Daniel Defoe is best known as the author of the 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, but there’s so much more to know about this outspoken writer, who is widely credited with popularizing the English novel in the early 18th century. Defoe (born Daniel Foe circa 1660) grew up in a family of dissenters: Presbyterians opposed to the dominant Anglican Church. At an early age, Defoe voiced his concerns in anti-establishment pamphlets. He was also a businessman, journalist, and secret confidant to King William III, always with an opinion about the day’s important issues. Defoe frequently wrote under a pseudonym, and as many as 198 pen names have been linked to him. Besides Robinson Crusoe, Defoe also wrote Captain Singleton, Memoirs of a Cavalier, Colonel Jack, A Journal of the Plague Year, and Moll Flanders, as well as a variety of satirical poems, religious pamphlets, and more.
A prominent voice in English literature:
- Defoe's views were not always well received. In fact, in 1703, he was put in the pillory for seditious libel. Being pilloried involved restraining the accused person's head and hands, and leaving them to the whims of crowds that would gather.
- In Defoe's early life, he experienced several epic events in English history, including the Great Plague of London, which killed 70,000 people; the Great Fire of London, when his home and only two others survived in his neighborhood; and the Dutch raid on the Medway.
- The full title of Robinson Crusoe is actually The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates.