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DANIEL DEFOE

1660-1731
English

"It is better to have a lion at the head of an army of sheep, than a sheep at the head of an army of lions. "

Daniel Defoe was born in London in 1660, the son of Alice and James Foe. His father was a butcher and a Nonconformist. All the Foes were Dissenters, Protestants who did not belong to the Anglican Church.

Defoe attended Morton’s academy for Dissenters, where his father intended him for the ministry. However he plunged into politics and trade, and by the time he married Mary Tuffley in 1684, he was established as a city merchant and had already travelled extensively throughout Europe. They had two sons and five daughters.

In 1685 Defoe fought in the Monmouth rebellion against James II and it was while he was hiding in a churchyard, after the rebellion had failed, that he noticed the name of Robinson Crusoe carved on a stone, and which he later gave to his fictional hero. In 1688 he aligned himself with the forces of William III, which led to his gaining a reputation as a mercenary. As a result of a pamphlet, which he wrote in 1702, entitled The Shortest Way with Dissenters, he was arrested and imprisoned in 1703, but was released in return for services as a spy working for the Tory Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford. After the Tories fell from power, Defoe continued to act as a spy for the Whig government. He was considered at the time as an unscrupulous journalist. He was a prolific writer producing hundreds of books, journals and pamphlets using a variety of pseudonyms, but his best-known works were all written in his later years, beginning with Robinson Crusoe in 1719. The story was based partly on the memoirs of William Selkirk , a privateer, who spent more than four years on a Pacific island. He was sixty-two when he published Moll Flanders, A Journal of the Plague Year and Colonel Jack.  His last work of fiction, Roxana, appeared in 1724.

He had ceased to be politically controversial in the 1720s and his writings were often historical. He continued to write prolifically until his death on 26th April, 1731 at his lodgings in Ropemaker’s Alley, Moorfields.With his mastery of prose and narrative content, he is often regarded as the father of the English novel.

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