Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(13) Daniel Defoe (c. 1660 - c. 1731)

Pamphlets and Poems

- by birth, education and occupations a stranger to the polite literature of his lifetime

- middle-class by birth, a small merchant by profession and a Presbyterian in religion

- first gained notoriety by political verses and pamphlets

> The True-Born Englishman (1701): his first literary success, a satirical poem pleading for the acceptance of the foreign king William of Orange and his Dutch friends

> The Shortest Way with the Dissents (1702): an ironic defence of the Anglican oppression (himself counted among Dissenters), proposes banishing the dissenters from the country and hanging their priests

- some readers failed to understand the satire, there was public unrest and Defoe was punished by imprisonment

- when released from prison through the influence of Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, Defoe found his merchant establishment collapsed and out of economic necessity turned to writing

- also secretly served his benefactor Harley as a political spy and confidential agent

- founded and contributed to the pro-governmental newspaper The Review (from 1704)

Prose Writings

- extremely prolific and versatile: wrote some 500 books on politics, geography, religion, marriage, psychology etc.

> A Journal of the Plague Year (1722):

- mingles history and fiction, facts and impressions, voices and statistics

- gives an account of the London plague of 1665 from the perspective of an insider, a citizen of London

- intends to serve as a warning to the present and as an example of endurance and spiritual reassessment in the past

> A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724 - 1726):

- a travel book in three volumes

- expresses his pride in the steady visible growth of the prosperity and well-being of the newly united kingdom

Novelistic Fiction

- started writing novels only in his late middle age, when he was nearly sixty years old

- mingles elements from diverse literary forms: political pamphlet, moral tract, biography, history, travel book etc.

- creates vivid settings through the cumulative effect of carefully observed, often petty details

- writes easygoing prose, uses the language of actual speech revealing the consciousness of the first person narrator

- makes use of his knowledge of society, both the trading bourgeoisie and the rogues preying on them

- preoccupied with lonely human beings (Robinson Crusoe on his island, Moll Flanders in England and Virginia)

- his characters manifest enormous vitality, humanity and ingenuity

> The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719):

- a first person memoir devoted from two-thirds to the twenty-eight years that the narrator spends on a desert island

- the narrator is 'of good family' and because of his sound education 'not bred to any trade', still he survives

- his decision to go to the sea is an act of rebellion against his parents and his marooning marks the beginning of his slow and painful redemptive journey back to a state of grace

- the novel is sometimes interpreted as as a fictional enactment of the process of European colonization: when the island is peopled by Friday, Friday's father and a Spanish sailor (the latter two rescued from the cannibals), Crusoe comes to think of himself as king with 'an undoubted right of dominion' and an 'absolute lord and law-giver'

- Crusoe however establishes also an unprecedented religious freedom on the island, tolerating pagan, Protestant and Catholic alike

> The Adventures of Captain Singleton (1720):

- on one level may be read as an adventure story about a fraught journey across central Africa

- on another level describes the moral progress of a seafarer who becomes mutineer and pirate but finally comes to discover the virtues of religion, honest money and marriage

> The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (1722):

- follows an upward social and moral mobility of an entrepreneurial and belatedly penitent woman

- the first person narrator recounts her dubious liaisons with seducers, husbands, and lovers, and her progress through thievery to transportation to Virginia and final financial and emotional happiness

> The History of the Remarkable Life of the Truly Honourable Colonel Jacque (1722):

- remarkable for its intense portrayal of the disorienting and claustrophobic slums of London in which the narrator struggles for survival as a child pickpocket

- later the narrator becomes uneasy with the sins in which he indulges and presses his narrative into the form of an instructive fable manifesting the evidence of the ultimate moral

> The Fortunate Mistress, or, Roxana (1724):

- follows a beautiful and ambitious woman's decline from respectability, caused partly by mistreatment on the part of the men on whom she relied and partly by her own selfish sense of self-preservation

- the first person narrators gives an account of her bad marriage and early poverty forcing her to resort to prostitution, at which she prospered until eventually her past caught up with her

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    Britská literatura 3.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Přednášející

    Ema Jelínková.
  • Status

    Povinná přednáška pro III. blok.


Abrams, M. H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1999.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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