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A few biographical details•the son of a tallow (“animal fat”, used for soap and candles) chandler named James Foe•grew up a Presbyterian dissenter and received a religious education at a dissenting academy in Newington Green, London•became a merchant and travelled through Europe (mostly France, Holland and Spain) between 1680 and 1683•worked for the Whig politician Robert Harley as a political spy and confidential agent between 1688 and 1714•started his career as a journalist and wrote countless editorials and pamphlets, most in the journal that he created, the Review (1704-1713)
Prison experience•was arrested for debt in 1692 and once again in 1703 (for seditious libel - the publication of the political pamphlet “The Shortest Way with Dissenters” in December 1702) – 3 days of humiliation in the pillory and an indefinite sentence in Newgate Prison → was released when he accepted to work for the Tory government•was sent to prison by Whigs again in 1713 → stopped writing about politics after that (end of Review)
Early career - politically engaged texts•“A Poor Man’s Plea” (1698) – a pamphlet on the injustice of the laws and the manner in which law is enforced, insisting on social discrimination and corruption in the courts of justice•“The True-born Englishman” (1701), a very successful satire commenting on the appropriateness of a Dutch-born king (William of Orange) to rule England•“The Shortest Way with the Dissenters” (1702), an intriguing pamphlet published anonymously, occasioned by the rise to power of Queen Anne and the beginning of the persecution of all Nonconformists, including Presbyterian dissenters like Defoe
Early career - politically engaged texts•“Hymn to the Pillory” (1703), a virulent attack against his persecutors and all corrupt and intolerant politicians•“The Education of Women” (1719) - Defoe puts forth a strong argument in favour of creating an Academy for women, deploring his nation’s ignorance of their mental capacity and ability to compete with men intellectually:I have often thought of it as one of the most barbarous customs in the world, considering us as a civilized and a Christian country, that we deny the advantages of learning to women. We reproach the sex every day with folly and impertinence; while I am confident, had they the advantages of education equal to us, they would be guilty of less than ourselves.
Defoe as a novelist 1719-1724 •9 novels, including two sequels of Robinson Crusoe•published anonymously and presented as memoirsof people that find themselves in extraordinary situations yet manage to survive and rise above all difficulties because they are intelligent, resourceful, dynamic and self-reliant human beings•the novels were immediately popular and financially successful
•The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely