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Restless Daniel

John Mullan: Defoe, 20 July 2006

The Life of Daniel DefoeA Critical Biography 
by John Richetti.
Blackwell, 406 pp., £50, December 2005, 0 631 19529 7
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A Political Biography of Daniel Defoe 
by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Pickering & Chatto, 277 pp., £60, January 2006, 1 85196 810 5
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... Writers do not always know what their best writings are. Daniel Defoe believed his magnum opus to be his huge, passionately political, intermittently philosophical poem in heroic couplets, Jure Divino (1706). Begun while he was imprisoned in Newgate, its 12 books assailed the doctrine of the divine right of monarchs from every angle he could imagine ...

Defoe or the Devil

Pat Rogers, 2 March 1989

The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe 
by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Yale, 210 pp., £20, February 1988, 0 300 04119 5
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The ‘Tatler’: Vols I-III 
edited by Donald Bond.
Oxford, 590 pp., £60, July 1987, 0 19 818614 2
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The ‘Spectator’: Vols I-V 
edited by Donald Bond.
Oxford, 512 pp., £55, October 1987, 9780198186106
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... reproachful, very English in its good-humoured and long-suffering manner, The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe is in more ways than one a caution. The cautionary tale it tells concerns the unplanned growth of the canon of Defoe’s works, which has sprawled from a hundred items to something like six times that figure ...

Fugitive Crusoe

Tom Paulin: Daniel Defoe, 19 July 2001

Daniel DefoeMaster of Fictions 
by Maximilian Novak.
Oxford, 756 pp., £30, April 2001, 0 19 812686 7
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Political and Economic Writings of Daniel Defoe 
edited by W.R. Owens and P.N. Furbank.
Pickering & Chatto, £595, December 2000, 1 85196 465 7
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... before he died in a Soho rooming-house, Hazlitt published a lengthy essay on a new biography of Daniel Defoe in the Edinburgh Review, where he remarked that in Robinson Crusoe Defoe abandoned the political and religious subjects he addressed in his pamphlets, and confined himself to ‘unsophisticated views of nature ...

Secret Purposes

P.N. Furbank, 19 September 1985

Defoe and the Idea of Fiction: 1713-1719 
by Geoffrey Sill.
Associated University Presses, 190 pp., £16.95, April 1984, 0 87413 227 4
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The Elusive Daniel Defoe 
by Laura Curtis.
Vision, 216 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 85478 435 7
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Dofoe’s Fiction 
by Ian Bell.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £17.95, March 1985, 0 7099 3294 4
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Realism, Myth and History in Defoe’s Fiction 
by Maximillian Novak.
Nebraska, 181 pp., £21.55, July 1983, 0 8032 3307 8
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... is ‘how to judge when to venture and when not to venture’. This, according to Sill, was also Defoe’s recipe for Britain’s political welfare, and before emerging as a novelist, he had been advocating it by fictional methods in various pseudo-biographical works: thus Robinson Crusoe was not altogether a new start. The scheme of Robinson Crusoe and of ...

David Nokes on the duality of Defoe

David Nokes, 19 April 1990

Daniel DefoeHis Life 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 671 pp., £20.50, November 1989, 0 8018 3785 5
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... In many ways, Paula Backscheider has written a highly appropriate life of Defoe. Fat, fact-filled and repetitious, her book offers a meandering narrative of merchant adventures and spying, opportunism and piety, taking us from fire and plague to bankruptcy via the battlefield of Sedgemoor, Newgate prison and the pillory ...

High-Spirited Barbarians

Lawrence Stone, 28 April 1994

History and Its Images: Art and the Interpretation of the Past 
by Francis Haskell.
Yale, 558 pp., £29.95, June 1993, 0 300 05540 4
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... of the kings of Europe had re-created their ancestors to suit their own purposes: when in 1726 Daniel Defoe visited the portrait gallery of the kings of Scotland at Holyroodhouse, he had no doubt that they were ‘all guesswork’. But pictorial displays always had a propaganda purpose, often celebrating past victories in battle, as with the Armada ...

Whig Dreams

Margaret Anne Doody, 27 February 1992

A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 
by Daniel Defoe, edited by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Yale, 423 pp., £19.95, July 1991, 0 300 04980 3
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James Thomson: A Life 
by James Sambrook.
Oxford, 332 pp., £40, October 1991, 0 19 811788 4
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... This new issue of Daniel Defoe’s Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain is very pretty. It is a glossy book, lavishly illustrated with 18th-century maps, portraits, landscapes, prospects of towns and representations of buildings, markets, ships. This is obviously meant to function as a coffee-table book, or as a book to put in the back of a car (along with the National Trust’s guides ...

No Bottom to Them

Freya Johnston: Pockets, like Novels, 25 November 2019

The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, 1660-1900 
by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux.
Yale, 264 pp., £35, May 2019, 978 0 300 23907 2
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... and 43.5 cm wide. Jokes about the ever burgeoning pocket seem to have begun quite early: in 1724, Daniel Defoe reported in his Tour of Great Britain that ‘at Stourbridge Fair’ he saw something entirely new, ‘a Pocket of Wool. This seems to be first call’d so in Mockery, this Pocket being so big, that it loads a whole Waggon … and these ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... Scott, Philip Sidney, Horace Walpole ... twenty, plus the recognised fathers of the novel ... Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Tobias Smollett and Lawrence [sic] Sterne; generosity indeed to double the number!’ A list so nakedly daft obviates detailed scrutiny. It may be worth asking how Lever (born 1806) contrived to predate Jane ...

Make me work if you can

T.H. Breen, 18 February 1988

Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 
by Roger Ekirch.
Oxford, 277 pp., £25, November 1987, 0 19 820092 7
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... learned that ‘many a Newgate Bird becomes a great Man.’ But as Ekirch carefully documents, Daniel Defoe and many subsequent historians have greatly exaggerated the possibilities for upward mobility. Most former convicts ended their days as marginal farmers, desperate men and women driven to drink and occasionally to suicide by the hardship that ...

Games-Playing

Patrick Parrinder, 7 August 1986

The Golden Gate 
by Vikram Seth.
Faber, 307 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13967 1
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The Haunted House 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 139 pp., £8.95, June 1986, 0 330 29175 0
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Whole of a Morning Sky 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 156 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 86068 774 0
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The Piano Tuner 
by Peter Meinke.
Georgia, 156 pp., $13.95, June 1986, 0 8203 0844 7
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Tap City 
by Ron Abell.
Secker, 273 pp., £10.95, July 1986, 0 436 00025 3
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... me) in de Selincourt’s The Cricket Match, and it originates in the Journal of the Plague Year of Daniel Defoe. The Stretch Jackson tournament pits a handful of rather colourless professional gamblers against Abell’s more fully-rounded characters, amateurs or semi-amateurs who practise some outrageous forms of psychological gamesmanship. Who should we ...

Sea Changes

Patrick Parrinder, 27 February 1992

Indigo, or Mapping the Waters 
by Marina Warner.
Chatto, 402 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 9780701135317
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Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History 
by Alden Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £35, January 1992, 0 521 40305 7
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... the sun’ can be traced back without difficulty from today’s favourite holiday destinations to Daniel Defoe and, before him, to the real-life adventure of the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk. Selkirk’s cave on the beach of Robinson Crusoe island in the Juan Fernandez group is still shown to visitors; the island is rich in vegetation but its ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: At Bluewater, 3 January 2002

... Hospital records burning in builders’ skips. Chalk quarries, once worked by a company in which Daniel Defoe had an interest, converted to retail parks (Thurrock, Lakeside). If we want to remember what is ahead of us, to stumble backwards into the future, we’d better start reading the prophecies of 19th-century science fiction as hot ...

A Palm Tree, a Colour and a Mythical Bird

Robert L. Cioffi: Ideas of Phoenicia, 3 January 2019

In Search of the Phoenicians 
by Josephine Quinn.
Princeton, 360 pp., £27, December 2017, 978 0 691 17527 0
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... of conflict and competition. In the 18th century, as Britain became a colonial and maritime power, Daniel Defoe wrote that ‘the Phoenicians were the Englishmen of that Age.’ He even suggested that, like the British, they had colonised America. Irish claims to Phoenicianism persisted into the early part of the 20th century. Among the best-known ...

Diary

Ben Walker: ‘A test case for Corbynism’, 25 November 2019

... fully mechanised factory in the world. In his Tour thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain, Daniel Defoe called it a ‘curiosity of a very extraordinary nature … the engine contains 26,586 wheels and 97,746 movements, which work 73,726 yards of silk-thread every time the water-wheel goes round, which is three times in one minute, and 318,504,960 ...

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