+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

Earth's soft green pleasance fades, faint not, nor fear.
Though solemn in its loneliness the road,
Death's stars shine high above thee, bright and clear,
And, won the height, the last step leads to God!


IT is all very well to be "a gentleman
of the press," in the quiet times of Queen
Victoria, but it was not so very well in
the troublous days of good Queen
Elizabeth, or those, scarcely less troublous, of
good Queen Anne. Those who by the pen
and the printing machine offended Queen
Elizabeth, or her administration, or any
member thereof, might, and did, have their
hands cut off, their tongues slit, or their
necks subjected to the unpleasant process
which rids the world of murderers. In
Queen Anne's days, it was not so bad,
but still it was bad enough; for the pillory
and long imprisonment were not agreeable
commentaries upon a mere difference of
political or theological opinion. And of all
the gentlemen of the press who ever lived,
DANIEL DEFOE whose lot was cast in the
middle term, between the disgrace and
adversity of the Elizabethan and the honour
and prosperity of the Victorian eramay
serve as a doughty specimen of the class that
has done so much for the liberty of England.
And Defoe was not merely a gentleman of
the press, and a journalist of rare powers,
but a literary genius of the highest rank.
Never since books began to be printed,
was there so popular a story as Robinson
Crusoe, and that not alone in the language
in which it was first written, but in that of
every European tongue into which it has
been translated. Next to the Bible, the
Arabian Nights Entertainments, and Aesop's
Fables, the not altogether fictitious history
of the shipwrecked mariner of Hull is,
perhaps, the best-known book in the world.
Had its author produced nothing else, he
would have established a claim to a
foremost place in the illustrious company of
the English authors who have made the
world happier by their genius. But this
book, delightful as it is, is not the only one
which England owes to the sound sense
and cultivated intellect of Daniel Defoe.
Robinson Crusoe enshrines him in our
hearts, but hundreds of tracts and volumes
on all the great questions of his day and
ours, in the discussion of which he was
invariably found on the side of common sense
and justice, mark him out as a grandee of
literature. His mind was alike logical
and dramatic, and to sum up his personal
and intellectual character, he may be briefly
described as a brave, simple, honest,
industrious, far-seeing man of genius, one of
the noble souls who, with the greatest
amount of brain as well as heart, have
helped to build up the liberties of England,
risking reputation, fortune, and life
in the great struggle of the people to
achieve the civil and religious liberty which
arbitrary power would resist or deny. It
is true that long after all the heats and
animosities which this great writer excited
in his lifetime, have been cooled and laid at
rest in the grave, a spot has been discovered
on his hitherto unsullied name. Before
discussing the spot in question, which may
not, after all, be so very large or so very
black as those who love to disparage
greatness because they themselves are little,
have sought to represent it, let us discourse
upon the life and character of Defoe,
as if no such discovery had been made,
until we come to the period of his career
when it is necessary to mention it, along
with those discoveries of his hitherto
unknown and unsuspected writings which
grew out of it.

The father of Daniel Defoe was one
James Foe, a wealthy butcher and
well-known Dissenter, in Cripplegate, in the
city of London. His son Daniel was born
in the year 1661. Daniel, who did not
begin to call himself Defoe till he was
twenty-five, received a good education,
and, in due course of time, was placed
by his father in the establishment of a
hosier. At the age of twenty-four he was
enabled, by his father's assistance, to start
in business on his own account in
Freeman's-court, Cornhill. But his mind was
not wholly in the shop, and his heart as
well as his intellect was stirred by the
great events of his time. Believing that
the Protestant religion was endangered by
the bigotry and misgovernment of James
the Second, and sympathising warmly in
the objects of the gallant but luckless
enterprise of the Duke of Monmouth, the
gallant hosier, leaving for awhile his
business to his assistants, or shutting up shop
altogether (for on neither of these two
points have his biographers been able to
tell us anything authentic), took up arms
in support of the Protestant Prince, and
fought in the ranks as a private soldier.
"The religion and liberties of his country,
and especially of the Dissenters, were
at stake," says Mr. LEE, whose Life and
Recently Discovered Writings of Defoe
form the text upon which we write; "the
agitation among his friends in the city of
London was great; his ardent love of