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Ben Walker: ‘A test case for Corbynism’, 5 December 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 ...

In place of fairies

Simon Schaffer, 2 December 1982

Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic 
by Daniel O’Keefe.
Martin Robertson, 581 pp., £17.50, September 1982, 0 85520 486 9
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Scienze, Credenze Occulti, Livelli di Cultura 
edited by Paola Zambelli.
Leo Olschki, 562 pp., April 1982, 88 222 3069 8
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... Daniel O’Keefe’s massive survey of magic not only tells us ‘how to do it’ but gives us some policy recommendations too. His book reads like the transcript of a Royal Commission report on the occult. It is not easy reading, but the effort is worthwhile. His advice extends to such fields as politics, economics and war: this scope gives some clue both to the structure and to the theme of Stolen Lightning ...

You can’t prove I meant X

Clare Bucknell, 16 April 2020

Poetics of the Pillory: English Literature and Seditious Libel, 1660-1820 
by Thomas Keymer.
Oxford, 352 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 19 874449 8
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... exposed its victims to whatever filth the crowd might want to hurl at them, was used to punish Daniel Defoe in 1703 for his provocative pamphlet The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (‘a Seditious, pernicious and Diabolical Libel’); it haunted Dryden during the Exclusion Crisis (1679-82), when the temporary lapse of the Licensing Act made ‘every ...

Mad Doings in Trade

Anatole Kaletsky, 21 June 1984

The World’s Money: International Banking from Bretton Woods to the Brink of Insolvency 
by Michael Moffitt.
Joseph, 284 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 7181 2414 6
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International Debt and the Stability of the World Economy 
by William Cline.
MIT, 134 pp., £5.10, September 1983, 0 262 53048 1
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Managing Global Debt 
by Richard Dale and Richard Mattione.
Brookings, 50 pp., October 1983, 0 8157 1717 2
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... should call; though the Parliament should call, or though the whole Nation should call. When Daniel Defoe, the world’s first great financial journalist, wrote these words in 1706, only a decade had passed since the establishment of modern credit-based capitalism, with the foundation of the Bank of England and the creation of the National Debt. He ...

Sergeant Farthing

D.A.N. Jones, 17 October 1985

A Maggot 
by John Fowles.
Cape, 460 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 224 02806 5
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The Romances of John Fowles 
by Simon Loveday.
Macmillan, 164 pp., £25, August 1985, 0 333 31518 9
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... An earlier novelist whom Fowles does certainly admire and perhaps emulate is the danger-courting Daniel Defoe, deceitful but ‘sounding true’. Then, if we look through the genuine pages of ‘Historical Chronicle, 1736’ reproduced in A Maggot, we find that the running story is about Major Porteous who fired into an Edinburgh mob during the year and ...

Gentlemen Travellers

D.A.N. Jones, 15 September 1983

George Borrow: Eccentric 
by Michael Collie.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24615 6
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A World of his Own: The Double Life of George Borrow 
by David Williams.
Oxford, 178 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 19 211762 9
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Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jan Morris.
Oxford, 279 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 19 281361 7
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by Alexander Kinglake and Jonathan Raban.
Century, 226 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7126 0031 0
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... novel, like Amis’s Blinkie Heaven and Teach Him a Lesson. Borrow’s favourite writer was Daniel Defoe, of whom also it may be asked: ‘Is this man writing fiction or just telling lies?’ Michael Collie has found a manuscript fragment in which Borrow wonders how Defoe managed to get his facts right in ...

Down with Age

Michael Young, 25 October 1990

... children were dressed up like little adults as soon as they could walk, and set to work. To Daniel Defoe, on his tour of the country in 1727, this was a sign that all was well in Britain. ‘If we knock’d at the door of any of the master manufacturers, we presently saw a house full of lusty fellows, some at the dye-vat, some dressing the ...

Make the music mute

John Barrell, 9 July 1992

English Music 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 241 12501 4
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... simply as the inhabitants of a particular country, not as a nation, but as a race. The vision of Daniel Defoe pauses at one point to paraphrase Sir Thomas Browne, though it takes great freedom with his meaning: ‘When the bones of King Arthur were digged up, the race beheld some original of themselves; so can we erect and proclaim our birth upon the ...

It’s the plunge that counts

Heathcote Williams: Waterlog by Roger Deakin, 19 August 1999

Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain 
by Roger Deakin.
Chatto, 320 pp., £15.99, May 1999, 0 7011 6652 5
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... Lido mania, and the rampancy of the wild swimming clubs were to lead to a baby boom. In 1724 Daniel Defoe noted that in Bath, where there was mixed bathing, quivering and shivering love-making would regularly round off the day’s exercise at the ‘Cross-Bath’ before the sedan-chairs were summoned. The hydrotherapy in Malvern cured both Florence ...

Pork Chops and Pineapples

Terry Eagleton: The Realism of Erich Auerbach, 23 October 2003

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature 
by Erich Auerbach.
Princeton, 579 pp., £13.95, May 2003, 9780691113364
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... it is impossible for us now to re-create the alarming or exhilarating effect of a few pages of Daniel Defoe on an 18th-century reader reared on a literary diet of epic, pastoral and elegy. The idea that everyday life is dramatically enthralling, that it is fascinating simply in its boundless humdrum detail, is one of the great revolutionary ...

My Faults, My Follies

Helen Deutsch: Laetitia Pilkington, ‘Foot-ball of Fortune’, 17 July 2008

Queen of the Wits: A Life of Laetitia Pilkington 
by Norma Clarke.
Faber, 364 pp., £20, February 2008, 978 0 571 22428 9
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... she is also a literary adventurer in the mode of Moll’s author, the Grub Street entrepreneur Daniel Defoe. After her heyday at White’s she had begun ‘a blank-verse tragedy, The Roman Father, based on an episode in Roman history in which the heroine, Virginia, her honour threatened by the advances of a corrupt tyrant, is killed by her ...


Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... remarks; ‘it is much rarer to find men writing as women.’ Two distinguished exceptions were Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson, who took shelter behind their female protagonists. The Brontës are an obvious example of female writers posing as male, or at least behind the carefully androgynous pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; though in a ...

Making a Mouth in a Contemptuous Manner

John Gallagher: Civility Held Sway, 4 July 2019

In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilisation in Early Modern England 
by Keith Thomas.
Yale, 457 pp., £25, June 2018, 978 0 300 23577 7
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... or green cotton cassock, a cap or such-like, and will take incredible pains for such a trifle’. Daniel Defoe agreed that other nations might be taught ‘clothing with decency, not shameless and naked; feeding with humanity, and not in a manner brutal; dwelling in towns and cities, with economy and government, and not like savages’. But these changes ...

Cape of Mad Hope

Neal Ascherson: The Darien disaster, 3 January 2008

The Price of Scotland: Darien, Union and the Wealth of Nations 
by Douglas Watt.
Luath, 312 pp., £8.99, January 2007, 978 1 906307 09 7
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... cleanliest Way of bribing a Nation, to undo themselves; and alas! It had the design’d Effect.’ Daniel Defoe, working in Edinburgh as an English spy, noticed how easily the Equivalent anaesthetised patriot consciences: ‘Nor among the most Malecontent persons could I ever find any, that when the Money upon the . . . Stock came to be paid, would ...

Todd Almighty

Peter Medawar, 16 February 1984

A Time to Remember: The Autobiography of a Chemist 
by Alexander Todd.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £15, November 1983, 0 521 25593 7
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... I should also like to know how he came to write so well in the straightforward narrative style of Daniel Defoe. But on all these matters we are left to guess: we learn the facts about his life and nothing about his motivation. Like other school-leavers, he had no rational basis for choosing one university rather than another and his retrospective ...

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