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A Brief Life of Daniel Defoe

A biography of Defoe along with selected quotations from Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe was born in London, England in 1660. Defoe received a very good education early in life because his father, James Defoe, wanted him to become a minister. Although Defoe?s writings would often be very Christian in its themes, he never actually became a minister, as his father had wanted.
Defoe had his share of problems with the authorities early in his life. He was active in the movement to remove King James II of England from the throne in the 1680?s and this made things difficult for Defoe. He even went so far as to join a rebellion against James II, which proved unsuccessful.
Defoe did not really begin writing until he published a poem in 1701 called ?The True-Born Englishman.? It was very well received and Defoe found that he could make some money being a writer. Prior to writing this poem, Defoe had worked largely as a merchant.
After the success of ?The True-Born Englishman?, Defoe began to write pamphlets that argued for freedom for those who believed in denominations of Christianity other than the established Church of England. In Defoe?s lifetime, it was very hard to belong to any church except the Church of England. Defoe and his family were Presbyterian Christians and they did not agree that the Church of England was the best choice. Thus, Defoe often got in trouble for speaking out for his beliefs. In 1703, he wrote a pamphlet called ?The Shortest Way with the Dissenters.? As a result of this pamphlet, Defoe received the punishment of being pilloried. This meant that he had his wrists and legs confined in pieces of wood, called stocks, in a public place. This punishment was common in the England in Defoe?s time. Defoe also worked as a journalist to support his family.
In 1719, Defoe wrote the book for which he is most remembered, Robinson Crusoe. This book was very well received in its time and has become a classic ever since. Robinson Crusoe is the story of the title character, who through a series of adventures finds himself trapped on a deserted island all by himself. Robinson Crusoe was the original castaway. The story is written from Crusoe?s perspective and he tells all the things that happened to him during his adventures.
When he was nineteen years old, Crusoe wanted to go to sea. In those days, life on a sailing vessel was very hard and his mother and father tried to convince him not to go, but he would not listen. Reflecting on their words, he knew they were right, but at the time, as is often the case with the young, he thought he was right. Crusoe states:

[q]?I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea; ? against the will, nay, the commands of my father and against all the entreaties and persuasions of my mother.?[/q]

So Crusoe went to sea and, as a result, ended up being captured by pirates. He lived as a slave for a few years before escaping to Brazil. In Brazil, he established himself as a planter and did well for a while. Then, he went on another sea voyage and ended up being a castaway on an island all alone, the only survivor from his ship. Soon after being marooned on the island, Robinson Crusoe established himself and made many improvements. He was also able to salvage many things from the wreck of his ship, including muskets, gunpowder, food, tools and some clothes. While Crusoe did a very good job of learning to support himself on the island, he soon found he had to fight savages from a nearby island that would come to his shore. These savages were cannibals and brought with them prisoners of war that they would kill and then eat. Crusoe rescued one of these savages and taught him English and Christianity. He named the man he rescued Friday, for that was the day of the week Crusoe rescued him.
Robinson Crusoe and Friday remained on the island for many years and were later joined by others who had been shipwrecked in the area. Then, long after he had landed there, Crusoe and Friday were able to finally leave the island. They sailed away and had many more adventures in Africa, China and Russia. Crusoe makes this statement after finally being rescued from the island.

[q]?And thus I left the island, the 19th of December, as I found by the ship?s account, in the year 1686, after I had been upon it eight-and-twenty years, two months and nineteen days.?[/q]

Daniel Defoe would write many more books in his lifetime and he died in 1731. He left behind him a great literary legacy, especially his story of Robinson Crusoe, which would remain an acknowledged classic to this very day.

[b]Additional Quotations from
Robinson Crusoe
By Daniel Defoe[/b]

?So little do we see before us in the world, and so much reason have we to depend cheerfully upon the great Maker of the world, that he does not leave his creatures so absolutely destitute, but that, in the worst circumstances, they have always something to be thankful for, and are sometimes nearer their deliverance than they imagine, nay, are even brought to their deliverance by the means by which they seem to be brought to their destruction.?

?All help is from Heaven, sir, said I.?

?I forgot not to lift up my heart in thankfulness to Heaven: and what heart could forbear to bless him, who had not only in a miraculous manner provided for me in such a wilderness, and in such a desolate condition, but from whom every deliverance must always be acknowledged to proceed??

?The diligent lived well and comfortably; and the slothful lived hard and beggarly; and so, I believe, generally speaking it is all over the world.?

??it is impossible to make mankind wise but at their own expense.?

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