(1660 – 1731)
In his relatively long life, Daniel Defoe had an enormous influence on journalism and the early English novel. He had been born Daniel Foe in rather humble circles. His father was a London butcher, and although he was fairly prosperous, his status as a dissenter prevented his son from attending university. He was sent instead to a school for nonconformists, those who refused to conform to the rites of the Anglican Church. He seems to have intended to follow a career as a minister, but by 23 he was married and working as a hosier. By this time, he had already traveled extensively in Continental Europe. In the constitutional controversies that developed in England in the 1680s, Daniel Defoe supported the Glorious Revolution settlement, and eventually he joined William III’s army as it approached London. His career as a writer, though, did not begin until his late thirties when he published An Essay upon Projects (1697).
It was followed by The True-Born Englishman in 1701, a satire that poked fun at those who argued that the English monarch had necessarily to be born an Englishman. In this same year Defoe courageously stood up to Parliament on the day after it had imprisoned five English gentlemen for presenting a petition demanding greater defense preparations for the impending likelihood of a European war. Angered by Parliament’s high-handedness, Defoe wrote his Legion’s Memorial and marched into the House of Commons where he presented it to the leadership. It reminded them that Parliament had no more right to imprison Englishmen for speaking their minds than a king did. Defoe’s document produced its desired effect when the petitioners were soon released. Read the rest of this entry