On this occasion Straddling quarrelled with Alexander Selkirk, who, at his own request, became the island's most famous colonist, for his adventures are commonly believed to have inspired Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.
His book might almost be called the "Visions of Peter Bartholomew and others," and it is written in the plain matter-of-fact manner of Defoe's narratives.
Defoe's Review (1704-1713) dealt chiefly with politics and commerce, but the introduction in it of what its editor fittingly termed the "scandalous club " was another step nearer the papers of Steele and the periodical essayists, the first attempts to create an organized popular opinion in matters of taste and manners.
With few exceptions all the known events of Defoe's life are connected with authorship. In the older catalogues of his works two pamphlets, Speculum Crapegownorum, a satire on the clergy, and A Treatise against the Turks, are attributed to him before the accession of James II., but there seems to be no publication of his which is certainly genuine before The Character of Dr Annesley (1697).
The course of Defoe's life was determined about the middle of the reign of William III.
During this time he produced his Essay on Projects (1698), containing suggestions on banks, road-management, friendly and insurance societies of various kinds, idiot asylums, bankruptcy, academies, military colleges, high schools for women, &c. It displays Defoe's lively and lucid style in full vigour, and abounds with ingenious thoughts and apt illustrations, though it illustrates also the unsystematic character of his mind.
The theory of the indefeasible supremacy of the freeholders of England, whose delegates merely, according to this theory, the Commons were, was one of Defoe's favourite political tenets, and he returned to it in a powerfully written tract entitled The Original Power of the Collective Bcdy of the People of England examined and asserted (1701).
Defoe's exposure in the pillory (July 29, 30, 31) was, however, rather a triumph than a punishment, for the populace took his side; and his Hymn to the Pillory, which he soon after published, is one of the best of his poetical works.
Defoe's next work was Jure divino, a long poetical argument in (bad) verse; and soon afterwards (1706) he began to be much employed in promoting the union with Scotland.
Before these letters were discovered it was supposed that Defoe's political work had ended in 1715.
Its connexion with the two former parts is little more than nominal, Crusoe being simply made the mouth-piece of Defoe's sentiments on various points of morals and religion.
A curious idea, at one time revived by Henry Kingsley, is that the adventures of Robinson are allegorical and relate to Defoe's own life.
This idea was certainly entertained to some extent at the time, and derives some colour of justification from words of Defoe's, but there seems to be no serious foundation for it.
Crusoe's shipwreck and adventures, his finding the footprint in the sand, his man "Friday," - the whole atmosphere of romance which surrounds the position of the civilized man fending for himself on a desert island - these have made Defoe's great work an imperishable part of English literature.
There are amusing passages in the;story, but it is too desultory to rank with Defoe's best.
In estimating this wonderful productiveness on the part of a man sixty years old, it should be remembered that it was a habit of Defoe's to keep his work in manuscript sometimes for long periods.
It is only fair to notice that while the latter, according to Defoe's more usual practice, is allowed to repent and end happily, Roxana is brought to complete misery; Defoe's morality, therefore, required more repulsiveness in one case than in the other.
This is a curious book, partly explanatory of Defoe's ideas on morality, and partly belonging to a series of demonological works which he wrote, and of which the chief others are A System of Magic (1726), and An Essay on the History of Apparitions (1728), issued the year before under another title.
The only one of them perhaps which requires notice is Religious Courtship (1722), a curious series of dialogues displaying Defoe's unaffected religiosity, and at the same time the rather meddling intrusiveness with which he applied his religious notions.
There is little to be said of Defoe's private life during this period.
There is a good deal of mystery about the end of Defoe's life; it used to be said that he died insolvent, and that he had been in jail shortly before his death.
It is most likely that Mist had found out that Defoe was a government agent and quite probable that he communicated his knowledge to other editors, for Defoe's journalistic employment almost ceased about this time, and he began to write anonymously, or as "Andrew Moreton."
Scott justly observed that Defoe's style "is the last which should be attempted by a writer of inferior genius; for though it be possible to disguise mediocrity by fine writing, it appears in all its naked inanity when it assumes the garb of simplicity."
Nothing heroic or romantic was within Defoe's view; he could not understand passionate love, ideal loyalty, aesthetic admiration or anything of the kind; and it is probable that many of the little sordid touches which delight us by their apparent satire were, as designed, not satire at all, but merely a faithful representation of the feelings and ideas of the classes of which he himself was a unit.
There is considerable uncertainty about many of Defoe's writings; and even if all contested works be excluded, the number is still enormous.
An edition of Defoe's Romances and Narratives in sixteen volumes by G.
Saintsbury, "Introduction" to Defoe's Minor Novels; and valuable notes by G.
Further light was thrown on Defoe's work as a political agent by the discovery (1906) of an unpublished paper of his in the British Museum by G.
It has been said that Daniel Defoe wrote his fiction of Mrs Veal (A True Relation of the Apparition of Mrs Veal), who came from the other world to recommend the perusal of Drelincourt on Death, for the express purpose of promoting the sale of an English translation of the Consolations; Defoe's contribution is added to the fourth edition of the translation (1706).
Greenhill, p. 96 (London, 2844); Collection of Scarce Pieces on the Plague in 1665 (London, 1721), 8vo; Defoe's fascinating Journal of a Citizen, which should be read and admired as a fiction, but accepted with caution as history; T.