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Date of An Appeal to Honour and Justice 15

the queen's death. The paper, together with numerous pamphlets of the period, including the four which form A General History of Trade, gives abundant proof of the liberality of his commercial views, although it scarcely justifies his modern admirers in styling him the father of free trade. He also wrote voluminously in opposition to the schism bill; and he entered into obscure intrigues against his old enemy George Ridpath, which resulted in his forming a connection with a rival Flying Post. In this, he published a glowing eulogy of the new king and an indiscreet attack upon one of the lords regent, which led to his indictment for libel and, in the following year, to his trial and conviction. How he escaped punishment will soon appear. Meanwhile, apparently with Oxford's connivance, he published the first of the three parts of his notorious apology for the administration of that statesman, The Secret History of the White Staff. This was the signal for a swarm of acrimonious whig tracts, which made much capital out of Defoe's careless admissions with regard to his patron's intrigues with the Scottish Jacobites. A second part, in which Bolingbroke was treated more leniently, speedily followed, and then, at the end of the year 1714, Defoe's health broke down-or else he deemed it expedient to pose as an apoplectic who had not long to live.

A full discussion of this tangled matter would be tedious. Lee, who did not know the date of publication of Defoe's Appeal to Honour and Justice, tho' it be of his worst enemies, the masterly account of the journalist's career which closed with a pathetic note to the effect that he had been ill for six weeks and was still in grave peril, seems, by assigning the tract to January 1715, to have fixed the date of his hero's illness in November and December 1714, thus managing to make the bibliography of Defoe square not only with these dates but with high conceptions of his probity. Unfortunately, it has been discovered that the Appeal was published on 24 February 1715. This brings the period of the illness into the early weeks of 1715, that is, into a time when, according to Lee, Crossley and a contemporary of Defoe, the pamphleteer William Pittis, our journalist was actively plying his trade. It does not follow that Defoe may not have been out of health about this time-his situation, with an expensive family, no fixed source of income, a worse than

who undertook to support the paper, had 'declined any consideration for it ever since Lady Day last.' There is little reason to doubt that Defoe was a poorly paid editor; but it is very certain that his relations with Mercator were much closer than he wished readers of that periodical to believe.

doubtful reputation and an indictment for libel hanging over him, might well have undermined an even stronger constitution than his; but it does seem to be clear that, on Oxford's repudiating the White Staff tracts, Defoe published several others designed to throw dust round the whole controversy and to minimise his own part in it, and that, these attempts failing, he wrote his Appeal, upon which he expended all the resources of his genius for casuistry, without succeeding in changing the opinions of his contemporaries one iota. It is a proof of his literary skill, however, that this adroit and moving pamphlet has misled many a confiding biographer and uninformed modern reader.

Belief in a serious breakdown of Defoe's health is rendered almost ridiculous by an examination of his bibliography, certain and plausible, for the year 1715. It contains at least thirty pamphlets and two thick volumes, the first instalments of The Family Instructor and of a History of the Wars of Charles XII of Sweden. No newspaper now taxed his pen for regular contributions, he had to support his family and, perhaps, drown his apprehensions as to the trial awaiting him, and he had every inducement to display his loyalty. Hence, a multitude of certain and suspected tracts on nearly every phase of affairs, especially on the rebellion of the autumn. Meanwhile, in July, he had been convicted of libel; but sentence had not been passed. It never was passed, probably because Defoe managed, through an appealing letter and by pointing to numerous loyal pamphlets, to secure the favour of that very chief justice Parker whom he had offended in 1713. Parker introduced him, as a valuable secret agent and journalist, to Lord Townshend, the principal secretary of state. A bargain was soon struck, the gist of which was that Defoe should continue to pass as a tory journalist still labouring under the displeasure of the government, and that, as such, he should edit mildly tory periodicals and secure employment with more rabid Jacobite organs, in order that he might be able to tone down or suppress treasonable articles and keep the administration posted upon what was going on in Jacobite circles. The arrangement seems to have lasted for some ten years, 1716-26, and, by his discovery of the letters attesting it, Lee succeeded, not only in showing that the older biographers were in error in supposing that Defoe's activity as a political journalist had ceased with queen Anne's death, but, also, in disinterring from the newspapers of the time, particularly from the weeklies published by Mist and Applebee, a mass of articles surely from Defoe's

pen and illustrative of his not inconsiderable powers as an essayist. His chief activity as a spy dates from 1716 to 1720 and is mainly connected with the office of the Jacobite publisher, Nathaniel Mist. Whether he was Mist's good or evil genius, whether, as Lee opined, Mist tried to kill Defoe on discovering his treachery and pursued him maliciously for many years, whether, on the other hand, Defoe's gradual abandonment of journalism was not due to advancing years and the competition of younger men, are questions we cannot discuss here. It seems enough to say that, prior to, and throughout, his short career as a writer of fiction, Defoe was almost preternaturally active as a journalist and pamphleteer.

His tracts for the year 1717 alone are sufficiently numerous and discreditable to warrant all that his contemporaries said of him as a mercenary scribbler. To this bad year, that of his exemplary Memoirs of the Church of Scotland, belong his forged Minutes of Mesnager, his unprincipled tracts against Toland, his impertinent and, in the main, overlooked contributions to the Bangorian controversy. As remarkable, however, as his industry, his versatility, his unscrupulousness and his impudence, is the confidence some modern students, notably Lee, have been able to maintain in him. Many of his tracts belonging to this period have been rejected because of the assumption that Defoe was too virtuous or too dignified to have written them, or that no mortal man could have written so much. It may be safely held that Defoe was capable of writing almost anything, and that few pens have ever filled with greater facility a larger number of sheets. On the other hand, no condemnation of Defoe the spy and scribbler is just that does not also include statesmen who, like Townshend and Stanhope, employed him, rivals, who, like Toland and Abel Boyer, were for ever hounding him, religious controversialists who set him a bad example and partisan publishers and public who suffered themselves to be exploited by him. With all his faults, he was probably the most liberal and versatile writer of his age; with his comparative freedom from rancour, he seems a larger and more humane figure than any of the more aristocratic men of letters that looked down on him, including Pope and Swift; though an Ishmael, he managed to secure comfort for his family and a partial amnesty for himself in his old age; and he wrote the most authentic and widely read classic of his generation.

Our reference to Robinson Crusoe brings us to 25 April 1719, the date of the publication of the first part of that immortal

E. L. IX. CH. I.


story. Defoe was nearly sixty years old, but he had hitherto written almost nothing that would have preserved his name for the general public. During the next five years, most of his fiction was to be composed, and, during the ensuing six, he was to become perhaps the most extraordinarily prolific old man in the history of English literature. Although he never ceased to be a journalist and pamphleteer, he became, for the last eleven years of his life, primarily a writer of books, and especially of fiction. The change has surprised many, and a word or two must be given to an attempt to describe in outline his evolution.

Although there is evidence that Defoe was rather widely read in English belles lettres, particularly in Rochester and other authors of the restoration, there is little or no direct evidence that he was a wide reader of fiction. It would be rash, however, to assume that he had not dipped into some of the reprinted Elizabethan romances; that he had not tried to read one or more of the interminable heroic romances, whether in the original French or in English versions or imitations; that he was ignorant of the comic and the satiric anti-romances, or that he had not read with some enjoyment the novels of his own time-the stories of intrigue by Aphra Behn, the highly coloured pictures of the court and of the aristocracy by Mrs Manley, and the attempts at domestic fiction by Mrs Eliza Haywood and other more or less forgotten women. If some bibliographers are right, we must hold that he wrote more than one tract which shows the influence of Mrs Manley's New Atalantis, and that he translated at least one picaresque story, abbé Olivier's Life and Adventures of Signior Rozelli (1709, 1713). It is much more certain, however, that he must have been familiar with lives of criminals, with chapbooks and compilations such as those of Nathaniel Crouch ('R. Burton'), with the work of Bunyan and with The Tatler and The Spectator. In other words, it is chiefly to the popular narratives of his day and to contributory forms like the essay and biography that Defoe owes whatever in his fiction is not due to his own genius and experience as a writer.

As a matter of fact-setting aside the possibility that he translated the story of Rozelli and even added a somewhat questionable appendix to the edition of 1713 and a Continuation in 1724-one can find in Defoe's writings, prior to 1719, grounds for believing that he may have evolved into a novelist of adventure and of low life with comparatively little indebtedness to previous writers of fiction. He had had great practice in writing straightforward

Evolution as a Novelist.

Robinson Crusoe 19

prose since 1697; and, by 1706-witness Mrs Veal-he had learned how to make his reporting vivid and credible by a skilful use of circumstantial detail. In his political allegory The Consolidator, he had begun, though crudely, to use his imagination on an extended scale, and he had already, in The Shortest Way, displayed only too well his gifts as an impersonator. In some of the tracts written between 1710 and 1714, notably in the two parts of The Secret History of the October Club, he had shown great ability in satiric portraiture and considerable skill in reporting speeches and dialogue. In 1715, he had introduced some mild religious fiction into The Family Instructor, and, three years later, in the second part of this book, he had made still greater use of this element of interest. In the same year, 1715, he had assumed the character of a quaker in some of his tracts; and, since 1711, he had been publishing predictions supposed to be made by a second-sighted highlander. Again, in 1715, he had described the career of Charles XII of Sweden as though he himself were 'A Scots Gentleman in the Swedish Service'; and there is reason to believe that, in the following year, he wrote, as 'A Rebel,' a tract dealing with the rebellion in Scotland. In 1717, he skilfully assumed the character of a Turk who was shocked by the intolerance displayed by English Christians in the Bangorian controversy, and it seems almost certain that, in 1718, he wrote for Taylor, the publisher of Robinson Crusoe, a continuation of the Letters of the famous Turkish Spy. Finally, when it is remembered that, in 1718, he was contributing to Mist's, week by week, letters from fictitious correspondents, that his wide reading in geography had given him a knowledge of foreign countries, particularly of Africa and both Americas and that he had long since shown himself to be a skilful purveyor of instruction and an adept at understanding the character of the average man, we begin to see that, given an incident like the experiences of Alexander Selkirk and an increasing desire to make money through his pen in order to portion his daughters, we have a plausible explanation of the evolution of Defoe the novelist out of Defoe the journalist and miscellaneous writer.

The immediate and permanent popularity of Robinson Crusoe is a commonplace of literary history. Defoe, who had a keen eye for his market, produced, in about four months, The Farther Adventures of his hero, which had some, though less, vogue, and, a year later, Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, a volume of essays which had no

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