’s father from cannibals.

Cruse rescues ship from pirates and boards the ship himself to go back to England.

In England he finds his money safe with the widow and his plantation in Brazil prospering.

He goes to sell his plantation and faces bad weather on the ship returning to England.

After his wife dies he returns to the West Indies as a trader, checks on his island to find that the Spaniards have made it into a prosperous colony.

 

Themes

Adventure – survival - slavery